To achieve a “why” you need a “how.” Don't leave your "why" hanging.
Many who know me are aware how much I dislike buzzwords. “Authentic” bugged me so much that I wrote an article to discourage use of the word. Another buzzword that bugs me is “story” -- not because it’s unimportant, but because it is so important and yet the buzzword has diluted its meaning past recognition.
So, I was surprised to realize that a current buzzword, “purpose,” does not annoy me at all. Even though people are bandying about this term with the exuberance once reserved only for “authentic” or “story,” I am happy to see this having a moment.
And I hope that the enthusiasm for purpose continues, because purpose is still a resource that surprisingly few leaders tap. I wrote extensively in my book Forging an Ironclad Brand about how powerful purpose is as a tool for engagement. A UC Berkeley study that compared the effectiveness of purpose with the effectiveness of passion found that purpose dramatically exceeds passion in its ability to engage employees. And during a time when employee engagement is abysmal, purpose is a way to bring not just productivity – but true meaning – to employees’ work.
So, I heartily embrace the center stage that “purpose” is enjoying right now.
But. But! For most companies that have a stated purpose, that purpose is a vision, not a strategy. Purpose is your why, but you still need a how. During World War II, the purpose of the Allies was to conquer the Nazis and champion freedom. The strategy to infiltrate the continent was to leverage beachheads in Normandy to land our soldiers. To achieve a why, you need a how.
Brand strategy is what takes the loftiness of purpose and brings it to the level of commerce with customers. Our brand promise is the customer’s reason for caring about our business, by showing how our company solves a problem our customer is experiencing. When you solve a significant problem for a customer, they will do business with you. When they do business with you, you create economic value, which in turn helps you further your purpose.
Your brand promise is your solution to your customer’s problem. It is the unique value you bring to your customer. By giving value to your customer, that customer will give your business value, which in turn furthers your business’s purpose.
Many organizations state their purpose. But only the organizations that deliberately define “what’s in it for the customer” have a brand strategy. While purpose reflects the “why” of your company, your brand strategy connects that to the “why” of your customer. And the reason that matters is that customers can help you fuel your business. When you offer to customers something of value, they’re willing to give you value, through money or attention or time. This is the crux of commerce itself. Brand strategy enables your purpose to be powered by your customers, to be powered by commerce.
I hope you are with me on this – purpose is having a moment right now, and we should embrace that. Purpose is why we are here. So let’s power that “why” with all of the “how” that we can. Get crystal clear about what is your customer promise, which will generate economic value for your business, which will in turn power your purpose.
Lindsay is a Brand Strategist and Founder of Ironclad Brand Strategy, which builds brands using an exacting and analytic method. Her background as a P&L owner at Clorox fostered a deep appreciation for the executive charge: to create sustainable value. Ironclad advises companies from burgeoning startups to national corporations, including Zulily, IMDb, T-Mobile and Starbucks. Lindsay holds an MBA in Business from the University of California Berkeley, Haas School of Business.