Brand Purpose: Your North Star In The Storm

These days, business leaders are making some tough calls. Budget cuts, layoffs, project cancellations. I mean seriously, when was the last time you needed to use the word ‘furlow’?

The past months have been crisis meeting after crisis meeting — many of which are emotional and personal. None of this is easy but if you happen to be clear on your brand purpose, the direction forward will be navigable.

Why? Because your brand has a North Star.

In the Northern hemisphere, the North Star (Polaris) is the brightest star in the constellation known as the Little Dipper. It’s called the North Star, because of the position it occupies relative to Earth’s axis. If you were to stay up all night gazing at the stars, you’d slowly see them revolve around a point in the sky known as the North Celestial Pole. For sailors like me, it is the key to celestial navigation. In the unlikely event that your instruments fail, and the compass is unreliable (kinda like the effect of a worldwide pandemic on your business), the North Star is a constant to help you navigate.

In the world of marketing, brand purpose is your North Star. It’s the navigation point that matters most so that even in a time of crisis, you can make decisions that don’t set the brand veering off course.

So how does purpose act like the North Star to keep your brand on course?

First, your brand is not a logo, it’s not an identity, and it’s not a product. People are emotional and intuitive, so it’s their thoughts and feelings that define your brand. When people interact with your brand, they develop feelings based on that experience. If your product is helpful, they feel grateful. If your product is entertaining, they feel amused. If your product is premium, they will feel confident. And, if your product is crappy, they will be pissed. So their relationship with your brand is based on a pattern of behavior and the emotional connections that develop overtime.

When we talk about brand purpose, we’re talking about why the brand exists, not in terms of making money but rather in creating a better world. A brand with a purpose has established a pattern of behaviour that is consistent with creating a greater good. When we realize that a brand is really defined by the relationship it has with customers and stakeholders, and our decisions are guided by purpose, it creates a paradigm shift. Decisions based on what a brand stands for become meaningful to all stakeholders. When purpose is the criteria for decision making the path forward becomes clearer and stakeholders will embrace it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that having a clear brand purpose is a magic wand that makes decisions easier or somehow diminishes the emotional and financial pain people are dealing with during this pandemic. But there’s plenty of research that hammers home a valuable insight — brands that are clear about their purpose and make decisions consistent with the brand’s pattern of behaviour will be in the best possible position to thrive in a time of crisis. Without a North Star, brands are lost, decisions become meaningless and relationships fail.

Think about it this way, your personal relationships have been challenged in so many new and different ways through this pandemic. Some relationships have strengthened, some not so much, but if you’ve remained true to your “purpose” in life, you’re in the right place to move forward in your new normal. If your brand’s behaviour through these tough decisions has been guided by your purpose, your relationships will remain intact.

Being clear on your brand purpose is more important now than ever. Finding purpose for your brand will help you navigate the way forward and energize relationships with your team and customers. If you’re lost now is the time to find your North Star. There are plenty of books out there that can help you through the process. If your brand or company is struggling with the challenges of finding your purpose, please reach out! There are strategists that focus on this and my team at WMT is here to help you navigate the process.

May you have fair winds and following seas. Stay safe. Stay healthy.