Building a brand with purpose

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Users require a brand that aligns with their values and sparks a personal connection, says Blackbaud's svp of global marketing.

There has never been a more exciting or challenging time to create a brand. With consumer and investor activism at an all-time high, it isn’t enough to have a flashy logo and a compelling tagline. End-users demand more from the companies they work with and purchase from and require a brand that aligns with their values and sparks a personal connection.

This can be daunting—even for companies dedicated to advancing social good. So how can businesses build a brand with purpose for the betterment of itself, its employees and, most importantly, the customers that it serves? 

Research has shown that organizations with purpose outperform the market by over 350 percent. You do not have to work in the social good space to find purpose for your business. Regardless of industry, every business has a purpose. For every product or service created, there is an output or impact it has on the world at large. And that impact becomes your purpose.

Let’s say you manufacture shovels. At first glance, you may struggle to see how to create a purpose-driven brand around your product. But when you change your perspective and think of the outcomes and impact a shovel enables, then you can see that shovels are used to plant fruit trees which take in carbon dioxide and convert it to life-giving oxygen, as well as provide nutritious food to eat. You realize the shovel is so much more than just a shovel.

Once you have your purpose, your next step is to understand what your personality is as an organization. It is from that personality that you build an emotional connection with your customers by speaking with them in a way that aligns to what they value, helps them see your product or service though a more compelling lens, thus transforming your company’s brand. As you look at building a purpose-driven brand, here are some things to consider.

Be authentic
It is important to truly recognize (and embrace) who you are as a company. Authenticity isn’t a slogan. It is associated with trust, and effective brands build trust. If you are a tech brand that isn’t leveraging the latest cloud infrastructure, don’t tout yourself as "innovative." It will come across as disingenuous and leave customers, partners and prospects confused and misled.

Walk the Walk
There is a lot of emphasis on brand during the launch phase, but all too often the brand is deemphasized after the initial go-to-market phase. However, brand purpose and meaning should be evident in every aspect of daily operations. Every customer interaction, product, solution touch, conference presentation or employee meeting is an opportunity to spotlight how your company is living its purpose. 

Brand is Everyone’s Responsibility
Most people define brand as the logo, tagline or look and feel of a company. While, that’s not wrong, it’s not complete. Your brand is the sum total of all the experiences the market at large and your customers have with you. Although marketing may be the driver behind brand, every employee is a brand ambassador. So focus on creating an environment where employees can live their values and are empowered to make purpose-driven decisions on behalf of the company. 

If you had asked me three years ago if Blackbaud was living the brand in a way that fostered a meaningful connection with our customers and the audiences we serve, the answer would have been "no." And, our customers could see and feel that disconnect. 

From a brand perspective, we were a big tech company, and that came with a message that wasn’t fully-aligned with who we wanted to be. We instinctively knew we needed to rebrand to better communicate who we were and are at our core.

To do this, we had to go back to look at and refresh our brand mission, vision, and our higher purpose. This was instrumental in helping us to reset our sights on the purpose-driven company we knew we were and wanted our customers to see. Undeniably, parts of any brand identity are creative, product and channel, but first and foremost, we had to understand who we are and what we stand for. This helped us refocus on our company’s purpose on how we help our customers achieve their desired outcomes. We reoriented to be customer- and purpose-driven as an organization, which led to a fundamental culture change, and in turn, a boost in company performance.

The stakes are high for companies who strive to do more, be better, and make a difference. By maintaining a focus on your company’s purpose and the outcomes you provide for your customers, your company will have its individual North Star to guide the path forward. The satisfaction that your customers, employees, and key stakeholders derive from the journey will ensure the long-term success of your business, your brand and its purpose. 

Catherine LaCour is Blackbaud’s Senior Vice President of Global Marketing.