Authenticity in the Pursuit of Purpose

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In the age of rapid change and digital disruption, transparency between brands and their audiences is increasingly important. Exposure for scrutiny is high and brands are far from exempt. Couple that with the fact that people are feeling guilty about the implications of what they are consuming and are looking for a company that reflects their values, and the pressure to deliver brand value is far greater than ever before.

This pressure is felt throughout the business, implicating sourcing, supply chain management, customer experience strategies and ultimately advertising and marketing. But how does a brand remain authentic in its pursuit of purpose? How does a brand establish where it has a right to play?

People are aligning themselves with brands that share their values and aspire to a greater purpose beyond their product. Nielsen found that 66 per cent of consumers will pay more for products and services from companies that have committed to making a positive social and environmental impact.

Globally, $15 billion a year is spent on corporate social responsibility by Fortune 500 companies. However, this money is largely spent on donations. In many cases, a product or service alone, is no longer sufficient in attracting and keeping your customers. People today want brands to define and contribute towards a higher mission – one that sees the company innovate or use its force for good in a committed, authentic way.

This mission is determined by the focus and simplicity from the brand’s core – by which I mean defining the one thing you stand for at the heart of the company and ensuring that everything you do accrues to that one thing and what it means to people. There are two fundamental elements to establishing what is the right mission for your brand; firstly, is it true to your company’s DNA and values? Secondly, can you commit to driving genuine change – supporting the cause throughout the business and actually making a difference in the wider community?

When thinking about the areas in which your brand has a right to play, you must also consider the diversity surrounding the brand, both inside and out.  This extension of the brand should empower the people involved.  Not only those driving conception, strategy and communication vehicles – the organization’s own teams, the writers, directors, producers & agencies –  but also, importantly, the people for whom it makes a tangible difference around the world. Be it women’s rights, the environment, health, education…; a brand can’t just affiliate itself with a cause; that cause has to be integral to what the brand stands for and delivers.

In my opinion, purpose driven brands are not an option anymore, with private companies putting their force to the test when it comes to marking genuine change – through product innovation, informing government policies and more – people will expect no less. Havas in 2015 reported that people spend 46 per cent more on brands that invest time and effort in connecting with customers in a meaningful way. And globally, two in three people (67%) would prefer to work for a socially responsible company.

The pursuit of authentic purpose is not just a marketing problem, it’s a business wide journey of discovery that will continue to impact the success of a brand. People are more and more guilt ridden about knowing they could do more to give back society and the world we live in. Making contentious decisions about where to shop, who to shop from, or even who to work for is a quick and easy way to make just a small difference. Spreading the word about what your brand stands for through authentic communications gives people something to buy into (in more ways than one), making you an easy choice.

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