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Already this century many traditional icons of Western authority have been toppled. The attacks of 11 September 2001 shattered the notion of Western dominance. Natural and nuclear disasters have showed us that governments cannot keep citizens safe. The global financial crisis proved that the institutions in which we have placed our trust can bring down economies.
As a result, we have become distrustful of governments, institutions and corporations, and we are seeking to reduce our reliance on them. In the interests of better choices, we are demanding more information and interrogating hidden agendas. Is it ethical? Can we buy local? Where are the profits going? Who is benefitting? Do I need this?
For the first time in decades, we are challenging the mindless cycle of production and consumption. The industrial era is drawing to a close.
Instead of things, we want life with meaning and purpose. We want to be connected to a like-minded community of people who share our values and beliefs. We are in our collective middle age, and we are thinking about how we live our lives. Whether it’s the happiness movement, Alain de Botton’s The School of Life or the inspirations of TEDx, people are coming together to create purpose in their lives.
If our audiences are thinking about purpose, brands need to think about purpose too. Purpose is the new playing field. What you stand for is what makes you stand out. There is more competition in all sectors than ever before. Differentiation between products and services has never been this low. People are deciding which businesses to spend with based on new criteria. They are looking for like-minded businesses that share their beliefs, and brands they can connect with on a human level. If you are not discussing your purpose with your audience, you will be invisible. One thing you can be sure of is that you will have a competitor who is talking about its purpose.
People have changed, and we need a new brand strategy model that reflects what people want. It is time brands wore their hearts on their sleeves. We need to stop talking about consumers and start thinking about people. We need to stop writing mission statements and think about our purpose. Brand values are not as helpful as principles and ethics. Stop thinking about brand marketing and start thinking about content that communicates our purpose. Stop worrying about brand engagement because what we need is relevant brands.
We know it works. Havas Media’s Meaningful Brands Index 2013 reports that brands with purpose are out-performing the stock market by 120%. Clearly it’s not only working for customers, but for business too. Purpose is a powerful organising idea internally. It adds meaning to customer experiences, it gives clarity to content strategies, and it creates the new Holy Grail: advocacy.
So that is my mission – purpose-led branding. It’s the combination of left-brain business strategy and right-brain emotion, bound together by purpose. That’s how we can create brands that people connect with, to enable business to leave the industrial era and enter the new humanist age.