By Frances Collins
17/03/2017
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Purpose: Working out the WHY?

Branding is about communication. Communicating your message to your audience. Brand strategy is about making sure you know what your message is, who your audience are and how to communicate to them. In order to communicate effectively, your purpose needs to be established.

What is your purpose?

In order to make decisions around your brand, you need to establish the why. Knowing your company purpose is incredibly important.

The purpose isn’t the mission, vision or the values — it’s the reason your company exists at all. Your dream doesn’t need to feel virtuous. In fact, it shouldn’t if that isn’t your motivation. But purpose isn’t about financial gain — it’s bigger than that. Without wanting to sound too grandiose, what would your business’s impact on the world be?

Purpose drives decision making. It feeds into the core business decisions as well as extra curricular activities. Incidentally, companies with a clear purpose tend to make more money that those seeking just profit. A team from Harvard Business Review together with Ernst and Young conducted a global survey of 474 executives.

[They] found that although there is near-unanimity in the business community about the value of purpose in driving performance, less than half of the executives surveyed said their company had actually articulated a strong sense of purpose and used it as a way to make decisions and strengthen motivation. Only a few companies appear to have embedded their purpose to a point where they have reaped its full potential.

Some good examples of companies who have established the ‘why’s for their own companies include IDEO and Whole Foods.

IDEO believe that everyone is creative, and innovation and problem solving is best done with people at the heart. Whole Foods’ higher purpose is about sustainable agriculture and healthy, high-quality food.

Unfortunately, there is no shortcut to finding your company reason for existing. But there are some good starting points.

  • What does success look like?
  • Where do you want to be in 10 years time?
  • If your company closed down tomorrow, what would you miss the most?
  • Which customers / clients do you love working with? And which ones do you struggle with?

Whilst some of your answers maybe vague it is useful to determine how your brand can help facilitate your priorities. This is a discussion that needs to be done in team! As well as the interesting discussions and providing a spotlight on the differencing of opinion, it is important to create a shared vision. When a shared vision is established an objective list of what’s needed from your brand will be easier to draw up.

Write down your purpose in one sentence.

At this point it is worth noting, the company purpose is different to the individual stakeholder’s. It is rare for the purposes to completely align, but there does need to be a degree of overlap. Working for the company should be a way of ensuring the decision makers outwork their own vision and values.

At a dozen eggs, Jo, Chris and I found it useful to work out our individual purposes as company directors before we started with the company vision –  why we set up the company, and what motivates us day to day. With those purposes in mind, the company purpose was easier to form.

Outworking your purpose

Once you have your sentence, you will then need to use it to both drive business decisions and ensure your communication both written and verbal aligns.

IDEO developed IDEO.org, offering their talented designers time to help solve poverty related challenges. Whole Foods created community giving days, distributing 5% of that days net sales to local non-profits.

Identifying your reason is the first step in our branding process, establishing your brand values tends to be the next stage. Both processes can be repeated every time the business changes direction (but preferably before) and are utilised as a tool, rather than a rigid structure.

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