How to build an authentic purpose-driven brand?

I’m sure you’ve heard about the importance of knowing your brand’s WHY = the reason you’re running a business in the first place, am I right? 

And for a good reason. It really is essential to know what drives you to get up from bed every morning and hustle hard doing what you do. If you need a reminder of why you slay so hard every day, you can review what it is for you in the article here.

So before you ask, I’ll mention that this article isn’t here to explain to you yet again why you should know your WHY.

Instead, today I’m here to show you how defining a purpose can benefit your brand and how faking your WHY or purpose can hurt it. I want to show you how to build an authentic, purpose-driven brand.

Why? Let me tell you a secret.

Brand purpose is the new black.

Consumers require it, and brands want to possess it.

And for some brands, it comes naturally. 

Others need to dig a bit deeper. 

But some brands plain fake it for a higher profit.

So I’m here to show you that defining your purpose isn’t an easy task, but if done right and truthfully, it can help you reach your audience on a much more meaningful level than ever imagined.

Because after all…

The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.
– Simon Sinek
 

How to Build a Purpose-Driven Brand & Business

This brings me to the benefits of having a purpose-driven brand. Benefits that go beyond the profit.

👉 Purpose increases brand loyalty

What kind of brands do you resonate with or buy from?

Brands that believe in something and are taking action toward their belief, not just saying but working towards it wholeheartedly.

I’m sure you must have stayed in an Airbnb at least once by now. Doesn’t it feel like home, or even better than home?

Airbnb’s purpose is to help create a world where you can belong anywhere and where people can live in a place, instead of just traveling to it.

Airbnb’s customer loyalty starts with its users. Their unique experience is able to holistically build a loyal customer base, and having a loyal following ensures continued success.

👉 Purpose increases impact

In a world where girls are so conscious about how they look, Dove impacts society by celebrating the beauty of “normal” women. Their purpose is to ensure that the next generation loves the way they look and is not held back by low self-esteem. 

A brand’s purpose doesn’t only add value to your consumers but society as a whole.

👉 Purpose builds community

A purposeful brand gives customers a sense of belonging and makes people feel good about themselves.

The camera brand GoPro is famous for its authentic and engaging community where members can share their adventures and experiences. And, what’s the result? About 6000 GoPro tagged videos are uploaded to Youtube every day.

Kind of amazing, right?

That’s what your brand can achieve with a purpose. So just give it a thought!

Does your brand purpose need to be addressing political/social issues?

And here it is. The question most of my clients ask when it comes to defining brand purpose.

And the answer is not that easy to craft.

But let me try…

As with anything in your business, nobody’s forcing you to do anything (except maybe the IRS forcing you to pay your taxes). But most things are your deliberate decision.

When it comes to the primary purpose of your brand, it for sure does not have to be political or social-oriented as it depends on what you’re genuinely passionate & confident about.

Because sometimes, even if you are passionate about topics related to social justice, you may not have the confidence to make it your sole purpose. And that’s okay.

I firmly believe that focusing on what you are passionate about & confident in pursuing right now will get you & your business further without compromising the integrity of you and/or your audience.

I want you to find the leading cause of your own, no matter how small it may seem to be, but something that you truly believe in.

Because being authentic goes far. So fighting for things that help others in even the slightest way possible is still a significant cause to have. 

For example, the purpose that drives me every day is to help you get confident about all the things around your brand. Why? Because I believe that confidence in your brand is the first step on the journey to a successful business.

And while yes, it is a small cause compared to many environmental, political, or social causes, it makes me feel like I’m helping people like myself to get comfortable being visible and being heard. This ultimately means that their messages will get seen and heard, and their purpose will be felt by those who come in contact with that brand.

Don’t you dare fake it; you won’t make it.

Having a grand purpose does not always lead to success. Why? Because what looks nice on paper often isn’t true in real life.

There’s a difference between what your brand says and what it does. Your brand must stand for a cause that you truly believe in, not just for the sake of it. Because it shows, and it shows real bad. 

However, this study says that about 66% of their respondents feel it’s important for brands to take a public stance on leading social and political issues. Additionally, in a global survey, 91% of consumers reported they were likely to switch to a brand that supports a good cause, given similar price and quality. 

You might have come across thousands of instructors selling courses, workshops, or webinars. But which one would you choose?

Course 1: A course valued at $50, with all the resources and live training.

Course 2: A course valued at $50, with all the resources and live training. But, all your payments would be donated to the COVID relief funds along with proof and even stories of the people you helped. 

Of course, the latter. Because it has a cause attached to it.

Here’s an example of an idea, “UberGiving” by Uber, executed in just 80 hours.

Do you remember watching any news about Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy who drowned, joining more than 3,600 other refugees during the European refugee crisis? 

It was around that time that Uber decided to lend a helping hand with “UberGiving.”

The app allowed people to swipe to ‘Giving’ to request a ride to pick up donations such as blankets and clothing to deliver to local charity partners. 

The brand succeeded in their campaign because they stood for a real cause, a cause they cared about, truly and not just a petty marketing stunt to get attention from the paparazzi. 

For example, in June – which is Pride month, many brands are creating campaigns that align with non-profit organizations.

The leading international denim brand Levi’s launched a collection that celebrated Pride Month. In support of the collection, the brand makes an annual donation to OUTRIGHT, working to advance human rights for LGBTQIA+ people worldwide. 

Brands are shattering perceptions and empowering the LGBTQIA+ community. Now this is a powerful move when it is transparent and authentic. 

So I get it; reading incredible brand stories like this could make you feel like you can’t make it unless you craft a solid cause for yourself.

However, while it’s true that people tend to prefer brands with a strong purpose, the authenticity of a message you’re putting out there is more critical. Your purpose needs to be believable. And ideally, truthful.

Because the same way most millennials and Gen Z tend to align with a cause, they also like to point out if the obvious purpose of the so-called purpose is profit. 

“You can’t fool all the people, not even most of the time. And people once unfooled, talk about the experience.”– Seth Godin.

Let’s look at another example:

Most of us remember the 2017 Pepsi #BlackLivesMatter ad fail (after all, who doesn’t remember the unrealistically dramatized cheerful protest ending with Kendal Jenner handing over a can of Pepsi to a police officer). 

And sadly, it seems like more and more likely marketers push for the fake purpose just for the sake of ad profit while not caring enough about the fact that this “purpose” doesn’t really match anything else the brand does (or did in the past).

Look at Gillette and its pretentious #metoo ad. Or BrewDog, a brewery that tried to “solve the gender gap” by offering a 20% discount on beer to its female customers.

I mean, there are so many good examples of poorly executed purpose (and possibly faked purpose) causing the whole “What’s your brand purpose” question getting mocked.

So how can you build an authentic, purpose-driven brand?

So let’s take a look at defining what you believe in, in a meaningful, and more importantly authentic way.

Ask yourself, “when I’m super successful, what change will I want to make in the world?”

If you have an honest answer that’s going above money-making goals, you are on the way to build a purpose-driven brand.

No pressure, right?

But hey, the change you want to make definitely depends on the size of your company. Not everyone has to aim for world peace. But, a goal to ease the lives of your peers, people/business owners similar to you…that is a purpose worth pursuing too.

Follow these 3 steps that help you define your brand purpose:

1. Get straight about your values & passions

Start with getting clear about your values, and instead of just writing them on your website, make sure you actually implement them into your daily activities. 

Additionally, figure out where you stand when it comes to topics that your audience cares about. And while you may feel like you’re speaking up on specific topics isn’t what you feel comfortable doing, you may find other things you can do without taking a very public stance.

You could sponsor a child’s education up to a certain age because you care about children’s education and the importance to society as a whole.

Or

Maybe you’re a therapist, and you decide that you will take on three pro-bono 1:1 therapy sessions every month to help people beat the mental health taboo. 

It could be anything you care about and also that sounds reasonable to you. 

Finally, dig deep into what makes you passionate about what you do. Ask yourself questions like:

      • What led you to start your business?
      • What do you want to be known for?
      • What would be the biggest compliment someone could give you?
      • What would you like to read in testimonials from your clients?
      • What change would you like to see for your customers?
      • What do you want to change about your industry?
      • What problem do you want to solve?

2. Craft your “I/We believe” statement

I know, yet another brand statement. What for? Isn’t your vision & mission statement enough? Well, it isn’t. 🙂

The vision and mission statement tells people what you’re planning to achieve and how you’re planning to do it. A purpose (I/We believe) statement tells people why you are doing it. And that message is arguably even more critical to your success.

Take an example from these brands:

Vibease is the first wearable smart vibrator store to help women have better orgasms. And they believe the world will be a better place when women can have orgasms as much as men do.

And, they have a story behind it that makes the brand authentic. They have their “Why.”

 

Or look at the value statement by Chipotle, so simple yet so powerful. It’s something the brand believes in. The brand was born out of the radical belief that there is a connection between how food is grown / raised and prepared and how it tastes. And that is their superpower. 

 

You can also learn a lot from a mattress company called Tuft and Needle that launched a simple test site to see if anyone would actually be interested in buying a mattress online.

And, it turned out that a lot of people were searching for an easier way because the audience was confused with buzzwords, “salesy” marketing, and backward policies. 

They beautifully expressed what they believed in and why they believed in it, which caught the customer’s attention. 

 

3. Walk the walk, talk the talk

Here is how your beliefs work. Beliefs build trust. You have a strong purpose, which makes you different, what makes people buy from you. They like what you stand for because they want to be part of something larger than themselves.

Make sure your core purpose and values are woven into everything you do from the beginning, not just when it becomes popular. Your purpose, as well as values, should drive your whole business, and shape your products or services. 

Make sure you tell your audience why you’re passionate about your purpose. Show them examples of how you action it through engaging storytelling & real-life stories/examples.

But remember, actions speak louder than words. And your audience expects you to see it through all your touchpoints, not just as occasional posts on social media.

Take an example from Warby Parker’s purpose statement:

We believe that buying glasses should be easy and fun. It should leave you happy and good-looking, with money in your pocket. We also believe that everyone has the right to see.

How do they do this?

They offer a quality product at a price that wildly undercuts the competition. On top of that, customers buy one pair of glasses and donate a second one to someone in need.

Can you reverse-engineer your purpose in your business?

Recently, one of my clients admitted that when building her brand, having another income stream was indeed the primary motivation to start a new venture. So let me assure you that many entrepreneurs, small businesses, or startups started that way.

But having money as a motivation will only be enough for you for a certain time. It’s not a sustainable goal. It won’t fulfill you, no matter how hard you try. 

And if you believe it will, read more about the 6 core human needs and how they affect your WHY.

So what can you do if you didn’t start your business with a complete strategy in mind?

 What if you never thought about the overall purpose before? Can you reverse engineer the purpose of your brand without looking fake?

Yes, you absolutely can.

You may not know it yet, but you are passionate about it for specific reasons, whether you have written those reasons down or not. 

Your purpose is hidden in the answers to these questions:

      • Why did you choose to run THIS particular business as opposed to another business? 
      • What keeps you motivated?
      • What do you appreciate the most about your customers?
      • What makes you excited about your work?
      • What problem do you want to solve?
      • Why does it make you happy to serve your audience?
      • What is it that makes you feel proud of your work?

So all you need to do is reverse engineer what you’re doing and why you’re loving doing it. Then, use the 3-step process from above and deconstruct your business in the same way, like if you were starting from scratch.

And finally, let’s take a look at a few more brands that rock their purpose

When you hear someone say “purpose-driven brand,” you’d likely think of a brand like Patagonia.

Patagonia is an outdoor clothing and gear seller that links sports with activism. The employees use their role in the sports community to drive positive social and environmental change.

“Don’t buy this jacket.” This is an ad that ran in the New York Times on Black Friday in 2011. 

Why would an outdoor clothing brand run an ad and ask people to buy less at the biggest shopping festival of the year? 

Image Source

There is a massive effect of consumerism on the environment. The environment-conscious brand focused on spreading a message that encouraged people to purchase only what they need.

And their website depicts their commitment towards their clear purpose-driven mission- “We’re in business to save our home planet.


A compelling brand purpose is like a magnet that attracts your audience. But, as I said earlier, don’t fake it. It shows. 

If you genuinely care about something, your transparency and the effort towards making it useful would make your audience connect with your brand and eventually buy from you. 

And this is how the fresh handmade cosmetic brand Lush proves their commitment to their customers by showing, not telling. 

Lush makes their products by hand with only vegetarian ingredients and as few  preservatives as possible. They even refuse to buy material from manufacturers that test on animals. 

These could be mere words and no action. Who knows?

But, the brand shows its commitment by being transparent with videos that show how its products are made.

 

The website also has an ingredient-finder, LUSHopedia, that lists and explains the different ingredients found in their products. They also launched their Charity Pot intending to support small, grassroots organizations that could use a helping hand to continue the incredible work.

Their sincere commitment to sustainability conveys a clear purpose; offering natural, vegetarian and cruelty-free products. Their branding not only shows they are serious about saving the planet but in the process, they’re winning over consumers.

A strong identity doesn’t mean plainly selling products but creating a voice that communicates your brand’s authenticity.  

And, here’s how The North Face, a retailer of high-performance climbing and backpacking equipment, communicates its brand values of Authenticity, Empowerment, Perseverance and Environmental Responsibility by striving to protect the places that we love to explore. 

They invite their audience to live their slogan, “Never stop exploring.”

Wrapping Up

Your belief system, commitment to a goal, and core values determine your brand’s authentic purpose. 

I can say out loud that “our brand helps the environment by reducing plastic waste”, but maybe someone finds us using a plastic can.  

That doesn’t seem like a commitment. Does it?

You’ve seen examples of popular brands who faked it and were criticized by the audience tremendously. 

There’s a difference between saying and actually working on things that creates an impact for the greater good of society. 

Therefore faking it is never the option.

Remember,

Making money isn’t a useful goal. Making money is a side effect of improving people’s lives. – Jonathan Stark

PS:  For more tips on building a personality-driven brand that you’re dying to share with others, follow me on Instagram.

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How to build an authentic purpose-driven brand?

Zuzana Zapletal

Brand Strategist, Creative Designer & Recovering Perfectionist on a mission to help you become more confident about your brand.

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