How to Authentically Bring Purpose into Your Business

cupped hands holding a pile of coins and a paper reading "make a change"

In today’s crowded marketplace, it’s harder and harder to break through. Having a corporate purpose is vital to business, but it’s so much more than a marketing tactic or a differentiator. At Matchfire, we know that purpose can be good for brand loyalty, consumer perceptions, employee retention, and ultimately, the bottom line.

We also know consumers and employees want to know what your business stands for, that your position is authentic and credible. You must demonstrate that you have clear goals and take real action towards achieving them. These stakeholders demand that purpose be built into the brand and communicated authentically.

We’ve seen how well-intentioned initiatives can go entirely wrong when treated as a marketing stunt or launched as a one-off in response to an event or moment (insert any number of examples here).

Despite these missteps, CSR and purpose-based marketing built from the heart of your brand, done for the right reasons, and in an authentic and credible way can provide the differentiation need to drive brand loyalty and engagement to new levels.

So how do you uncover your brand’s purpose? What’s the business case, what are the measurable KPIs, and, in addition to reaching your impact goal, how will you define success?

Focused planning is the key to bringing purpose to your business, and while consumer demand is immediate and we’re learning that some impact needs to happen faster than we thought (I’m talking about you, climate change), intentional planning remains vital to the process of integrating brand and purpose.

You know you want and need to make an impact; it feels good and is good for business. You want to change the world and make it a better place for the next generation (or at least ensure it’s still here for the next generation), but then you realize…you can’t do it all. Homelessness, hunger, poverty, clean water, women’s empowerment, and climate change, to name a few, are all amazing causes that need to be addressed. You can’t address them all and make any real impact.

What you can do is focus. This is just as vital for a multimillion-dollar campaign to save the Dodo as it is in deciding if you’re going to pick up trash in a park or repaint the local high school gym. Both are great, but a park cleanup and gym painting say different things to your stakeholders about your business.

When brands come to Matchfire to make informed decisions about how to identify and launch their corporate purpose, there are a few key milestones we focus on to guide our path:

  1. Brand reflection. What is at the heart of your brand? Not the product you make, but why you make it, how you make it, what you make it with, how it impacts those who produce it and your end consumer. What does your brand stand for? Taglines and mission statements can be helpful here but can’t be your sole reference.
  2.  Employee insights. We all hope we have employees that believe in our company and are passionate about what we do, but what else do they care about? Your number one brand advocates will be those who work for you. Embrace them. You won’t pick juvenile diabetes research over youth homelessness because more employees donate to it, but this information identifies commonalities.
  3. Consumer insights. You provide a service or a product which is one element that ties all your consumers together. Your customers buy your widgets because they are the best, cheapest, closest. What else connects these consumers, what do they care about?
  4. Competitive analysis. What are your competitors, suppliers, retail partners involved in and why? This can highlight the whitespace as much as it can help identify coalition-building opportunities.
  5. Buy-in. This goes up the chain of command and down. If you’re the CEO, employee communication is key. If you’re not, you’re going to have to get executive buy-in. Start by identifying the need, the consumer demand, and areas of business opportunity; sometimes, but not always in that order.
  6. Communication. You’ve identified your purpose, set an aggressive impact goal, outlined budget, identified partners, strategized to engage employees, vendors, and consumers. Now you want to reap the rewards. Just make sure you don’t speak too soon.

There are a dozen steps in between these milestones when incorporating purpose into your brand. Don’t do it for the sake of doing it, but if you can take these steps and get them right, you’re one step closer than your competitors.