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How to build a brand purpose that resonates with your customers

Make a positive impact on your brand health with a purpose that aligns with your target market.

Today’s customers are looking for more than just a product. They’re looking for a brand that they can relate to. One that makes an impact on an issue they care about. The right brand purpose will help you build your brand, meet your customers’ needs, and make a difference in the world.

What is brand purpose?

One of the problems businesses face when discussing brand purpose is that there is no commonly accepted definition of purpose and how a company might translate that into action.

For our purposes, we’ll define brand purpose as a higher reason for a brand to exist beyond making a profit. Not to be confused with a brand promise, your brand purpose connects with your customers on an emotional level. It’s about product-led initiatives that strive to do business and benefit society simultaneously.

Importance of brand purpose

Having a brand purpose adds value to your customers and society. It builds emotional relationships between your brand and customers, which boosts loyalty and sales. If your brand purpose is unique, it can be a differentiating factor from your competitors. 

In fact, according to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer findings, 86% of people expect CEOs to speak out about societal issues, and 57% indicated that they are more loyal to brands that commit to addressing social inequities. Use these research findings to your advantage as you create your brand purpose.

Brand purpose also benefits your business in other ways:

Increase brand loyalty

A meaningful brand purpose captures the attention and emotions of customers. It adds to brand loyalty, giving customers yet another reason to prefer your brand over others. Use your purpose to direct your content marketing strategy, so customers stay focused on your brand, share your purpose with others, and even become brand ambassadors.

For more information about brand loyalty, read our detailed resource.

Attract and retain employees

Once you’ve stated and highlighted your brand purpose, you’ll begin to attract applicants looking for the sense of meaning your purpose brings. Current employees will feel more fulfilled, leading to more creativity, productivity, and job satisfaction. Your brand purpose will become integral to your company culture.

Looking for more information on employee retention? Check out part four of our HR series.

Increase conversion rate

Now that you're attracting and retaining customers who believe in your purpose, you’ll find your profits are rising. Use the revenue to run your business and continue your dedication and support to your purpose.

Provide a competitive advantage

Your brand purpose differentiates you from your competitors. This differentiation will lead customers with similar beliefs and values to support your brand and brand purpose.

Inform business decisions

Ensure that all teams across your business understand your purpose and keep it in mind during decision-making. Using your brand purpose as a guide will align all of your brand messaging for a consistent customer experience across the board. 

Categories of brand purpose

Your brand purpose will likely be one of these five main types:

Eliciting joy

If your brand purpose is to elicit joy, you want to delight your customers with experiences of happiness, wonder, and possibility.

Enabling connection

This brand purpose connects your brand to the world and to your customers—and connects them to each other.

Inspiring exploration

If your brand purpose is to inspire exploration, it invigorates people and encourages them to explore new horizons and experiences.

Evoking pride

This category enriches people with feelings of confidence and pride.

Impacting society

With this type of brand purpose, you challenge and redefine society to make a broad impact.

Brand purpose examples

Warby Parker

To compete against retail optical giants like Vision Source and National Vision, Warby Parker decided its brand purpose was to make eyewear more affordable. Their purpose statement reads: “To offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price while leading the way for socially conscious businesses.”

On cursory inspection, this could just look like cutting prices to undercut its competitors. But Warby Parker has followed through and proved its authenticity. Along with making glasses more affordable for everyone, they have expanded their purpose to distribute glasses to people in need. At the time of this article, it had donated over 10 million pairs of glasses.

Tesla

Tesla’s brand purpose is: “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.” The brand has expanded its sustainable solutions to include solar roofing in addition to cleaner modes of transportation. The company appeals to tech enthusiasts, environmentalists, and customers willing to pay more for a luxury vehicle that aligns with their values.

Patagonia

Its inspiring brand purpose statement is: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” Their commitment to the environment includes annual environmental education events, support of grassroots environmental efforts, and switching to 100% organically grown and ethically sourced cotton for their products.

The brand is so committed to the environment, that it has created a self-imposed Earth tax of 1% that they use to support environmental nonprofits globally.

UPS

The delivery company’s purpose is: “A desire to do what’s right, to serve others, and to elevate the quality of life for people around the world.” UPS has been able to activate its purpose through its employees. The company finds out what matters to their staff, what they’re passionate about, where they want to volunteer or lend their voice for change, and what communities they want to help, and then UPS helps employees advocate for change.

Citibank

Citibank’s purpose, “To enable growth and progress,” was exemplified when the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The financial company went beyond loan forgiveness and mortgage relief, they launched an initiative to boost business recovery, helped customers secure paycheck protection program loans, and helped those who were impacted by the pandemic. 

On a smaller impact scale, Citibank made an investment in Citibike bike sharing in New York City. They took the opportunity to help people get around the city easily and sustainably.

Wahl Clipper

The personal grooming company’s, “One Wahl” purpose is its approach to unifying the company across the globe. During the pandemic, they needed to tackle the challenge of understanding how personal grooming needs were changing across the globe. By presenting customers with grooming solutions across many cultures during the unusual pandemic times, they were able to live their purpose as one company offering singular experiences.

Brand purpose vs. vision, mission, and values

As we said earlier, there is no explicit definition of brand purpose and how to translate it into action for your company. That being said, brand purpose, brand vision, brand mission, and brand values are all closely related. 

Why

Brand purpose is why you exist, beyond making a profit or driving shareholder value. It’s what your brand contributes to the world.

Where

Your vision is where you want to go. It’s the destination for your brand—your long-term goals. 

What

Your brand mission is what you must do to realize your vision. These may be initiatives, tactics, operational excellence, or something else that helps you reach your vision.

How

Your brand values are how your brand will do business while realizing its vision. How will it behave?

It’s common practice for businesses to use one statement for their vision, mission, and values statements. But only your brand purpose can answer the question, “Why do we do what we do, aside from making profits?”

How to create a brand purpose that resonates with your buyers

Are you looking for your brand purpose? You could choose one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals as presented by the United Nations. The UN has determined these goals to be the most urgent for us to work on as a global partnership.

These goals include:

  1. No poverty
  2. Zero hunger
  3. Good health and well-being
  4. Quality education
  5. Gender equality
  6. Clean water and sanitation
  7. Affordable and clean energy
  8. Decent work and economic growth
  9. Industry, innovation, and infrastructure
  10. Reduced inequalities
  11. Sustainable cities and communities
  12. Responsible consumption and production
  13. Climate action
  14. Life below water
  15. Life on land
  16. Peace, justice, and strong institutions
  17. Partnerships for the goals

But your small business doesn’t have to solve the massive problems of the world. There are many everyday pain points experienced across the globe that a brand can invest in solving. 

For example, Under Armour is known for its purpose, “To empower athletes everywhere.” It is using this purpose to introduce a collection of interconnected technological devices to enhance health and fitness. As an intersection of physical and digital experiences, it fulfills the brand purpose with a whole new direction.

A brand purpose doesn’t have to be philanthropic or cause-based to make an impact. Under Armour is solving a problem with intention. It relieves pain points for people and connects them with a common goal and emotion. 

The Under Armour brand is empowering athletes of all levels to take control of their health and wellbeing. Under Armour could improve its connection to purpose by adding a social or philanthropic element to it, such as working against the growing obesity problem in the US or partnering with a health organization through its products. It’s not necessary, but it might increase the appeal.

While you’re searching for your brand purpose, consider these elements:

Be authentic

The public is skeptical. A lot of brands are touting new purposes and causes—but some aren’t really doing anything. Some brands actually unethically say they are working on purposeful causes with no real action or substance because they want to be perceived as doing good.

When you’re creating your brand purpose, be sure it's something you’re ready to support authentically with your actions and words. Nothing diminishes brand trust faster than inauthenticity.

Differentiate yourself

A unique brand purpose can differentiate your brand from the competition. How is your brand different? What are your unique strengths? What would you like your brand to be known for?

Think long term

Your brand purpose isn’t a one-time marketing campaign. It has to be embedded in your brand image and across your business in your actions and words.

Communicate the “why”

Your “why,” or brand purpose, must align from your CEO through all representatives of your brand, to the customer. It’s critical to start at the top, in leadership, as they have the most influence. Align with leadership as you’re finding your brand’s purpose.

Challenge them to answer the question, “What positive impact can our brand, products, or communications contribute, to make our society or environment better?”

Put customers first

Customers should be at the heart of every decision you make in your business. Your brand purpose may not resonate with all buyers, but it should appeal to your key demographic. It’s what makes you relevant to your target market.

Look to your buyer personas to find out what causes are important to your customers. Review your customers’ social media for cues about their values and interests.

Focus on employee engagement

Your company culture is vital to bringing your purpose to life. When you’re identifying your purpose, ask employees what they are proud of and passionate about. Find a connection between what’s important to them and what’s important to the brand. That clear connection will resonate with employees and add to their engagement as work together for your common purpose.

Engaged employees have improved performance in teams, increased productivity, and higher rates of retention, and they are enthusiastic ambassadors for your brand. Engaged employees are more likely to provide excellent customer experiences (CX) which results in customer loyalty and retention. And engaged employees will be advocates for your brand purpose.

Measure employee engagement with this customizable survey template.

Create a solid execution strategy

There’s more to a brand purpose than just stating that you’re aligned with a sensitive issue. Executing your purpose in a way that connects with the right people in the right way can make or break your efforts.

Follow these steps for a successful brand execution strategy:

  1. Identify how your brand can contribute. When you know what cause you want to pursue, you need to research the existing initiatives to see what’s already being done, what you can do, and who you could join if you want to team with someone.
    1. Determine what you’re going to do, how you’re going to do it, and what resources you need.
    2. Decide if you will highlight the cause with education, studies, or conversation
    3. Choose whether your actions will be digital, physical, or both
  2. Write your brand purpose statement. Remember, it needs to answer the question, “Why does my company do what we do aside from to make a profit?” Your statement should be inspiring to all stakeholders from leaders to the public.
  3. Write your story. You’ve stated your purpose, now it’s time to explain why you chose that purpose. 
    1. Make it clear why you’re taking on this issue
    2. Make your association with the issue obvious
    3. Include who will benefit and what difference you’ll make
    4. Provide necessary background information
    5. Make your story inspiring
  4. Tell your story. Whether it’s on your website, YouTube, social media, or other channels, tell your story consistently.
    1. Generate conversation
    2. Encourage interaction and involvement
    3. Update and communicate your progress regularly

Now that you’re equipped with the education and information you need to create your brand purpose, there’s one key element that connects everything. You need to be able to track the results of your efforts.

Before you even begin conversations about a brand purpose, you should assess the strength of your brand right now. Check on your brand awareness, perception, and loyalty. You need to record benchmarks for your brand health so you can measure the effectiveness of your brand purpose.

Start with our Brand Tracker. It’s one of our most valuable market research solutions. It will help you explore every aspect of your brand, spot trends, monitor the competition, and evolve brand perception, among other things. Proactively tracking your brand through our dedicated solution can help you build a successful brand strategy and measure the success of your brand purpose.

What is your brand purpose?

Aside from commercial interests, why does your brand do what it does? Identifying your brand purpose will increase customer loyalty, attract and retain employees, increase your sales, give you a competitive advantage, and inform your business decisions. What message will your brand send that resonates with customers?

Proactively check your brand health with the SurveyMonkey Brand Tracker to gather baseline data. Once you’ve formed your purpose and presented it to stakeholders, use the tracker to monitor changes. A powerful brand purpose that’s backed by action toward change will do great things for your brand, employees, and our world.

Get started with our Brand Tracker today!

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