Purposeful branding: How companies can generate strong customer appeal


Brand-building is non-negotiable to the operations of businesses which endure and resonate deeply and meaningfully with key target audiences. And for a preponderant number of business leaders and owners, branding is an activity that is jockeyed along with several other routine activities – often making it lacklustre and bereft of thought and deliberation. For most people, branding merely entails sloganeering, grandiose statements of mission and vision, and the creation of logos that get slapped on products largely akin to what cowboys do in seeking to delineate ownership of the livestock they shepherd.

Globally, the most valuable brands like Apple Computers and Coca-Cola derive a significant part of their valuation from the value of their brands, the intangible asset that distinguishes them for excellence and other such qualities which endear them to an ever-growing audience. The principal objective of a business is to consistently endear itself to key target audiences and remain relevant, robust and resilient in all its operations. Two of the key tenets in achieving this lie in having a clear and unequivocal statement of a brand purpose and the choice of most-appropriate brand drivers.

Brand Purpose

Brand purpose is the reason a business exists, beyond its profiteering objective. Various scholars define brand purpose as an organisation’s inner core that is driving
value for stakeholders by addressing a societal issue. It is the driver of a company’s commercial engagements beyond the fundamental business goal of being profitable. The element of reciprocity is apparent in the definition of a brand purpose, in the sense of the brand benefitting from the broader community and society it serves. Brand purpose serves as an important point of distinction between a business and the competition, and more critically serves as an important fulcrum that ensures the company’s activities revolve around the beliefs and priorities of their customers. A good brand purpose is aspirational, relevant, unique and transcendental in outlook.

Brand purpose statements must articulate and reflect their customers’ aspirations and innate desires, and succinctly capture how the company’s products or services can help customers achieve those aspirations. A food brand, for example, could have their brand purpose reflecting healthy eating options or promoting healthy eating habits; education brands could seek to provide access to knowledge and information; while financial brands would seek to project their purpose as relating to the promotion of saving, investing and wealth creation. Brand purpose relevance also relates to how a company demonstrates the link between its product or service offerings and why it sells them.

The brand purpose must reflect the current trend and thinking of its target customers, while demonstrating credibility in its claim and capacity to propel customers toward their individual and collective aspirations.

In promoting healthy eating habits, food brands must offer clarity on why eating what they sell is the healthier option; an education brand will appear more credible if it demonstrates thought leadership in particular areas of study or disciplines and offers unique avenues of societal enlightenment; again, financial brands must be seen to offer options in the form of leveraging technology that ameliorates the inconveniencies of customers who are desirous of saving and investing.

Again, a brand’s purpose ought to be unique, distinctive and outstanding. A high degree of similarity with the stated purposes of competing brands could diminish its essence, making it sound pedestrian and less impactful. A brand purpose must also be transcendental in outlook and be adaptable to the company’s evolving capacity and the changing needs of its customers and target audiences. Generally, in crafting brand purpose statements, organisations must ensure they are aligned with the creation of value for their customers; must have clarity of scope and direction, making room for its growth and evolution over time; exude authenticity and demonstrate through executive actions that it walks the talk; and ultimately ensure congruence between brand purpose and the company’s overall purpose.

Brand Drivers

A brand is a promise a company makes to the customer regarding exactly what benefits a product or service is going to deliver, and this promise must have its antecedents in a collection of values. Brand drivers refer to how these values reflect in the blending of various marketing ingredients and other key business processes which support the brand. They are basically all the things associated with the brand which help you translate its value into actions.

Brand drivers are also the detailed and descriptive aspects of the brand, and they come in the form of: the key attributes of the brand itself, the functional or emotional benefits that the brand delivers and the self-expressive benefits – i.e. customers’ own testimony of how the brand was useful to them.

Functional benefits refers the basic job or functionality of the product and the basic value a service delivers. Emotional benefits refers to how the product makes the customer feel. Economic benefits refer to how a product saves the customer time and money and self-expressive benefits details how a product or service makes the company or organisation appear to others and the personal testimonies of those who have used or experienced a product or service.

The choice of brand drivers involves a clear delineation of specifically the things which are important to your company’s target audience, and distilling them into attributes of the brand itself or a collection of benefits that the brand delivers. The fundamental point is to ensure these brand drivers are in sync with the organisation’s expressed values and the unambiguous articulate expectations of your target audiences. It is also critical to ensure it is largely reflective of the needs of your existing customers. This plays a significant part in helping companies better appreciate the strength of their brands, to more efficiently manage their weakness; to accurately gauge the threats from competitors; and harness any opportunities for brand extensions and additions.

Conversely, brand drivers that are formulated principally from within the company without cognisance of the customer’s worldview only creates a narrowly sectarian descriptive that may bear no relevance to what customers really think. Examples of brand drivers include such words as professional, adventurous, personable, approachable, vibrant, eclectic, sophisticated, suave, charismatic, affordable, high-end, unique, moody, grungy etc. The important thing is to ensure whatever words you choose as your brand drivers accurately describe what you represent, and also reflect the uniqueness of your product or service offerings.

Brand drivers are meant to bring a company and its target audiences into alignment and eliminate gaps between their mutual perceptions and reality. Brand drivers are also among several implements businesses use to achieve cohesion in brand communication, drive brand identity and shape their overall brand perception in the marketplace.

The writer is a Marketing Strategist and Lecturer

Email: [email protected]

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