Price does not equate value. This simple principle underlies competitive business practices. Customer's pay for what they value, which often includes price, but no price takes the place of solid principles.
In the modern age, the brand purpose should be front and center of any business plan. With social media coloring every interaction with every customer, selling the brand IS selling the product.
For the past decade, brands have been clamoring to define and defend their purpose. A purpose, rather than a promise, moves consumers to align themselves with a brand.
For companies looking to make a move from promise to purpose, the following defines the brand purpose and explains how you can align it with your customers' passions.
Brand Purpose: Defined
Essentially, brand purpose defines the cause a company strives to uphold. Purpose goes beyond being another business in a sea of businesses to being a cog in the machine that runs society.
A company doesn't exist to make a profit, it exists to fill a need. When a company can define why it fills that need better than a competitor, price becomes less important.
Understanding the purpose gives definition to everything else a company does. Whether that comes in the form of a marketing strategy, a supply chain procurement, or a product development cycle.
Any company can offer a product or service, but a company with brand purpose offers a pathway for a customer to engage with the wider world.
Many companies got into the product purpose and branding direction game when they realized that customers wanted to do something. Back in the day of a barter-based economy, it was clear that trading goods for services enabled others within the town to ply their trade. Together, everyone succeeded and had more versatility and verity to their lives.
The modern equivalent follows much the same design.
Brand Purpose: Aligned
Aligning the brand purpose with the customer takes some engineering and thought, but it doesn't have to be a monumental task. Managing services specialize in making these connections with customers.
First, the company needs to define and articulate it's brand purpose. What does the company produce? Not in terms of a product or service, but in a net gain or niche need for society?
Often companies look to tie in how their product can provide something intangible, but true. A fast-food company provides convenience, space for a person to live more of their life. A construction company provides a home, not just a dwelling.
Next, the company needs to understand what drives their customer base. A company offering a robust selection of farm to table foods clearly has the drive to provide nutrition and convenience. The customer base of such an establishment likely cares about the environment and nutritional benefits.
By focusing on how the company meets the customer's need, as a middleman rather than a faceless markup, the brand purpose directly works with the customer passion. The two groups work together to get what they want as a partnership.
Employees and Brand
One of the best ways to get started with aligning a brand purpose with the customer is to first align it with the employees. The employees are, after all, the first customers of many businesses. They buy into the value long before the rollout or the grand opening of the doors.
Employees live the brand through their behaviors. Being knowledgeable about the processes of the company, the meaning behind the product, and the role the product fills all help to sell that purpose.
Customer as Co-Owner
Customers have a tremendous amount of influence to push or stimy advertising through social spheres. So getting them onboard with the role a customer plays as co-owner of a brand is essential for any business.
When a brand and the customer base are out of synch, bad things happen. Customers may feel betrayed and seek out a competitor or find a way to demolish the company they feel betrayed them.
By syncing brand purpose with the passion and interests of customers, it helps share the workload of bringing innovative products to market. Customers will want to co-create solutions with the brand, and then invite their friends to do the same. And the brand will be able to better tap into the ideas, insights and experiences of its customers who share similar values.
Bringing innovative and sustainable solutions to market, such as a compostable Starbucks cup takes commitment, creativity and diverse perspectives.
Companies like Starbucks understand that in order to innovate, they need to leverage a wider pool of expertise and ideas than what exists within its own corporate walls. Their current open innovation Cup Challenge is proof of this.
After all, it's all made easier when brand and customer are clearly aligned on purpose and values, and then given the right tools and platform to collaborate and iterate.
Emotion in Branding
Customers feel attachment to brands. Look no further than the trend of surfing companies in the mid-90s. These were little-known companies making niche products for a small group of users mostly in coastal cities. However, it was hard to go to the smallest town in America and not find a hat or a t-shirt emblazoned with a logo for a surfboard that nobody in landlocked Iowa could hope to use.
When customers feel a kinship with a product, even if they can't use the product, they will find a way to get involved and express their tastes: approve or disapprove.
Be Unique, Not Competitive
Brand purpose allows a company to answer the question why? Why chose this product over another? Why pay more for the same thing?
The short answer: a company ensures that the customer feels that a product is a unique purchase. Just think of the impact and engagement that name-brand word association gives to a company. Band-Aid doesn't have to do much, the common term for the product they sell has all but disappeared.
The same type of engagement that creates word association creates brand purpose loyalty. Customers need to feel like they are buying something that just doesn't exist in another form.
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The quickest way to establish that a company produces something that nobody else can, is making the purchase be about more than the product. Buying the product buys into the lifestyle, the corporate culture, and the corporate vision being offered.
Tesla embodies these concepts perfectly. It isn't about a car, it is about a new step in technology and a world dreamt of and only delivered in fiction. A lot of customers are more than happy to buy that vision as an accessory to their auto.
Having a clear sense of purpose is at the heart of any successful brand and helps focus innovation efforts. And working together as a community creates more opportunity than going at it alone.
- by David Gardner
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