Seeking purpose for brands and business

Ben Hart

What do we all stand for? There’s an increasing trend for people to seek purpose in their lives and work.

For years many of us have been busy building corporations and driving shareholder value. There’s been a lot of talk about how millennials are seeking out happiness and a reason for being a part of something other than simply the financial measures of the previous generations or for that matter personal ones related to reputation, development and growth. They are asking themselves how they might make a difference, feel worthy in doing so and are seeking roles, networks and places where this is possible.

Organisations are recognising that to attract and retain next generation of talent they need to move on swiftly from a corporate responsibility policy drafted by communications people and realised in pockets and move to establishing embedded and sustained purpose instead.

What does this really mean?

More and more brands have purposeful statements, they are certainly a lot more appealing in many instances than the more functional roles of washing whiter or driving faster. Dove talk to achieving real beauty and building self esteem, Nintendo speaks to activities for active families.

Yet a statement is just that, to realise it in actuality is so much more difficult and at the same time worthwhile. If our customers of tomorrow seek not just purpose but also authenticity then bringing these statements to life, living and breathing them creates an opportunity for brands to be genuinely resonate.

If TV, press and display advertising formats broadcast clear and compelling messages then digital is where the connection and discourse plays out. My view is this will prove out in the near future so much less about single channels (e.g. the corporate twitter account) endeavouring to represent brand and/or businesses in their entirety. The notion that people buy from people will become more prevalent. Only this time it'll be so much less about the sell and more about how people engage directly with people sharing, reinforcing and ultimately connecting with other people to ensure purpose is real and authentic.

Brands are in many ways already the sum of much expression.

This trend will accelerate. Businesses must empower their people to connect meaningfully and all over the digital landscape with consumers. If people internally and externally believe the purpose, it’s the real human conversation that is brokered around it that will be what defines future brand success in building on, and potentially relegating to the back benches, the carefully crafted and inscrutable broadcast brand story.

Digital transformation makes these kind of connections possible.

Whereas the technology is required to make it happen it's the permission, behaviours and ultimately realising the reward in a volume of many-many purpose led connections and conversations that will define brand success.

At Atmosphere we help our clients ask the right questions.

  • How many of our customer connections are related to meaningful brand purpose that entices and appeals?
  • How many of these connections inform and involve our customers in our future and better their own?
  • How much of our efforts are focused on improving our own world and business or those of our customers?
  • Should we focus less on sales and shareholder value and more on bettering our customers lives, what would our business look and feel like? Would it be more rewarding for all?

Here at Atmosphere we’re looking to lead the way and establish our own purposeful agenda. Our initial realisation of this is the launch of the Atmosphere Foundation which is initially pitched at bringing people together to support causes we care about. We’ve a lot more ideas in development and look forward to involving people in these as we develop our own brand purpose.

Ben Hart is a strategist and thought leader with a track record of success in growing digital businesses and helping brands and organisations realise the potential available to them in a world increasingly full of change.

Image Credit: Empire State - New York City by Sam valadi on Flickr

Accessed under Creative Commons license

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