Does customer engagement lead to business success? Sure it does. Engaged customers tend to buy more than an average consumer, and as an added benefit, they advertise on behalf of companies. But is customer engagement enough? Not always. Connections are made with customers every day, but when surface-level strategies are duplicated by alert competitors, eventually, the connection fades away.
Purpose-driven brands power through trends and market fluctuations because they’re able to rely on strong bonds fueled by a meaningful purpose that resonates well with those inside and outside their organizations.
Why don’t all companies invest in purposeful branding?
With so much potential, I often wonder why branding strategies seem to find their way to the bottom of a brand’s priority list. Considering Apple’s $182 billion brand valuation, it doesn’t take an experienced CFO to recognize the impact of brand equity. Many businesses, however, turn to marketing channels as a means to an end.
For example, a specific campaign is carried out to increase sales in Q4. Due to the short-term nature of these goals, when I advise clients on branding strategies, I notice that many seem reluctant to commit to plans that take multiple years to yield results.
It’s easy to understand why most startups in the U.S. fail early on. With such an influx of access to products, undifferentiated goods are quickly turning into replaceable commodities. I believe the failure rate will continue to surge as suppliers become more accessible and entrepreneurial opportunities increase.
Standing out from a crowd of generic products is arguably the most significant advantage branding can offer to a product or service. And good branding stretches beyond simply highlighting unique features and benefits.
Think about your best friend. What makes them different? Are they replaceable? Why are you loyal to them? A logical and emotional mix of thoughts immediately comes up that makes these questions hard to answer.
In a blog post, Hermann Behrens, Chief Growth Officer at Interbrand, writes, “A compelling brand purpose is a powerful thing. We have seen great brands created in less time than ever before by building a movement behind their compelling purpose.”
Patagonia is an excellent example. The brand attracts its market share not necessarily by providing higher quality products than North Face or Marmot, but by staying true to a purpose that sets its brand apart. Patagonia’s purpose is irresistible to a target market that passionately identifies with the company’s mission.
Done right, branding empowers companies to differentiate their products and services from their competitors. This makes it that much easier for companies to capture loyalty, makes the product or service less substitutable, and makes the price less elastic.
Colorful and trendy brands may experience some short-term attention, but meaningful brands are the ones that weather the test of time. Meaningful brands remain relevant because they have a reason for existing beyond simply selling.
“Think different,” for example, is more than a slogan; it was Steve Jobs’ way to communicate to people inside and outside of Apple’s organization that Apple is not there to “build boxes” (or computers). Instead, Apple exists because “people with passion can change the world for the better.”
New and fresh ideas are memorable. They attract attention and inspire innovation. Making a connection with the consumer on a deeper and purposeful level makes a brand durable. A successful brand is one that can come up with a message that fills the untapped space in a consumer’s mind while relating to them in a meaningful way.
Creating a compelling purpose means balancing brand insights with consumer insights in ways that haven’t been done before. A purpose carries both the logical appeal that describes a company’s competitive advantage and an emotional appeal that connects with and motivates the target audience.
Defining and refining a brand’s purpose requires commitment. First, companies must gain a strong understanding of their clientele, their competitive advantage and their place in the market from their customers’ perspective. Next, companies need to take their time fine-tuning an authentic integrated marketing communications strategy that can connect with, motivate and engage their customers.
Brands that consistently communicate a purposeful message are one step closer to surrounding themselves with an army of advocates who embody that brand as an extension of their own identities.
Elements of a brand stretch beyond logos, symbols, slogans, jingles and colors. Branding also includes more complex ingredients including voice, tone and a story that reaffirms an organization’s identity in ways that connect with and motivate customers.
To shape the public’s opinion toward a brand, companies must exercise discipline by consistently communicating one single purpose. In the words of David Ogilvy, “Every advertisement should be thought of as a contribution to the complex symbol which is the brand image.”
Understanding the purpose of a brand helps companies simplify their branding mix by uniting its elements behind a common message. In other words, it’s easier to find a creative way to tailor the communication of an existing message for a new channel than it is to come up with a new campaign. This, in turn, helps companies identify the right media channels and partners to work with.
It’s also important for brands to reinforce a moral imperative by continually listening to their consumers and responding to their needs. Brands should always create products and services that consumers crave. The marketplace punishes brands that refuse to innovate. Brand leaders adopt a strong focus on their consumers by being innovative and selective when extending their product and service variety, and by demonstrating their commitment to their customers by continuously providing relevant solutions.
Delivered well, proper branding goes beyond building affinity toward a product or a service; it lays a foundation to a long-lasting relationship with customers. Communicating a strong purpose can establish advocacy, promote a community around a brand and create the necessary dominance to differentiate it from competitors that exist to satisfy the same need.