Brands understand the inherent value of doing good in the community. Spend becomes a tacit endorsement as people within both the B2B and B2C arenas gravitate towards organizations that champion a set of values that aligns with their own. Putting your mission at the center of your brand gives audiences something deeply personal to connect to and is highly influential in developing long-term loyalty and advocacy.
This was a significant driving force in shaping the brand-customer relationship in 2018. SAP, for example, revealed our renewed brand narrative in April, shining a spotlight on our 46-year history of leveraging technology to enact meaningful change. Being purpose-led became the benchmark by which we measured ourselves. How did the stories we told, the innovation we drove, and the community of customers we supported all lend themselves to our overarching brand purpose of making the world run better and improving people’s lives?
Nearly a year after recommitting ourselves to this mission, we’ve seen firsthand the real differentiators in how being purpose-led can resonate. For example, it simply isn’t enough to tout the economic, societal and environmental issues brands claim to champion – purpose, mission, and values need to translate to action. In today’s digital landscape, consumer patience for “lip-service purpose” is nonexistent. Leading brands are not defined by what they choose to stand for, but by the meaningful difference they make towards a solution.
Looking back on one year of being purpose-led, here are the top lessons we’ve learned that can serve as a roadmap for connecting with audiences through purpose and values.
The abstract idea of the “corporate citizen” may have satisfied stakeholders in the past, but those days are long gone. Accountability is a defining characteristic of successful ownership of brand purpose. Leading organizations demonstrate how their on-the-ground initiatives and partnerships contribute to the values they champion. Create a set of metrics around your purpose-driven campaigns that map back to wider business goals. The good news: nobody expects you to change the world overnight. But you should be able to back up your claims with data and hard examples that show that you are, in fact, moving the needle – reach, purchase consideration, employee engagement, and customer advocacy are just a few performance metrics you can track.
Not every brand is equipped to handle every issue. Consumers today are acutely aware of this and perfectly comfortable making very public examples of those who have appeared to capitalize on trending conversations. Don’t be afraid to have frank conversations with employees, partners, and customers to glean a better sense of what topics stand out for them. Dig deeper into your overarching purpose and take a look at what it is your brand has to say and ensure alignment between where you can have a voice and where you can’t. Consumers increasingly value trust, so ambulance-chasing does significantly more harm than good.
I’m continually inspired by some of the grassroots examples of real action taken this last year. Student activism as a means to match awareness with actionable commitment, for example, sets a standard that brands should follow. Consumers see the societal, economic, and environmental issues and are asking brands, “so what are you doing about it?” Marketers are increasingly accountable for working across the business to spur action and find creative ways to infuse it into the brand narrative which, in turn, drives deeper customer connections.
In many ways, 2018 was a landmark year for embracing brand purpose. Brands are stepping outside of their traditional comfort zones to make their mark and participate in new types of conversations. Getting it right is a journey – there is no one-and-done solution. As we look to apply these lessons to chart our path forward, it can inspire the type of once-in-a-lifetime connection that consumers, customers, and partners alike crave.
Given the opportunities at hand, “How Do We Run The World A Whole Lot Better?“
This blog originally appeared on Forbes.