When it comes to defining a strong and meaningful brand image in today’s industry, many brands are turning to an authentic purpose to tie together messaging in marketing with in-brand environments, making the entire brand experience cohesive and attractive to customers and employees alike. Many times, however, efforts are concentrated on one of these two groups separately, and not all stakeholders fall into either of these two groups at all, so how can you extend this sense of purpose to the full stakeholder experience?
As the descriptor implies, an important first step in making sure your brand culture is felt meaningfully from every angle, and doesn’t just end up being a catchy slogan to throw on social media ads, is by ensuring that your purpose is authentic. Then, it’s about making sure it fits front and center in everything you do.
Finding a Fitting Purpose
It’s just a mission statement, right? Not exactly. Once upon a time, the Disney Institute took a shot at defining the difference between the two, and it holds up pretty well in terms of what we’re discussing here. A mission is what a company does, and perhaps who they are doing it for, while a purpose is why the brand exists at all.
Now, when it comes to authentic purpose, your motivation can’t be something like money or success. Your authentic purpose is what drives your brand, your employees, and your company culture both internally and externally. VFX artists make studios a lot of money, but their motivation is ultimately about telling stories. Famous chefs can have a lot of monetary success, but their motivation often lies in nourishing communities. An authentic purpose keeps you (and your team) committed to the craft for the right reasons, and helps you keep pushing when times get tough.
What does this have to do with the full stakeholder picture? In the same way that customers are increasingly valuing transparency and authenticity, investors and stakeholders at any scale are more committed to brands that do more than just turn a profit. Between two brands that are comparably profitable, if one of them is sincerely committed to sustainable development, which are you more likely to invest in?
Achieving Company-Wide Alignment
An authentic purpose has to be sincere, but exactly what this looks like might be a little bit ambiguous, especially from different perspectives. As mentioned, transparency is important, but it isn’t just important when it comes to marketing. Customers are responding to transparency more and more, but what would investors think if that same message clearly isn’t be reflected to them? What about employees?
The answer, of course, is that your proposed purpose might be perceived to be fake or superficial, and that ultimately won’t ring well with investors or workers. Establishing an authentic purpose is more than just finding what you believe in and what you want to work towards as a brand, it’s also making sure that that purpose is present in everything your brand does. This is what we call company-wide alignment. If what your stakeholders are supposedly supporting falls apart at any part of the organization, support might naturally begin to wane.
Design Purpose-Centered Metrics
What do stakeholders need to see? Results, of course! But what do growth reports and performances indexes mean for stakeholders who are committed to your brand in support of your communicated purpose? While they aren’t meaningless by any means, reporting on the usual profit-and-growth-centric metrics separates your brand’s concept of “success” from its reason to be—its purpose. By designing and implementing metrics that reflect your authentic purpose, you are communicating precisely the opposite: your success is predicated on achieving that which motivates you in the first place. If authentic purpose is what gets employees to push through the tough times, that same purpose communicated broadly is what can get stakeholders writ large through tough times as well, and proudly.
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