Every significant size company is scrutinised by the press and the public on their inclusivity, environmental credentials, and tax affairs. It has become a necessity to have a policy on such matters and a well-briefed PR team to deal with criticism.
Businesses may also engage in the occasional charity bake-off or community litter-pick and whilst this activity is of course welcome, it is not what makes a purpose-driven brand.
A purpose-driven brand is led by its mission; it is compelled by a vision greater than profit.
TOMS are known for giving away a lot of shoes. Over 95 million pairs to date. Originally known for their policy of giving one pair away for every pair sold, they are now committed to donating 1/3 of net profits.
In 2018, TOMS became a certified B Corp. This group of companies pledge to “balance profit and purpose” whilst committing to a charter of environmental and ethical standards. The existence of such organisations highlights the growing cohort of “purpose-driven” corporations who use “business as a force for good.”
USAmerican car maker Tesla are a pre-eminent example of a brand that is both purpose-driven and design-led. They articulate their mission not as ‘delivering maximum value to shareholders,’ or ‘make good-looking cars and solar panels’ but “to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy.”
On a smaller scale, UK-based Community Clothing have set up a 100% local supply chain in order to create jobs in post-industrial areas which were once thriving textile hubs. The promise is “great quality, locally made and affordable” clothing by way of their direct-to-consumer business model.
Goals should be suitably ambitious relative to the level of the organisation’s reach and potential impact. Tesla’s vision has a huge scope. A village gardening club may aim, quite nobly, to make their patch the most beautiful in England, but not necessarily to ‘solve the global climate crisis by Christmas.’ A mission statement must be large enough in scope to be inspiring, but not so large that it becomes ridiculous, and so loses credibility.
Purpose-driven brands are oriented around a big idea which becomes their raison d’être; the guiding ‘why’ behind every decision. The most successful are able to articulate this key message in a concise and compelling way, which allows it to spread.
As well as a formal mission statement, and vision of the future, purpose-driven organisations will usually subscribe to a set of codified core values which inform their practice. They may reflect ecological concerns, social impact, or ethical and professional standards. Such values act as a yardstick against which the activity of the company is measured. Just like any other brand, credibility can be lost through a lack of integrity. Acting in concert with stated values is especially important, however, for those that claim to be driven by a higher-purpose. A scandal that may be shrugged off by another company can severely damage the reputation of a charity, for example.
An ethical company seeks to ‘do the right thing’ whilst pursuing maximum profit, but a purpose-driven brand is compelled by a greater vision which becomes its reason for being.
If you’d like help with building your purpose-driven brand then drop me an email to book a free consultation call.