What brand comes to mind when you read these descriptors: people-centric design, innovative, simplicity, individualistic, creative, humanistic? If your mind went to Apple, you got it right. The Apple brand is much more than its iconic logo, more than its products, more than its memorable tagline. It has certain intrinsic values at its core. And that is the reason the brand is one of the strongest in the world. It has gone beyond the tangibles of the products it builds. That brings us to one of our 12 truths in business: Change, buy-in and true progress start at the heart. Brands and the people who represent them need meaning and purpose. Brands that stand for something win the hearts and minds of customers and sales teams alike.
Stand for something. The Meaningful Brands® 2019 global study found 77% of consumers prefer to buy from companies that share their values. The most successful brands make their customers happy on a higher level. Take Toms Shoes for example. The brand has long been more than just fashion-forward shoes. It is perhaps even better known for its buy one, give one model that has provided nearly 100 million pairs of shoes to those in need around the world. Recently, the company introduced a new giving model that donates $1 for every $3 made, or one-third of its net profits. It uses those funds to drive positive change around the world, with the goal of no matter who you are or where you live, you feel physically safe, mentally healthy and have equal access to opportunity. This new model is a direct response to the company wanting to align with the passions of its consumers.
An expression of the customer. Brands like Toms that that advance a cause or mission help customers define themselves. Wearing a pair of Toms shoes conveys that you care about making the world a better place.
Meeting a personal need. Brands also gain meaning by meeting the most important personal needs of their customers. The Meaningful Brands® study ranks brands on their ability to make life easier, save customers time and provide peace of mind. Brands like Paypal that provide a convenient service rank high because they deliver personal benefits that customers find meaningful.
What’s important to the customer? Creating brand meaning starts with discovering what’s important to customers, whether a company sells to individuals or other businesses. That requires getting to know customers and discovering what is important to them. Gathering consumer insights can determine what makes customers feel good about purchasing from a brand and what issues are most important to them on a personal level. This goes beyond identifying the specific product features and aspects that customers desire to learn their intrinsic values and beliefs.
Convey meaning through education. It is more important than ever for companies to educate consumers about the purpose and meaning they bring. The strongest brands communicate what they stand for and shape the narrative of who they are beyond their products. Better for a company to establish and communicate that narrative itself rather than leave it up to third parties or customers to form their own assumptions, which may or may not be accurate.
Brand education is also important for employees. More than likely, they are the ones representing the brand to customers on a daily basis, so it is critical they understand the ways the brand provides meaning and aligns with what’s most important to customers. Training programs, brand books or workshops are all ways companies can educate employees, who in turn can educate customers.
Considering 77% of brands could disappear and no one would care (according to the same Meaningful Brands® survey), investing in the time and effort to create and communicate a meaningful brand is critical. Brands with purpose get at the heart of the customer, and that’s where true progress begins.
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