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Social Purpose – How Your Brand Stands to Make Massive Impact


A bit more than a decade ago two inspired individuals started two separate businesses. Each were a flash of brilliance to fulfill the exact same need in the same market. Since then both invested significantly to educate their market and build their respective brands.

Both owners take pride in the quality of their offerings and their competitive pricing. Each has identified their why (because as Simon Sinek says people don’t by buy what you do, rather why you do it). And they tell it effectively through their marketing, advertising and digital strategy. So both have an equally strong presence.

A new customer enters the market and encounters both brands. What do you think the odds are for each business?

Lets run that same scenario again. This time a third company enters the equation. They fill the same need, invested similar resources to build their brand, and match quality and price. This brand however, has a strong social purpose that their entire business aligns with. It’s central to their why. They aren’t a charity, but it is a social purpose. To be clear, it’s a meaningful way they contribute to the betterment of society and the planet.

Are you with me?

Again a new customer enters the market and encounters all three brands. This time what do you think the odds are for each business?

It makes sense to think this purpose centred brand has much better odds. The answer of course depends on few things.

  • This customer cares about their cause.
  • How authentic the brand story is
  • And if the story resonates with them.

The reality today more than ever is people want to align and support brands that care. A 2015 survey tells us 90% of U.S. consumers say they would switch brands to one associated with a cause, given comparable price and quality.  Cone Communications/Ebiquity’s 2015 Global CSR Study

It goes well beyond acquiring new customers for your business though. Millennials, who we want to someday lead our businesses, are increasingly difficult to attract and retain. That’s because they want you to have a purpose too. Six out of 10 Millennials said a sense of purpose is part of the reason they chose to work for their current employer.  The Millennial Survey 2015(Deloitte)

Social Purpose - How Your Brand Stands to Make Massive Impact

How do I choose a social purpose for my business to align to?

So you see the light. Hallelujah!

But how do you know if that purpose you are thinking of is the right one? Or if you don’t know where to start, what do you do?

Each requires a different strategy, and it is critical to get your whole team involved. While a purposeful brand needs to be lead with authenticity, buy in from your entire team is essential.

Did you catch the keyword there? Authenticity. Whatever the purpose or cause you align with, it needs to be genuine. Greenwashing is a dangerous game to play, and the market can sniff out bullshit pretty easily, as can your team.

Some guiding questions to ask your team when selecting a purpose:

  1. Does this cause have a clear association to our organisation’s vision, values, and offerings?
  2. Does supporting this cause improve our business goals?
  3. Can we support it long term?
  4. Is it relevant to our internal and external communities?
  • stakeholders
  • employees
  • customers
  • supporters
  • and brand advocates

What does that mean for my brand?

A story untold is like putting your best content below the fold of your website. In other words, a huge waste. No one gets to see or hear it. Just like the stats tell us that 92% of visitors leave your website in less than 7 seconds and never return, so do they miss out on aligning with your purpose.

Great brands tell their story consistently (and relentlessly) via their marketing. Making your purpose central to your story makes your brand loveable to your audience.

Once you have your story right, developing a culture of storytelling is a powerful way to ensure your people learn, own, and tell it for years to come.

It’s better for your bottom line too!

You may choose to commit a nominal dollar amount, resources, or a percentage of profits to support your cause. When you do, you are able to charge a higher premium. 42% of respondents said they would pay extra for products and services from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact.  2014 Nielsen Doing Well by Doing Good.

How do I get buy in from my people?

Change can be challenging. If I tell you to be happy, will you? Seriously, be happy now!

It would be nice if it was just that simple. Even coming from an authority it’s not. We reflexively challenge what we are told to do, as it’s not our idea, and it’s not the subconscious  pattern we are currently running.

People are intrinsically attached to ideas they feel ownership of. So facilitated team workshops to guide everyone through the process of identifying and owning a cause is invaluable.

For those that are resistant there are options. Some suggestions are:

  • You can make the culture so strong around the purpose that they remove themselves (it happens)
  • If they are toxically opposed, remove them
  • Or continue to team workshop storytelling the purpose and gradually they may align themselves.

People learn through stories. Stories make it real. Celebrate those who live the culture via stories told in your internal communications.

Get physical! Physiology is a great way to break patterns and change state. Events and workshops off site focused on activity and purpose create new neurological pathways linking to the cause . Like a beautifully handcrafted sculpture, it takes time.

What do I do with my brand?

Great question! A key question to ask is: does my current brand align well enough to the new purpose?

If it does, beautiful. You simply need to focus on developing a brand strategy to tell the new brand story. It would serve to work with a purpose focused brand storyteller to help you articulate yours.

If it doesn’t, you have options to explore.

  • Renaming your brand (and whole new image)
  • Rebranding (keeping the name – whole new image)
  • A brand refresh (updating the brand image)

While more significant, these options can be incredibly powerful. They are a public statement of change. They show the market,  your team and your clients that you’re serious. It is a signal something dramatically different is now going on. Check out some great rebranding success cases here.

Before you dive into such a serious action I recommend speaking with a purpose focused brand consultant. They can give a professional higher level opinion on whether it is right for you.

Purpose is the key

A groundswell is afoot. People want to support truly good brands. All things equal, purpose is the differentiator. I love this quote:

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

Time is of the essence. How will you respond?

Next Steps

Want to talk about purpose? I love nothing more (family and team excluded of course!). So I offer you a warm and friendly invitation to chat with me. I’ll give you clarity on steps, some friendly advice, and be a soundboard for your ideas. If you want professional help, we can do that too.

Yours in changing the world, Luke.

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