What makes successful brands that get people excited, have loyal customers and are in demand as employers different from other brands? They represent an idea and have a strong drive beyond commercial interests. Brands with a clear resolve, with a higher purpose, offer their customers and employees more potential for identification. Why does a company exist? And most of all, what role does it play in making our society better? The importance of these questions cannot be overestimated for the positioning of a company.
Big brand values, small significance
Typically, brand identities are based on promises of performance and quality, on attributes, tones and a set of values that are basically interchangeable. Do you bank on innovation, quality, customer orientation, competence and trust as well? If so, you are in the best of company, because approximately one in four businesses² represents these brand values. Incidentally, they are not values at all, they are generic business principles. No answer is given to the question of why the company exists. The company’s purpose isn’t even touched upon by many brand management instruments.
„People don’t buy what you do – they buy why you do it.“
– Simon Sinek
75 % of Germans expect a clear attitude from brands
Growing amounts of waste, climate change, food scandals - all of these are consequences of a profit and performance mentality. The diesel scandal at VW has shown that a corporate vision like “Become the global leader in mobility” is dangerous if it is not linked to a purpose. Especially millennials, the generation relevant to the labour market, expect companies to adopt a clear, ethically motivated attitude. But more importantly, more than half (55%) believe that companies now play a more important role in building a better future than politicians do (source: Havasmedia). But that’s not all. The purpose is also an important factor in choosing a brand for the majority of B2B buyers. A solid two thirds prefer to do business with companies that embrace fair processes, ethical standards and sustainability along their entire supply chain (source: Adobe 2019).
Doing good makes good things happen – for your company as well
Companies that stand for a higher purpose and do so credibly are rewarded. They have faithful, loyal customers who are also willing to pay a bit more, they are recommended more frequently and therefore they are also more successful financially. They outperform the stock market by 134% (source: Havasmedia 2019). Investors have now also recognised that the purpose has the effect of enhancing a company’s value. In an open letter, Larry Fink, CEO of financial investor Black Rock, called on top managers not only to run their companies on the basis of short-term financial ratios, but also to serve a greater and socially meaningful purpose.
Does it make sense or can it go?
The message has been received. The marketing industry is currently experiencing a veritable boom when it comes to purpose, and companies are becoming increasingly committed to sustainable projects. No one can object to that. But if the initiative doesn’t fit the brand, the purpose turns into nothing but lip service. Companies that make a commitment to sustainable business activity, but buy cocoa harvested by children? Corporations that support initiatives against plastics, but earn money with disposable diapers? Customers are quick to notice when companies are simply jumping on the bandwagon, and they resent it. When it comes to the question of meaning, not every company needs to focus on ecological or ethical aspects, but every company should make a contribution to improving people’s lives.
Credible and meaningful: dm and Patagonia
According to Havasmedia, dm drogeriemarkt is currently Germany’s most meaningful brand. Founder Götz Werner is an avowed anthroposophist who convincingly embodies the company’s principle that “people are at the centre of it all”. This purpose is implemented internally and externally by means of fair treatment and payment, and outwardly with fair prices. In addition to supporting numerous sustainable projects, dm also continuously adapts its own products. For instance, its own brands are free of microplastics, and dm has developed a new product idea in its new private label Share, where for every product sold an equivalent product is donated to people in need.
The convictions of outdoor clothing manufacturer Patagonia can be found in their words: “We are in business to save our home planet”. The subject of clothing is not even mentioned here. The brand is positioned as an environmental activist who supports local environmental organisations and also happens to sell sustainable clothing too. The company demonstrates in its conviction so consistently that it actually makes customers think about whether buying a new item of clothing is even necessary. And it offers the opportunity to repair damaged clothing. The result is also impressive from a financial standpoint: profits have been increasing continuously for years, but are also repeatedly invested in sustainable optimisation projects.
Sensible brand management through storytelling
Successful brands have an authentic brand story that is relevant for their target groups, and they communicate it to the outside world credibly and consistently. People think in stories and they love good stories. Stories arouse emotions, they are not quickly forgotten, and they can be easily passed on to others. Stories lend meaning to organisations, creating a feeling of community.
A brand story that stems from your specific purpose
- defines your point of view and makes you unique as a company
- creates the perfect setting for special brand experiences and products
- is the starting point for new company visions, products and even business models
- makes your corporate brand resistant to change and crises.
„Your ability to make a great unique product will need to be matched by your ability to tell your story.“
– David Hieatt, Do Purpose
And what is your story?
How do you come up with a captivating and fascinating brand story? Certainly not with old brand models with the label “storytelling” just pasted on. The dramaturgy is what is decisive here. You are likely familiar with this from films and dramas you have watched, where things get exciting as soon as a conflict emerges. Conflicts are the result of different interests or convictions clashing, with a certain value at stake. Patagonia stands for an intact environment, dm for fairness, and these values are jeopardised by economic and exploitative interests.
From the brand story to the story brand
What does your company stand for? Why do you do what you do, what is it that drives you to do so? What value is at stake? What influences are threatening this value? Waste, greed, carelessness, marginalisation? How do you deal with this conflict, and what do you give back to society? These questions help you arrive at a captivating brand story. And what’s more, you become an exciting story brand that demonstrates a clear attitude, becoming meaningful for people in the process. A lot of companies make the mistake of telling an overly pleasant story about themselves, which is not very exciting and even less authentic, because after all, we don’t live in a perfect world. Seize the opportunity to position yourself as a story brand. With a clear stance, you may rub someone the wrong way here or there, but you also won’t perish in the first storm on the horizon.
In our storytelling online course we help you find your own brand story and develop individual practical exercises based on your own content.
More information about the course
If you are interested or have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us: call +49 611 . 238 50 10 or by eMail to kontakt(at)diefirma.de.
² http://www.markenlexikon.com/texte/ma_kilian_markenwerte_05_2012.pdf (PDF)