A Practical Guide to Defining Your Brand Purpose.
The internet has made entrepreneurship both easier and more difficult. Starting a business can be as simple as selling your art via an Instagram or etsy account. That’s the easy part. But successfully standing out from the crowd, cutting through the noise, scaling your business and building a brand around your products that people gravitate to, is another story.
When we consult our clients or give branding workshops, the first question we like to ask them is why they decided to start a brand.
Why does it exist? What is its purpose in the world?
To put things into perspective we ask them to name and analyse their favourite brands. Why do they think their favourite brands exist? And if they say ‘to make money’ then we ask them to dig a little deeper.
Now, we don’t know what your favourite brands are, so we’re going to use three of ours as examples; Nike, Patagonia, and TED Talks.
First, let’s look at their vision statements. A vision statement outlines the impact that the brand wants to have on the world. It explains the overall purpose of why the brand exists, which can be manifested as a goal, philosophy, or belief. A vision does not have to be attainable, but should be more of an ongoing conquest throughout a company’s existence.
As you can probably tell, most of these are quite open ended statements. They might never be achieved, but they communicate a sense of purpose.
Next, let’s look at their mission statements. A brand’s mission is used to communicate how it is going to work toward achieving their vision statement:
‘Do everything possible to expand human potential. We do that by creating groundbreaking sport innovations, by making our products more sustainably, by building a creative and diverse global team and by making a positive impact in communities where we live and work.’
‘Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.’
Notice how these mission statements have nothing to do with what these brands actually do. Nike doesn’t mention sports wear, Patagonia doesn’t talk about it’s outdoor gear, and TED said nothing about their talks and videos. No specific products or services are mentioned, which is important, because they would limit themselves to one product/service in their efforts to achieve their vision. Instead, they have built mission statements which are open ended, and can guide their approach to creating anything that will help them work towards achieving their mission. For example, Nike has a running app. It has nothing to do with sports wear, which is their main source of revenue, but it still connects to their mission as well as their vision. It fits into their brand universe and supports their brand purpose.
Finally, the what. We like to call this the Action Statement. It is meant to explain what your company does on a day-to-day basis, and is most likely going to be the answer to the very common question ‘So what does your company do?’. This, of course, is not set in stone, and is subject to change as your brand grows, branches out, or diversifies its product/service offering. Nonetheless, it is important to clearly define what your company does on a micro level to affirm your brand’s mission, and work towards achieving its vision.
“NIKE, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, designs, develops, markets, and sells athletic footwear, apparel, equipment, and accessories worldwide. The company offers NIKE brand products in six categories, including running, NIKE basketball, the Jordan brand, football, training, and sportswear.”
“Patagonia makes clothes for climbing—as well as for skiing, snowboarding, surfing, fly fishing, mountain biking and trail running. We donate our time, services and at least 1 percent of our sales to help hundreds of grassroots organizations all over the world so that they can remain vigilant, and protect what’s irreplaceable.”
“TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.”
When you are working on defining your own brand purpose, keep asking the ‘why’ question for every statement you make about your brand. This will help you to work your way towards defining your brand purpose, starting at the micro level.
Let’s use TED Talks as an example:
TED is a nonprofit that produces and distributes short, powerful talks. (Action Statement)
To spread ideas. (Mission Statement)
‘Because we believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world.’ (Vision Statement)
Can you guess what the brand purpose of TED Talks is? Well, here it is:
‘Our reason for being is to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world, through the power of ideas.’
Now, my friend, what is your brand purpose?