In his now famous Ted Talk, How great leaders inspire action, Simon Sinek made the case for your ‘why’ as a prime reason people buy from you.
Sinek said that before you talk about how you do something, and before you describe what you deliver, you need to give people a reason to believe. You need to inspire them with your purpose, your mission, your why.
He elegantly summarizes his argument through the use of the Golden Circle. Think of it as three concentric circles. The innermost is the why. The one outside of that is the how. And finally you have the what.
To have a powerful Golden Circle, you need all three circles, but the most important is why.
Apple, Starbucks and Patagonia are Perfect Examples of ‘Why’
From Apple, to Starbucks, to Patagonia, and countless other companies, more and more businesses are focusing on their brand purpose as a way to inspire consumers and garner loyalty.
Let’s look at some of the more famous brands’ missions:
“To change the world one person at a time”
“To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time”
What is a Brand Purpose
This begs the question: what is a brand purpose?
Let’s go back to our old buddy Simon Sinek. He famously said that a brand purpose is the “reason a business exists, beyond making money.”
Many pundits and internet trolls have misinterpreted what he said to mean that a business should be a charity and not make any money at all.
That’s far from the truth, and not at all what we’re arguing here. Every business must make money, or else they won’t survive. And by the way, we do live in a capitalistic society. Making money is the core principle behind capitalism.
So let’s clarify what brand purpose really is.
It’s the mission your business has that inspires people to prefer you with their dollars and their loyalty.
Patagonia’s mission of saving the planet seems 100% altruistic at first blush, but it’s not really.
Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, an American rock climber, environmentalist, philanthropist and outdoor industry businessman is known for his commitment to protecting the environment.
But he has made a lot of money, for his shareholders and for himself, because apart from selling high quality camping and hiking gear, he also sells the concept of environmentalism.
Patagonia’s brand purpose is part of its product.
Which leads us to the first of the 5 reasons having a clear brand purpose is necessary for your CPG brand.
1. People Don’t Buy Your Product – The Buy Your ‘Why’
People buy your ‘Why.’ Think about that for a minute.
We live in the most abundant time period in history. There are dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of each type of product available out there. The choices are endless.
We lack nothing.
So what choices do consumers have left? You got it: a purpose they can believe in.
Brand purpose can often be the one distinguishing factor that differentiates your brand of dog snacks from your 324 other competitors.
For example, there are tens of thousands of coffee brands around the world. But there’s only one that focuses on eliminating human trafficking: Courage Worldwide.
2. Cause-based Companies Are Filling In the Role Traditionally Played by Civic Institutions
In a fascinating study, researchers found a sharp decline in religion around the world.
From 2007 to 2020, an overwhelming majority (43 out of 49) of these same countries became less religious. This decline in belief is strongest in high-income countries but it is evident across most of the world…
Religious institutions have historically played an important, and I would even venture to say critical role, in providing meaning to people and societies as they live, work, play, have families and cooperate.
Without religion, where do people find meaning in their lives? We’re not sure, and follow-up studies should be done to find out who or what is playing the role religious institutions have traditionally played.
But I would venture to say that businesses can play a small part in providing meaning to the lives of their loyal customers, especially when it comes to gathering a community of like-minded people.
3. Consumers Crave Meaning
In a Psychology Today from a few years back, contributing author Steve Taylor said “The need for purpose is one the defining characteristics of human beings.”
Taylor went on to state:
Human beings crave purpose and suffer serious psychological difficulties when we don’t have it. Purpose is a fundamental component of a fulfilling life.
Most people know the story of how Victor Frankl was able to survive the death camps during World War II. He focused on something that was meaningful to him: visualizing himself teaching psychology in his university classroom. That gave him purpose. It gave him meaning. It gave him a reason to live.
In fact Frankl codified the role of having a purpose or meaning in his book, appropriately named Man’s Search for Meaning.
Brands large and small might not be saving lives by giving meaning to their customers, but you can play your part in helping to provide meaning to consumers who might share your values and like your product.
4. Consumers Are Looking to Belong
Humans are social creatures. It’s built into our DNA. It’s how we were able to build cities, the pyramids, and complex societies.
In his book Belonging to the Brand, Mark Schaefer said that humans need to feel they’re part of something bigger than themselves.
Think of the role you can play in providing that sense of belonging to your community or your superfans.
6AM Run, a nutritional supplement designed for early morning runners, has created a thriving Facebook community where fellow early morning runners can share their successes and ask for advice from others like them.
5. Consumers Want to Support Those That Align With Their Worldview
Finally, CPG brands can provide a place where consumers can see their worldview reflected.
In fact, a wise branding strategy is to stand for something, while at the same time standing against something else.
This was perfectly encapsulated by the now famous Apple 1984 ad (view it here and get chills).
In that ad, Apple made it clear it stood for individuality, originality, creativity, and more. They appealed to the rebellious nature in all of us, and stood firmly against the conformity of the corporate world.
They made no secret about the fact that they were the anti-IBM, the anti-PC.
What can you stand for? And more importantly, who can you and your community of loyal consumers stand against?
In this world of abundance, monotonous sameness, knock-offs and copies, and corporate conformity, the way you stand out is not just by having a different product, but by having a defined and distinct brand purpose.
What mission, purpose, belief system or raison d’etre can your brand get behind? What can bring you closer to a defined community of like-minded people?
We would like to think that having a brand purpose is a great place to start.