I’ve had some questions lately, and some really good conversations with clients and fellow business owners, about what it means to be a purpose driven brand. So I wanted to chat about this a bit in today’s episode. I also want to give you a real life and very relatable example of a brand that is a brilliant example of this.
Let’s first take a look at the definition of the word purpose:
Noun — the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.
So that’s what the dictionary says. If you are a company, that translates to the reason your brand exists. And for a purpose-driven brand, that reason goes beyond just making money – you’re motivated by your core vision and mission, rather than just by profit alone. If you’re a purpose-driven brand, you’re working towards solving a problem for the greater good, or meeting a need within society. And that purpose then acts as your north star, a guide for all of your business decisions.
Now, please don’t get me wrong; I am by no means saying that profit is a bad thing. It’s not! It’s good to make a profit. Businesses need to make a profit. It’s just that when profit becomes the only driving force for a brand, there’s not much room left for the human aspect of branding. Your brand becomes a machine, and it’s hard to connect with a machine. A machine is just moving cogs and pieces of metal, a repetitive grind with efficiency at the front and centre. Churn, churn, churn! Brands that are only driven by the constant need for more profit, better margins, more efficiency, are in real danger of treating both their employees and their customers as just pieces of that well-oiled machinery.
When you then stop to think about how branding is all about feelings and emotional connections in the mind of your audience, can you see how the two collide?
Another thing to note about making a profit, and how it’s a good thing, is that a purpose-driven brand differs from a profit-driven brand by what they do with their profits. So where a profit-driven brand might have an overall goal of paying out as much money as possible to their owners and stakeholders – creating wealth only for the people at the top of the organisation, a purpose driven brand thinks about what impact they can make in the world with that profit. What can they do for the greater good. So a purpose-driven brand should want to make money too, because that money will help them fulfil their vision of moving the world in a certain direction.
Impacting the world sounds like such a big and monumental thing to do, but smaller businesses can and should absolutely still have a purpose behind their brand. What’s important to remember though is that you don’t have to solve the world’s problems on your own. You can’t save the world single handedly, but by letting your purpose and your values lead the way you can be a part of the bigger picture, making sure the impact you make (however small or seemingly insignificant) helps pull in the right direction.
If that’s not already enough of a reason to lead with purpose, here are some more incentives:
I know this might seem contradictory because we’re talking about purpose over profits in this episode, but having a purpose behind your brand is likely to make a positive impact on your bottom line over time – because these days, people expect businesses and brands to be purpose-driven.
Accenture Strategy’s 2018 survey of nearly 30,000 consumers in 35 countries found that:
“62 percent of consumers want companies to take a stand on current and broadly relevant issues such as sustainability, transparency and fair employment practices.”
I recommend checking out the full survey report because it’s definitely worth a read! The report also highlights some examples that I think are such great ways to illustrate how brands can lead with purpose. For instance:
- UK retailer John Lewis recently decided to ditch “Boys” and “Girls” labels in children’s clothing to express its stance against gender stereotyping.
- IKEA recently broadened its social impact by committing to employ refugees at production centers in Jordan as part of their long-term goal to employ 200k disadvantaged people globally.
As a purpose-driven brand, you have the potential to create deeper and stronger customer relationships. Leading with values and purpose will help your dream clients resonate with your brand in a more meaningful way – elevating your brand to something more than just a commodity. And that again can translate into more sales and greater brand loyalty.
If you think about it for a second… when you’re out shopping for a product or a service, and you come across a brand that just feels so aligned with your own values, do you ever feel compelled to choose that one over the similar brand that offers no such “added value” – even if that other product is cheaper? I know I do. That’s because it feels good to us humans to feel like we’re making a small contribution to help a cause we care about – whether that’s gender equality, environmental sustainability, animal preservation, anti racism, feminism… you name it. And so that’s how purpose-driven brands can really start to stand out and attract people who share those same values and beliefs.
Because when you have that clear purpose and those strong, authentic values, that your kind of people can get behind… well those people are much more likely to spread the word about your brand and what you do. And then that can have a positive ripple effect for your brand as a whole.
The way I see branding these days is that it’s moving away from the more traditional way of seeing the customer as just a buyer, someone whose money you want to take in exchange for your product or service, and moving more towards a co-creation scenario, where consumers are very much a part of shaping the brands they want to associate themselves with.
I really wanted to give you a real life example of someone I think is doing a stellar job of building a purpose-driven brand, you know… just to make it more relatable for you! And in the name of making things relatable, I didn’t want to just cough up one of the big world-leading brands, but rather showcase a smaller brand and show you how this purpose-driven brand thing isn’t just something for the big players:
I’d love to introduce you to a client of mine: CleanCup, and their founder Lene Elisabeth Eide:
When Lene founded CleanCup in 2017, it was because she wanted to make the menstrual cup an accessible alternative for more menstruating people. Four years ago, many people still felt that menstrual cups were mostly relevant for hippies – or the “crunchy” crew – or at least not particularly relevant as an alternative to disposable sanitary pads and tampons. When she tried the menstrual cup for the first time, she was absolutely stunned that no one had told her about this option before. She asked herself: “Why is it not presented in school, in the same way as the disposable products are?!” And so her mission with CleanCup is to make both the product and information on menstrual health, available to all people who menstruate. The vision behind CleanCup (which I love!) is to ensure that people with periods don’t miss out on opportunities or are held back due to menstruation.
And these are not just empty promises by CleanCup: they’re taking action according to their purpose by donating one menstrual cup for every cup they sell, to people with periods in Uganda – in a collaboration with Save the Children. According to surveys, as much as 50 percent of female identifying pupils in Ugandan schools report missing out on 1-3 days of school every month, due to their periods. Bringing that into a global perspective, that’s a lot of people missing out on important education!
In addition to that, CleanCup have recently made the decision to bring the production of their menstrual cups back to Norway. In doing that, they’re significantly increasing their production costs compared to having their cup produced in a country with huge factories and cheap labour costs. But to them it’s more important to reduce their environmental impact, being able to document every single part of the production chain… you know. Really making sure that the production of their menstrual cup is fair and ethical to everyone involved. And also of course; to ensure that their product is 100% safe (after all, it’s a product that their customers will wear inside their bodies! So that’s kinda a big deal.)
So as you can see, although CleanCup is a one woman show, it’s a brand that’s really making an impact! At the time of recording, they have donated 1837 menstrual cups – and although that initially doesn’t seem like a huge number, that means they’ve directly made a difference to 1837 people’s lives. Real people’s lives. And who knows how many people they’ve indirectly made a difference to! The ripple effects of even just a tiny purpose-driven brand could be monumental.
It’s no secret that I am constantly encouraging my clients to build their brands around something other than just the money, and that’s my way of taking part in that ripple effect I just spoke about. By being selective about the brands I work with, and by challenging and enabling the business owners I work with to become clear on their purpose, and providing the encouragement and backing they need to dare step into leading with their values and their purpose – I can gently nudge the world towards what I consider a better place.
And just in case you’re wondering, that place for me is a place of freedom, where all human beings are treated with equal respect. I believe that every person on this planet deserves the right to equal opportunities – and the freedom to be who they are, regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, body size and/or religion. For that reason I’ll not help you build a brand based on manipulative sales tactics or sketchy business practices. I will never work with brands that are anti abortion. I will never work with fat shaming brands. I will never work with brands that have racist undertones. OK, there’s more where that came from, these are just a few examples of my non-negotiables, and it’s my purpose put into action.
I also believe that your brand should give you freedom, whatever that means to you. Freedom to spend time doing what you love. Financial freedom. Freedom to work how and where you want. Freedom to work with the kind of clients that really fire you up. Freedom to build your brand in a way that feels good to you and the people you serve. So it’s safe to say that freedom is at the core of my higher purpose.
And that is why I am on a mission to help other business owners build their brands their way; without pretending to be something they’re not, without compromising on their truths, without unethical business tactics and without screwing people over in the process. For every brand that dares to show up with their values and their hearts on their sleeves, it becomes easier for others to follow. And who knows; maybe the world will become a better, more inclusive and more transparent place in the process.
So, just to round off: how do you create a purpose-driven brand?
Define your purpose. Before you can create a purpose-driven brand, you have to know what your bigger purpose is. Well, doh… Easier said than done, and something I see so many businesses skip as they start to build their brands. Have a good ol’ think about what causes you truly care about, and ask yourself what change you want to make in the world. It could be something monumental (like world peace) or it could be something smaller (like what CleanCup does).
Really lean into your purpose. Once you’re clear on your purpose, don’t let it gather dust in a drawer or become just another buzzword in a company report or on a vision board. That’s not going to help anyone! And it’s a sign that maybe the bigger purpose you claim to be working towards, isn’t really that important to you after all. And that’s something people will be able to call you out on, it’s pretty darn obvious when a brand’s vision, values or purpose is “just for show” – which honestly… is worse than not having a bigger purpose at all, because then you’re basically just making up a purpose with the intention of using it to make a profit. There’s a word for that: lying. And consumers these days know when they’re being lied to – and in case you hadn’t guessed: they don’t like being lied to. So make sure your purpose is something that you’re passionate about, passionate enough to actually weave it into the fabric of your brand and use it to inform the direction of your business.
Tell people about your purpose. Use your purpose to craft your messaging and content pillars. Use your platforms and your reach to amplify that message and create a bigger impact.
Take action! It’s easy to articulate a purpose, it’s much much harder to act on it. Prove to your audience that your purpose is more than just words and put your money where your mouth is. Again, bringing up Cleancup as an example: they are a prime example of a brand that doesn’t just say they want to make a change. When they say they want to make sure people with periods don’t miss out on opportunities because of their periods; they also take action to back up their words: through their donation scheme. They’re not only acknowledging that period poverty is a global gender equality challenge – they’re doing something to help change the current situation for the better.
I hope that’s inspired you to start branding your business with purpose and intent. And remember: it’s never too late to start your journey as a purpose-driven brand. Not everyone starts their business because they’re initially driven by a higher purpose; many of us don’t find our purpose until later in our business journey, and that’s okay. Sometimes your purpose will shift over time – and that’s okay too.
This episode of Brand it! with Petchy was brought to you by… my Brand it! VIP Intensives. These full-day sessions are perfect if you’re ready to bridge the gap between your business strategy and your visual branding, and get that brand strategy right once and for all.
If you’re a purpose-driven business owner who wants to just get things done, so you can get on with building that badass business of yours, but who can never quite seem to find the time or the focus to work on your own brand. If you (like me) keep getting side tracked by all. the. things. and you’re about ready to tear your hair out: this might be just what the brand doctor ordered!
During our day together, I will help you get crystal clear on the very core of your brand. I’ll help you figure out your brand’s purpose; why your brand exists, who you want to be and who you want to impact. Together, we’ll hone in on what makes you you, we’ll connect all the dots and we’ll uncover that unique brand personality that will speak to all the right people.
You will walk away from our session with a solid brand strategy in place, and the confidence to embrace your brand ‘s uniqueness so you can show up consistently as you. Every time!
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Until next time,
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