In a time before GPS, sailors who found themselves lost at sea and in uncharted territory would rely on the North Star to guide them to safety.
For businesses dealing with the uncharted waters we find ourselves in with Covid-19, there is a North star that we can look to for guidance – brand purpose.
Simply explained, brand purpose is the reason a business exists, beyond making money. It’s how a brand contributes to society as a whole and improves the lives of the people engaged with it. At ZGM, we shifted our approach to building brands based on purpose a number of years ago. And for clients that have articulated their purpose, that statement is a powerful tool to help them through these tumultuous times.
Brand purpose has become a much discussed and adopted approach. You’ve likely heard Simon Sinek’s “Understand your Why” (you can find his Ted Talk online and worth a watch) which talks around the idea of purpose. And Jim Stengel, a former Global Marketing Director at Procter and Gamble, explored the concept of building brands based off five human ideals in his book Grow (worth a read if you haven’t already). A lot of the thought leadership around purpose is based on growth and outperforming the market. In this current, uncertain environment, for businesses looking for a path forward, it’s even more relevant.
In my years in this industry, there has never been a time where businesses need a North Star more than now. Teams need to rally around a concept greater than a paycheque. We need to be searching for ways to help society right now, more than ever. Post after post, article after article you read about people’s desire to help, to find meaning in this madness. They are looking for purpose. And for companies that have their purpose defined, now is the time to lean into it. Embrace it more than ever before. Hold it up for your team to rally around and give them a reason to log in, answer the call and help make a difference.
Purpose inspired pivots
Purpose driven companies understand they don’t exist to build widgets. They build widgets as a means to impact society. Right now, companies should look at how they impact society and looks for ways to pivot to continue to do just that. It may be that continuing to produce their widget is exactly the best way to help the world right now (3M and N95 masks for example). But for other companies, their entire distribution chain has been shut down and they must look for ways to stay engaged with their audiences and stay relevant as a brand (Bauer comes to mind with how this protective gear company pivoted to from making hockey equipment to making protective face shields for front line health workers). Companies that embrace the role they can play in helping their customers and society through this time will win loyalty for years to come. For certain there will be difficult times ahead for many businesses. The opportunity lies in finding hope and reason to keep pushing forward – businesses who understand their purpose, and effectively leverage it to rally their teams, will be the first to emerge from the fallout from this pandemic.
Purpose in practice
At ZGM, we help our clients make a greater mark on the world, and we do this using the right balance of humanity and technology. Our clients impact the lives of literally millions of people. And our purpose compels us to roll up our sleeves and help them make a difference in the lives of their customers – find new ways to engage their audiences, help people keep their health and sanity through this time and focus on coming through this pandemic in a position to make an even greater mark on the world. That is what our team will rally around. We’ll do our part to help our clients make a difference to the millions of people they impact while we help our communities come through this time safely. We’ll look to our purpose to focus ourselves around a higher ideal – and our world will be better for it.
Carried by Values
If purpose is the North Star, then your company’s values are the vessel that will carry you to safety - whole and intact. Businesses will be faced with difficult decisions about operations, staffing, service approaches and levels. Company culture will be strained and tested through this time. So now, more than ever, look to your values to assist in decision making. Your decisions will be visible reinforcement to your clients and staff about how you live your values. Stay true to them and your culture will emerge intact and stronger than ever.
What if your brand is not founded on Purpose?
While the shift to purpose-based branding has been significant over the last few years, there is still a large number of businesses whose brands are built on older models. For these businesses we talk about leaning into their authentic truth. Strip away the fluff and build your messaging and response about what’s real and true about your brand. What are you great at? What do you offer that’s unique in the market? Where do your customers find value in what you provide them? You don’t need a ton of research and strategy to see why your customers are customers. That’s the authentic truth about your brand you can leverage at a time like this. Be real and your customers well connect with that and remain customers as we emerge from this fog.
A time to let your Brand Lead
As the stock markets fell through the initial panic of our new reality, much of what got decimated was the value of organizations’ brand equity. Brand had become the most valuable asset on many balance sheets. The reason for this is because brand holds the relationship with the customers and stakeholders. With purpose at the centre of your brand, now is the time to push your brand to the forefront and remind all those engaged with your brand why it’s worth their time and money in the future. With your values at the forefront, use purpose as your North Star to guide you through these times, rally your team and emerge into calmer waters stronger than ever.
We're here to help
We’re currently offering free advice to help you navigate marketing, advertising and communications in these uncharted waters. If you’re interested in sending us a note about your situation, we would be happy to set up a quick call with one of our team mates that might be able to answer your questions. Click below for more details.