Find your brand ideal to drive growth and success

HookPR_Brand_ideal_01As you think about your goals for the year, have you analyzed your “why”?

In branding, the need to be purpose-driven has become much more crucial. It’s not enough to know “what” you offer. You need a “why” — and it can’t be a self-serving focus on increasing the bottom line.

In an article published by the Content Marketing Institute that looks at trends for 2017, content marketing expert Joe Pulizzi notes that you must be able to answer a pivotal question: Does what you do serve a deeper purpose than just creating content for sales and marketing?

Done correctly, your why — or your business ideal — becomes a transformational idea. Your focus shifts from a model that is self-serving to one that serves others. That shift is important in 2017, as more consumers choose to spend money on organizations that want to make the world a better place.

Differentiate the “what” from the “why.”

Nobody cares about your products or services. Pulizzi says that if your “why” is based on selling more services or new products, your “what” will have no soul. You will have no ideal or lever that serves as a competitive advantage.

Case in point: The multinational manufacturer 3M — which sells business and household products as diverse as toilet scrubbers, waterproof bandages and sticky notes — announced its rebranding in 2015. “3M Science Applied to Life™” emphasizes how the company’s use of science changes the world. 3M marketing now involves content that inspires exploration and showcases the unexpected ways that 3M science makes life better.

The focus is still on products, but the company is teaching mini science lessons, piquing interest while elevating its branding.

To be sure, it’s easier for a multinational corporation to devise an innovative brand ideal and marketing content. But smaller companies can also make their mark by connecting their core beliefs with the values of the people they serve.

That’s when a photographer, for instance, can see that what he sells is not photo packages but cherished family heirlooms. Or a coffee shop owner can market a place of inspiration and companionship.

Find that brand ideal that deepens connections.

For best results, and to realize growth, your beliefs as an organization leader must align with your brand ideal, and the ideal must address human values, explains Jim Stengel, former global marketing officer of Procter & Gamble and now an influencer on brand ideals.

In his best-selling book “Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World’s Greatest Companies,” he analyzed 50,000 brands and determined that the most successful displayed a direct correlation between impressive performance and having a higher purpose.

The brand ideals of these top-performing organizations focused on one of five fundamental human values, which are:

Elicit joy: Offer experiences of happiness, wonder and limitless possibility. Zappos exists to deliver happiness through “wow” service.

Enable connection: Enhance people’s ability to connect with one another and the world in meaningful ways. FedEx exists to deliver peace of mind to everyday interactions.

Inspire exploration: Help people explore new horizons and new experiences. Red Bull exists to energize the world.

Evoke pride: Give people increased confidence, strength, security and vitality. Mercedes-Benz exists to epitomize a life of achievement.

Impact society: Affect society broadly, including by challenging the status quo and redefining categories. Dove exists to celebrate every woman’s unique beauty.

A brand ideal does not replace fiscal goals. Stengel says it’s still essential to set high standards or strong profit margins. Numbers and money alone will not motivate great performance and valuable employees.

But by linking a business’s core beliefs with a purpose — a desire to improve people’s lives — an organization’s “why” is clarified.

“If you want great business results, you and your brand have to stand for something compelling,” Stengel explains. “Nothing unites and motivates people’s actions as strongly as ideals.”

The four steps to clarifying ideals and experiencing growth:

1. Write down your ideal or purpose and the rationale behind it. It should reflect your organization’s culture and history. Ask for feedback from people you respect. Then refine the ideal. For inspiration, review the ideal statements of the Stengel 50.

2. Align your ideal with one of the five fields of fundamental human values: eliciting joy, enabling connection, inspiring exploration, evoking pride or impacting society.

3. Make someone in your organization responsible for the ideal and for the actions, systems and behaviors that result from it. This may be the chief executive, the owner or someone trusted with decision-making authority.

4. Assess the strength of the ideal in your organization. You need to be sure the ideal remains strong and relevant over time. Stengel uses the following criteria to ensure ideals resonate with stakeholders: Is your ideal consistent with your heritage and cultural DNA? Is your ideal actively impacting lives? Is your ideal spawning continuous innovation from your organization?

A viable brand ideal cuts through the clutter and clarifies what you and your people stand for and believe, Stengel says: “It transforms the enterprise into a customer-understanding machine, personalizing who your best customers are and what values you share with them.”

What is your ideal, and how will you bring it to life in 2017?

Patricia V. Rivera, founder of Hook PR Group in Delaware, develops strategic content and creative marketing campaigns for purpose-driven organizations.