How connecting purpose with people creates more human brands?

Can we find a tool to bring people and brands closer together? I think it is entirely possible. It requires focused planning and skilled execution. Over my many years working on branding, I have experienced that there is one particular area within which employees, customers and investors have a common interest. This is within what I define as the core of the brand, its identity — the purpose of the brand. This purpose is what connects the company’s stakeholders in a manner that strengthens the brand at the same time as serving everyone engaged in it. This is how the brand becomes more human. It becomes more attractive to customers and potential employees and represents values beyond pure profit.

The purpose is the true essence of the brand, it is the guiding star by which everyone working with the brand should navigate. In Norway, we have long been preoccupied with core values, but the fact is that these do not differentiate the brand in the same way as a purpose. While values act as guidelines, the purpose tells us something about whywe have chosen to do the job we do — whythe company exists. In 2017 we at Mission launched The Purpose Report, which shows that very many companies share the same values, even where they are competitors. The report also shows that 2/3 of big Norwegian companies have not defined their purpose. What is far more pleasing is the fact that the companies that have defined their purpose are on average 41.8 percent more profitable than other companies.

Creating ties that strengthen the company and brand

A company consists of many different people. Sometimes there are conflicting instincts, motives and interests that can split a team. Then a meaningful purpose will have a collective effect and is the glue that holds things together. When different groups do business in line with the same purpose, they increase each other’s value. As a manager you therefore need a purpose that functions across the entire spectrum so as to engage everyone who will make your company more successful. The three most important groups you need to think about are customers, employees and investors. These groups require a focus individually adapted to them as described in the Trinity Model.

Focus on what unites your customers, employees and investors: your brand purpose.

The purpose of the brand is the central idea that connects the branding activities with these three groups. When customers, employees and investors are engaged they can create incredible results for the brand. The three groups are linked to each other and the actions of each has consequences for the others.

Although the three groups are important to the company, it is still uncommon for there to be any direct interaction between them. Investors seldom interact with customers and do not affect purchase decisions. Customers are not as aware of the employees and the personal values of those working somewhere have little effect on the total perception of the brand. The employees do not care about the investors, with the exception of the instances where they have made decisions that have a direct effect on the situation at the workplace. Regardless of the approach we take, the others in the trinity are often far away.

“If you bring together customers, employees and investors around a purpose, you will have created additional value for the company and the brand.”

That is why it is so important to focus on the connection there actually is between them. At the centre of the Trinity Model, there is a common area where all three overlap each other. This represents the greatest and most important parts, a powerful driving force that appeals to them all — the brand’s purpose.

The stronger the purpose, the greater the value of each group will be and the stronger the trinity becomes. If you bring together customers, employees and investors around a purpose, you will have created additional value for the company and the brand.

Pre-register for the book: Point of Purpose.

Achieving values through objectives

The company’s value: Purpose is strongest when it contains a human dimension. When a founder or CEO makes a public appearance to speak about things associated with the purpose of the brand in the media and to viewers, it is often easy to sympathise with the person in question. A presentation such as this may attract employees and lead to recommendations from persons positive about what the company stands for. In addition, customers can go from being purchasers to loyal fans.

Financial value: Purpose can attract like-minded investors who can help the company to get started and to grow. Many companies grow for years, supported by external capital but without any promise of a financial return. Investors know well that a company’s value fluctuates during its lifetime. When its timetable is determined by a clear purpose, investors are more able to support more elevated future targets.

Cultural value: Within an organisation, employees can flourish in surroundings where they have a common goal and common stakes. Purpose surpasses wages as a tool for motivating employees to perform optimally. If a company wishes to tempt and keep the best brains in the industry, it will need to offer them something that engages them. Purpose makes the workplace a better place, coordinates teams, creates good relations, increases efficiency and improves communication.

Customer value: The company would die without the customer. These days, the relationship between the company and customers is more direct than before. Younger target groups in particular are searching for a close relationship with the brands they use. They interact with them on social media and base their decisions on what they experience in dialogue with the company or via close friends. Customers will support and recommend companies that speak their language and that they feel represent their values.

Developing your own purpose

Preparing a purpose statement that makes sense for all the three groups in the trinity is no easy exercise. This is where you need to work through each single word and think through each possible association. Unfortunately, there is no simple formula. All brands are unique. Looking at how others have dealt with the task could also help. I will include a couple of good examples of wordings for purposes:

Hurtigruten

Provide safe, unique, active and sustainable travel experiences that create lifelong memories.

Yara

Responsibly feed the world and protect the planet..

These statements bear witness to ambitions far beyond earning money. They appeal to the heart and encourage action. They speak about the core of the business and the very reason for conducting this. This is not about superficial tabloid rhetoric intended to be used in advertising and marketing. These purpose statements demand something.

For this reason, the next example comes across as weak:

Norwegian

Norwegian aims to be the preferred airline in selected markets and to generate profitability and dividends for our shareholders.

Use these 5 criteria to define your purpose statement

  1. A purpose must make sense beyond earning money.
  2. A purpose must inspire employees.
  3. A purpose must be credible.
  4. A purpose must motivate customers.
  5. A purpose must be relevant ten years in the future.
If your brand has never defined its own purpose, it is appropriate to think through what the consequences of this could be.

Remember that a purpose is something much more than grand words. It is a timetable that people will follow. Customers, employees and investors will expect action that supports the purpose.

When your brand is in harmony with the purpose, all signals will be consistent. People will notice that, perhaps without being able to explain why. The brand will be more genuine and credible. The customers will feel that the brand is high quality, the employees will be more engaged in it being successful and the investors will experience the brand as more valuable over time. Companies that are genuinely more concerned about providing something valuable to their customers, other stakeholders and society, over and above just earning money, will gain followers and fans who will come back — again and again.

This article was written by Bård Annweiler, and was first published on Mission’s website. A Norwegian version of this article was published in the journal MAGMA no. 0818.