What does the CGI advertising trend mean? Are consumers becoming more interested in possibility than reality?
Brand Purpose Aka your raison d’etre, or your whole deal.
The ‘Why Are You Here, Beyond Making Money’ question.
A brand purpose is essentially a brand’s motivation. Some equate it to a mission statement but it’s also your positioning. It takes everything from external elements like culture, competition, and customers and what you stand for and rolls it into one big ‘HELL YEH’ statement for you to rally around.
But recently ‘Purpose’ has been the latest target of ‘debunked marketing trends’. It’s gotten bad PR and been unfairly attributed as your ‘cause.’ It’s found itself in a grey area. A middle zone between ‘do we even need it’ and ‘we can’t live without it’.
Recent research suggests that purpose is not a major driving factor in decision-making.
But when you dig deeper into the research there’s more to tell.
ESSENTIALLY, BRAND PURPOSE IS STILL MISUNDERSTOOD.
What the data shows is that much like everything in the world, if you do a s**t job, it’s not effective. But if you invest the effort to do it right, the benefits are beyond your expectations.
What this graph shows is that ineffective brand purpose hurts more than it helps.
Solid, meaningful brand purpose moves your brand into another tier and out-performs everything else.
So how do you ensure your brand purpose doesn’t read like AI wrote it??
If it’s not obvious, no brand should be spouting generalities like ‘we connect people’ and call it their purpose. Purpose, why, mission, whatever you want to call it, is a rallying cry for your company. If you aren’t investing the effort in making it distinctly different, ask yourself why you are doing it.
Your purpose is your difference.
Much like company values, generalities are boring and unimpactful. As many times as we have heard ‘‘integrity’ stated as a company value—it’s not one—we have heard ‘we care’ listed as a brand purpose. Integrity is not a company value because it is a given. Are you hiring people that don’t have integrity? No. Company values have to be truly unique things that only your company values—not just decent-human-being traits. ‘We care’ is not your brand purpose for the same reason. It is a generally assumed belief that brands aren’t there to rip you off and not care. Purpose can’t be a nice thing you want to say and it can’t be a pay-to-play. Get specific, get detailed, get into the nitty gritty and own it.
Your purpose must be true and ownable only to you.
Causes are great. But they aren’t your purpose. Mental health, women-rights, race equity, climate change? Donate to them, live the values but unless these are directly connected to you as a founder or to the operations of your business then they are causes you support, they don’t qualify as your brand purpose. The former is admirable, the latter is opportunistic. Consumers can smell opportunistic from a mile—it’s not cute.
Purpose must be intrinsic to your brand.
Successful brand purpose is holistic and integrated. It drives decisions, it’s factored into all things. Gone are the days where you can do one thing on the left and behave differently on the right. If purpose isn’t IN your brand you are better off accepting you simply sell goods and are there to make a profit and that’s that. Consumers would rather hear that than say one thing and act another. In short, it’s better lived than said.
Purpose integrated into the operations of your business
The power of purpose is that it gives you words to define your unique brand position in a powerful way. It allows you to consider that your brand position is not just a tool for market and category difference but an opportunity to shape culture.
PURPOSE IS NOT DEAD. PURPOSE IS POWERFUL IF YOU PUT IN THE TIME TO DO IT RIGHT.
QUESTION IS: ARE YOU READY TO PUT IN THE WORK TO GET TO YOUR TRUE AND DISTINCT BRAND PURPOSE.
LONG LIVE PURPOSE.
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How brand positioning makes good brands great brands.
Every morning I make a cup of tea. To get more specific: English breakfast*. Without fail, it’s PG Tips. For me, there is no other tea. Sure, it’s the quality. But it goes beyond that. There’s no messing with little strings and tags—because good English tea is made in a teapot. The taste is so distinctive its referenced in their tagline. And there’s the generational tradition: my mum drinks it, my brother drinks it, my nan drank it. Every sip is a little taste of home. PG Tips is a treatise on brand positioning. They have leaned into what makes them, them. And they are winning. Started in 1930, they are the #1 tea sold in Britain and are on international shelves worldwide. They hold the unique status all brands strive for: distinction + ubiquity.
There’s a book about it. Many brands can be everywhere with good distribution but the difference between good brands and great brands is understanding your brand distinction—and living it.
Often, brand positioning, or what makes you distinctive, is C-suite activity that rarely trickles down into every aspect of the brand. And yet it should be the culture of the brand. It should be your main squeeze.
As brands grow, extending into new categories or new audiences, there is often a race to grab every coin. In doing this, brands often lose what made them distinctive. They lose perspective in favor of widening their pie. Yet, historically, successful brands narrow their focus rather than broaden it.
When Crocs trimmed its product selection by 30-40% to focus its efforts in their main clog, business sky-rocketed. When they focused on their main squeeze—they grew. Perhaps they shaved off some underperforming products but that doesn’t explain this level of growth. They leaned into what made them distinctive. Crocs was always for the slightly weird and subversive. Polarizing but delightful. The deeper they leaned into this position at every turn, the stronger they became. They did it with Jibbitz, brand partnerships, the list goes on and on. They narrowed their focus on what made them great and they went big on being everywhere in an unignorable way. Distinction + ubiquity—achieved.
Take Fishwife. They make tinned fish. They made their brand so distinctive it’s repositioning the WHOLE category. They have 48k followers on Instagram. The incumbents? Starkist, 17.8k. Bumble Bee Foods, 8k. Chicken of The Sea, 5K—Fishwife is clearly doing something right. They have a beautifully distinctive brand. From the illustration style, to their clear POV on who eats their tinned fish, to the partners they collaborate with. They are tuned in to what their consumers love. They ensured their spots at every shoppy shop* nationwide and they just inked a deal with Whole Foods. Distinction + ubiquity—check. If you’re not eating them yet, they’ll be improving your pantry any day now.
Liquid Death—another great example. They sell water. Everything about their success is positioning. And they lived it at every turn. They made distinction so core to their DNA it drove viral fame. Distinction + ubiquity status unlocked. Current valuation: $700 million.
Tight positioning improves business, yes. And it drives ubiquity—the goal. But what’s often overlooked is how much a clear brand distinction will improve the lives of your team—business even gets better INSIDE the company. All decisions, from platforms to partnership, product categories to campaigns become clearer. When teams are guided by a strong position at every turn, living it daily, when they know your main squeeze, the how/when/where of the brand is clockwork.
This is not a plea to narrow your product categories down to one. The one thing you are good at is not a product. It’s your perspective. Your position is your distinctive take on your category, your audience, culture AND your product. Make it your guiding light. Make it the kool-aid. Make it WWJD. Make it something you live every day. Make it everything you do and everything you love.
Make it your main squeeze and see what happens.
*Tell me you’re English without telling them you’re English
**We happen to love the shoppy shops
There’s something about the AI frenzy that recalls Y2K. A level of irrational panic that causes even the most logical among us to instinctively buy 6 bottles of water for a family of 5.
I think this panic is misplaced. First, let’s face facts: AI will be everywhere. It’s not a question of if but when. And this could a good thing.
Just as you Google even the most basic fact or pull up an app to get you to a place you already know the way to, just with less traffic, AI will run alongside you. Assisting and lifting the monotonous burdens that we all secretly know we’ll be delighted to let go of.
Let us put aside the panic and ask: is AI the future of work happiness? A co-pilot to free up our time, allowing us to be our best human-selves?
If I’m hearing Matt Klein’s research correctly, the answer is yes. Humans are better at making the magic connections happen. At bridging complex business needs. At finding synergies that no bot can see. At imbuing depth and meaning. But AI can sift through the muck and uncover bits of gold we might have missed.
AI needs to be viewed as a super handy collaborator, not a nemesis. And we’ll all have a co-pilot soon enough.
If you have ever navigated applying and REAPPLYING for your elderly parents’ Medicaid, you will fall in love with the AI that helps ease that burden.
Imagine when AI gets so good that moms will have reduced emotional fatigue from a few monotonous tasks being taken off her plate.
When the lonely have access to an AI that remembers all their stories and can engage them in meaningful conversation.
When an AI that let’s you find a specific piece of advice in a book you own without the hassle of flipping through the entire book yourself. Heaven.
Co-pilots will be amazing.
That said, I think AI is still in its—to continue with our ‘aughts references—Limewire phase. We’re stealing on a daily and personal level. I don’t think this will last long. Once we get out of the ‘free fun’ phase and this becomes a truly entrenched part of our lives we’ll be paying for it like we do the rest of the internet. Some stuff will be free (mainly the stuff that makes money off you in other ways), the rest you will pay for. Artists will license their styles. Authors their books. Specialists their know-how. Already, tools are coming out to tell you if something is AI generated. These are growing pains. Annoying? Yes. Reason for panic? No.
So if you need to buy 6 bottles of water to calm your nerves—go for it. But I think 6 will be more than enough. Spend the rest of your time planning what you’ll do with the fraction of extra spare time AI might provide as it creates shortcuts to daily life. I for one am one mom ready for a trusty co-pilot.
PS. Obviously we had to make some AI generated image for the cover of this piece. I can tell you now that I spent way too long trying to smash the right words together to get something even passably acceptable. This no doubt will change but we’re not in the future just yet y’all.
Attempts prior to a mediocre finale:
For the most successful brands of today — you know, the ones that inspire genuine enthusiasm and real deal, on-the-ground evangelists who tell their friends how amazing your product is — transparency is what really separates the YES-PLEASES from the has-beens.
Today, we (we’re speaking as real, in-the-flesh Millennials and Gen Z peeps here) expect a level of “share fluency” — a naturalness and realness to communication from brands. More and more, we value communicating with a brand beyond the confines of buying and selling. There’s a lot to buy these days and we want it to feel good — so it makes sense that we want to feel like brands are building a relationship with us as individuals. We simply want to be seen, and we want to feel good about the brands we support. It’s no wonder that sharing user + customer created content is one of the biggest trends in social media right now.
Inclusion within your process and communicating directly with fans let’s consumers experience transparency. Bonus: It also helps build community and increases engagement. On social media, brands that engage with followers, repost consumer created content, and answer questions attract more followers (Millennials and Gen Z are twice as likely to follow brands on social media than baby boomers, and 1 in 3 will go to a competitor if a brand doesn’t engage) and increase engagement. Brands need to harness a true identity that runs through every aspect of their business and then let us into the mix.
Consumers are more savvy and familiar with the nuances of marketing and communication than ever before. In other words, talk to and with us, never at us. Our bullshit radars are seriously on point, and we’ll hold you to it. It’s called google and their girlfriends — they know EVERYTHING.
Brooke Cagle — unsplash.com
ASPIRE TO INSPIRE
-IN GOOD CO
‘Cool’ is a je ne sais quoi characteristic of a brand. It’s nebulous and hard to explain or pinpoint. ‘Cool’ simply is. So, it makes sense, then, that many brands might confuse ‘cool’ with what’s working for them or other successful brands out there. We’ve found that authenticity is not only more enduring than coolness, it’s actually what this generation of consumers is hungry for. We’ve found that authenticity is what’s actually working — cool factor is often just cosmetic. And yes, you can have both. Read on for what we’ve learned.
We love a good story. We are hungry for connection and intimacy. That’s why “why” is the most important piece to any story (not the ‘“what,” not even the “how”). Most leaders and companies start from the outside — the “what.” They champion their product. But in a crowded, noisy marketplace, it’s the “why” that makes all the difference. “Why” speaks to purpose, cause, belief, and motivation. It’s why you get out of bed in the morning. It’s why you’re inspired by what you do. It’s why you’re utterly unique and unmistakably special. Having loyal customers and building a community comes down to reaching out to the people who share your fundamental beliefs — who also believe in your “why.”
Daniel Alvarez — unsplash.com
Coolness can be a pose, a gesture responding to trends. Authentic purpose and story is something we feel. Being cool is great, but it can often be surface-level. And it doesn’t get much worse than faking it. Of course, fabrication or misappropriation of purpose is just as bad.
Simple: Rather than claim authenticity, simply be authentic. Ditch “authenticity” as a brand descriptor and instead make it a part of your story, from the ground up. The reason for this is simple: authenticity is not a buzzword, but rather a byproduct of a greater interest in purpose and story. It’s something that is felt on an intuitive level.
Sergio Alejandro — unsplash.com
This is not marketing. This is tapping into, unearthing, honing the truth of your brand’s mission and beliefs. Though people tend to believe that smaller businesses are more authentic than larger businesses, you don’t need to be a start-up to be authentic. Instead, be honest and candid. Rather than hyper-curate the conversation (or worse, disguise the truth), allow everyday people to communicate their love for — or even their frustration with — what you do. Accept criticism with grace and a sense of humor. Respond productively with self-awareness and an enthusiasm to continue evolving.
ASPIRE TO INSPIRE
-IN GOOD CO
Ah, the brainstorm… A cornerstone of idea generation; a boardroom mainstay.
What’s shocking though is how many people are wasting their time in sessions that won’t create truly original ideas. The average brainstorming sesh is often stifling some of the best ideas. It can be detrimental to your workplace’s sense of psychological, and creative safety — which you definitely do not want, believe us.
If we’re really all in the business of building strong, successful, and conscious businesses, it’s time to rethink the brainstorm.
1. Group Think Is Real
Stop the group think!!
Instead of calling everyone into a room to workshop or brainstorm an idea, provide team members with a clear brief or ‘ask’ and time to brainstorm on their own.
This ensures a wide range of perspectives and ideas, rather than one showy idea stealing the limelight from all of the smaller, potentially awesome alternatives — OR — a mansplainer running the show.
It also affords people the time to think independently and not attach themselves to ideas prematurely.
When you give people time to think on their own you help ensure that everyone has a voice. You’re also safeguarding against leadership voices bubbling to the top again and again.
2. Listen More, Say Less
Here’s a fact — People often feel a need to ‘fill the void’ with words. This habit, when brought to a brainstorm session, can lead to tumbling down rabbit holes that are hard to get out of. Ahh, we’ve all been there — can we get an amen?!
The only way we’ve found to work around this tendency is to recognize it and be disciplined about the time you’ll take to explore a single idea to its limits. Ask “What if?” only so many times — then pause, and move the heck on.
Redirect to something totally novel. Listen, set a timer if you must. Be sure to always have someone in the room taking notes so that you can keep track of idea threads that might be worth revisiting.
3. Inclusivity for the Win
Calm down — don’t spill your coffee. We’re not telling you to forego the collective brainstorming session altogether.
Once you’ve given people time to brainstorm on their own, go ahead and bring the team together. If you’re leading the brainstorm, ask that everyone share their thoughts with you before calling into the meeting so that you’re familiar with individual ideas and can prompt a kick-ass discussion.
Bonus if you can invite colleagues from a peripheral, though still related, team to join. For example, having a product designer sit in on a marketing meeting that’s brainstorming possible story angles will provide crucial, experience-based details. Sometimes, a slightly different perspective can spur a lightbulb moment.
4. Swipe Right
Instagram, our phones, ads, everywhere you look… we’re inundated all day long with images and visual cues. Don’t overlook our visual natures when you’re brainstorming. Bring some ‘swipe’ (aka dope imagery) into the room, and make sure you pick a room with plenty of space to post-it, scribble, and get crazy.
Might Is Magic
If your team is feeling stuck, look closely at the questions you’re asking. Instead of “How should we?” try “How might we?” instead.
Google, Facebook, and IDEO all use this simple turn of phrase to inspire creative thinking and create a more open environment where all ideas are welcome. The word “might” shifts focus from a single right answer towards many possibilities. It invites participation and maintains a certain optimismthat anyone is capable of generating a great idea.
Now, go on and show that brainstorm who’s boss.
We believe that spending time on vacation, participating in your civic duties, having awkward or awesome family-time over the holidays and paid parental leave are AWESOME.
So let’s end the sadness of writing apologetic OOO messages and let’s bring on an era of showing your humanity and celebrating your time with great OOO templates.
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No — really. I’m currently taking [maternal / paternal ] leave!
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