Imbuing your brand with purpose – two practical principles

Creating a brand purpose vision or narrative is a challenge. Usually there are a number of different audiences to engage, both internally and externally, the purpose must 'fit' the material issues facing the brand and it must have an impact which lasts.

Imbuing your brand with purpose – two practical principles

Even if a business has impressive purpose credentials, how to incorporate these to become part of an overall brand strategy requires both creativity and the ability to bring together both the marketing and sustainability departments. Two practical principles to both inspire creative solutions and ensure your purpose is firmly embedded in your brand is to address challenges and get closer to what your brand team are doing.

 1.    Use challenge as a source of inspiration

Whether it is how little consumers know about your sustainability work or an industry challenge which needs owning, see challenges as a source of inspiration. In 2016 Lynx launched a new brand positioning supported by a campaign to help young men connect with the concept of the changing nature of masculinity. ‘Is It Ok For Guys’ was in response to a genuine industry challenge and customer need where Lynx recognized that it could play a role in exploring the answer to ‘what it means to be a man’. The result was an ambitious campaign from a brand that had previously dealt almost exclusively in frivolity. The business saw a jump in sales and more importantly a reappraisal of the brand among an audience with changing needs and values. The campaign connected because the work addressed a genuine need and challenge amongst consumers.

When we were briefed by TUI to develop the group’s new vision and narrative for sustainability we met a brand with truly outstanding sustainability credentials. The group have the most carbon efficient airline fleet in Europe, run tourist excursions that give back to local communities and work hard to improve the sustainability of their hotels – the challenge was, very little of this work was being communicated back to customers. We used this as a key kick-off inspirer, beginning with a commitment to frame our strategy in a non-technical way that would make sense intuitively to customers. Not only did this drive clarity of message, it also inspired us to demonstrate how TUI’s sustainability initiatives matched customers’ main priority – having a fantastic holiday. This wasn’t an exercise in spin, it was rooted in the connected reality of travel and sustainability. After all, a hotel that’s well-insulated, energy efficient and passionate about reducing food waste will likely be a well-run and pleasant place to stay in. Or, work that cleans-up local beaches and protects biodiversity will make for a better experience for coastal holidays.

If a purpose challenge isn’t clear from within the business there are countless global environmental or socio-economic problems or issues to be addressed. We’ve worked with Twinings for many years, helping them make their sustainability strategy distinctive for the brand and relevant and inspiring for employees and customers. Their purpose strategy is comprehensive, led from the top, by the CEO, and has been a genuine commitment for many years. Their focus is naturally around  sourcing – that’s where the biggest risks and opportunities for brand purpose exist for them as a tea business. Their approach has depth and weight, taking the overall challenge of securing and maintaining human rights within the tea supply chain as their overall brand purpose vision. See more here:

 2.    Work with your brand team

Find out what campaigns your brand team are about to launch and consider how you can work together. How can their brand messaging bring alive your purpose strategy and how can your purpose vision provide proof points for key brand ambitions such as building trust or loyalty?

As we took up the brief with TUI, their brand team were about to launch their ‘Discover your smile’ brand campaign, all about how holidays can get us back to our real selves. Instead of running a siloed sustainability narrative we used this as a strategy trigger, working-up an approach which connected sustainable holidays with a return to travellers’ authentic selves. The core thinking lay around joining the dots between TUI’s sustainability initiatives with the brand’s ‘deeper caring’ approach – not only for customers and their holidays but for the world and the social and environmental factors that underpin a wonderful holiday. A caring, responsible, nurturing and inspiring brand purpose approach can be both natural and intuitive for holiday brands, as well as making commercial sense in terms of product quality translating into sales.

With this clarified brand purpose it was then possible to frame the sustainability strategy in a way that would actually reinforce and provide tangible proof points for the ‘Discover your smile’ brand campaign. These not only made it more credible but threw a halo and spotlight on the market-leading strides TUI were making in the area of sustainability.

For many brand teams, a central value and ambition is to earn trust. Sustainability has already been established as a proven driver of trust and so brand campaigns which are aligned with deeper purpose can be a powerful force for a business. Consumers are drawn to brands that act in sustainable, purposeful ways. It establishes loyalty and trust for the long-term, and for those brands representing firsts in their sector, the impact can be even more powerful. A focus on purpose can provide the substance which brand communications sometimes lacks and it is in their interlocking that true magic happens. Brand teams know exactly what positive and desirable brand personality traits will appeal to customers and activating purpose can enable this to be done in a truly credible and authentic way.

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