Brands & Branding: Reinforce your brand with an enabling purpose
by James Maposa. For organisations looking to withstand the test of time, being led by a purpose is critical to building the brand and ensuring it delivers on its promise over time. Purpose is also important from an authenticity perspective, including a continuous internal evaluation on whether the brand’s positioning is aligned to it.
In addition, a strong purpose results in an empowered expression of the organisation’s brand promise and enables the building of trust, both internally and externally. Establishment and sustaining of stakeholder trust in turn results in loyalty and advocacy — currency required to keep your brand in a mainstream position.
Your purpose informs organisational direction
Standout organisations are mostly driven by a purpose. A reason to exist is important for any company as it defines the ethos of the organisation’s brand, including effective positioning in alignment with delivering on its purpose. Purpose provides clarity on what the company is and is not. Knowing why the company exists influences its culture, a culture that will hopefully attract the right type of employee. The right type of employee easily buys into the organisation’s purpose and wholeheartedly contributes to the delivery of experiences that draw loyal customers who, with time, become advocates for the brand. Over time, advocates aid in the recruitment of the business’s next generation of customers through referrals.
As an example, Unilever’s purpose over the last few years has been sustainability. This is an aspect that is recognised and lived out at both corporate and product level, including committing to environmentally sustainable production processes, educating its stakeholders on the importance of sustainability and emphasising this purpose through all communications.
Your purpose contributes to developing a single-minded proposition
A proposition expresses the essence of a brand, its ambitious core. It defines why employees get out of bed each morning and how to deliver on this mandate. A proposition serves as the guiding light or moral compass of what an organisation must be doing within the context of effectively satisfying stakeholder needs. A proposition should speak to a core audience that easily identifies with the company’s cause and readily give of its resources with the perception of gaining through each purchase or interaction.
As an example, for customers who buy or use Apple products and services, even though the pricing for the aforementioned is a premium when compared to competing brands, customers who believe in Apple feel they’re gaining through the purchase more than the company selling the product to them.
If customers feel that they’re gaining through the purchase, it builds loyalty, fosters advocacy and, in most cases, results in these customers recruiting your next set of customers. This free advertising is priceless because the organisation’s customer acquisition cost is greatly reduced with little conviction needed to get them to try out the product or service. Trust is thus established through the development of a single-minded proposition that is aided by a clear purpose on why the organisation exists.
Your purpose and proposition determine your brand’s values and behaviours
Knowing why you exist and what your organisation stands for informs how you should behave and the values the company should uphold. As an example, if your organisation is driven by an innovative purpose, inquisition should stand out as one of its behaviours. Curiosity results in the organisation always asking “what if?” questions and constantly challenging the status quo to develop a next-frontier product or service that will contribute to improving stakeholder lives. In addition, purpose and proposition also determine why an organisation upholds its said values. As an example, for a financial service company, integrity is paramount. A dial-down of this value raises eyebrows and leaves prospective customers in a state of nervousness that often results in them not taking the risk of trying your organisation’s offering.
I will, however, point out that the more values become common, the more they become hygiene factors. This makes it difficult for organisations to differentiate themselves around these table stakes. In markets where competition continues to intensify, values and behaviours should contribute to organisations standing out when compared to their rivals. To present equity building values and express these values through enabling behaviours, a deepened understanding of your purpose and proposition is required. This ensures the company goes beyond the table stakes to define and articulate its values. One way to develop this deepened understanding is to build your values around a longer-term purpose that is future-focused. A visionary purpose builds layers of understanding for the organisation that extend the present; including an appreciation of the past to clearly define the company’s position in the future. By outlining what the future holds for the entity, the values are easy to develop; including the emphasis of how these values are different to your competition.
Your values and behaviours influence designing and delivering equity building experiences
Building a strong brand is always done with the end in mind. To better understand the importance of brand, it has become critical to often refer to the outcomes. Outcomes should not be confused with outputs. Outcomes are largely linked to treating brands as organisational assets that can be exploited to contribute to revenue growth, profit realisation and reduced expenditure (marketing in particular) over time.
Referring back to Apple, the organisation is considered one of the standout brand-led organisations that invested a great amount of time fostering stakeholder buy-in through a clear and concise articulation of what the organisation is and is not, including the benefits of experiencing the organisation’s products and services and the company building more equity through exceeding expectations by delivering on its promise.
Through the synthesis of underlying values, the organisation defines its behavior and this behavior is converted into action, expressing how the brand should speak, look and make customers feel through each interaction. The more satisfying the feeling, the greater the chances of the customer trying out your product or service on their next purchase. If the purchase is more gratifying than the first experience, they’re likely to start speaking about it and invite others to partake in the same experience. This could in turn result in the invited person inviting their own set of people to partake in your organisation’s product and services on their own next purchases.
In light of the above, it is suggested that brand is important for any organisation looking to grow and progress in a future-fit manner. Brand is leveraged to develop frameworks that prioritise critical touchpoints that ensure the delivery of experiences that push customers to try your product and/or service repeatedly. In addition, brand can be leveraged to develop frameworks that are centred on obtaining internal stakeholder buy-in. This engagement is beneficial to the organisation over the longer term through reduced staff turnover and an established consistency when it comes to the delivery of external experiences.
Google is an organisaton that has one of the lowest staff turnover rates based on internal experiences that are geared towards keeping them at the organisation for longer. Retaining staff results in a higher innovation quotient that ultimately contributes to the delivery of exceptional returns from a shareholder return viewpoint over the longer term.
I conclude with my mandate as a brand advisor: to support my clients to build purpose-led organisations, tapping into their entrepreneurial core to unpack what they want their organisation to be known for over the longer term.
A synthesis of an action-orientated purpose results in the definition of an enlightened positioning, as well as, values, behaviour and essence for the brand. This in turn leads to an effective expression of the brand and what it represents to relevant stakeholders — particularly core audiences. A well-defined essence aligned to the organisation’s reason for existence also contributes to an ease of translation on what the brand should look like, say and how it should speak to its target audiences. A purpose also outlines how the brand will deliver equity building internal and external experiences centred on a unifying culture. This winning culture results in stakeholder loyalty and advocacy.
These currencies in turn result in brand delivering on its asset classification, effectively contributing to revenue growth (retention of existing and recruitment of new customers through advocacy), profitability growth (reduced customer acquisition costs over time) and cost reduction (declining marketing spend based on ‘free’ word-of-mouth advertising from existing customers).
James Maposa has extensive experience in the research and strategy consulting industry. Before founding Birguid, he worked for Interbrand, Frost & Sullivan, Ipsos and Ernst & Young, where he was responsible for supporting clients to grow and progress their respective businesses within the sub-Saharan African market. He’s worked for Standard Chartered, Old Mutual, Standard Bank, Discovery, the DTI, Audi, Ford, Toyota, Afrox, Air Liquide, Air Products and Telkom, among others.
The article first appeared in the 2018 edition of Brands & Branding in South Africa, an annual review from Affinity Publishing of all aspects of brand marketing — consisting of case-studies, profiles, articles and research — also accessible at Brands.MarkLives.com. Order your copy of the 2018 edition now!
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