Think about the last advertisement that really left an impact on you. We’re not talking about that Rita's Ice coupon in your inbox. Nor do we mean the billboard with that suited lawyer looming next to the word “INJURED?”
When’s the last time you thought, “Damn, I really believe in what this company stands for” and bought their product because of it— not out of sheer need?
Here’s the secret: those companies, the ones we remember— they inspire us. And we come back to them again and again. Why? It’s because they understand their why, and it’s one you can share too.
We’re here to help you see the power in knowing your company’s “why,” and how leading with your cause could change the entire foundation of your brand.
Why Your Company’s Identity Needs to Start with “Why”
The truth is, very few companies clearly communicate why they do what they do. Instead, they hit you with all sorts of cliche “hows” and “whats” about their products or services, saying “hey, we’re great because of our superior quality” or “our features are better than theirs.” Or, (cue the eye roll), “we’ve got the best prices!”
Sure, these kind of manipulations can succeed as quick calls-to-action. A customer might indeed chose you for a fast solution, or weigh you against other choices and pick you as the default winner. But manipulations are only effective for driving a one-time transaction, not for creating brand loyalty.
Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, believes that true brand loyalty is formed only when someone is willing to turn down a product with more advanced functionality, or cheaper price, to continue doing business with you. These dedicated customers rarely bother to do competitor research or entertain any other options— because they are invested, personally and deeply, in your cause.
That’s the difference between a call-to-action and a “cause-to-action.” So what kinds of causes do people care about?
The Kind of Business Values & “Whys” We Buy Invest In
The problem is, when it comes to marketing, the “best” doesn’t always win. It’s often those who communicate their why the best, not those who have elite products or exceptional service.
When Apple hit the market with their iPod in 2001, they weren’t the first to invent the MP3 player. They didn’t even invent different technology than their competitors, but they are still credited as innovators for transforming the way millions of people listen to music.
Instead of pushing fancy storage space specs like the GBs or internal processor, information that meant nothing to the mass public, Steve Job showed us his lifestyle. Holding his own iPod before us, he told the world, “this amazing little device holds 1,000 songs,” and as he slipped it into his jeans said “and it goes right in my pocket.”
Combined with their 2004 iPod and iTunes campaign featuring silhouettes of everyday people dancing to their favorite jams, Apple transformed the way we consumed music as we knew it.
Steve Jobs inspired us. We understood why we wanted this new gadget. The days of records and CDs were over. Now we had convenience, mobility, variety, status. We connected those dots all on our own, without anyone at Apple needing to say it. And for all that, we didn’t really care how much we paid; the iPod became the only way to achieve that.
You see, there are two ways to influence behavior, manipulation or inspiration, and the difference between the two is crucial to your long-term business success.
We weren’t manipulated by competition in price, promotions, peer pressure, fear of missing out— all those short-term returns. Apple knew their why. Their brand promise has always been to “think different” and challenge the status quo, and they sure know how to shake things up and maintain lasting effects.
You can too, by leading with your own why.
Defining Your Company’s Mission Statement & Brand Promise
Your mission statement outlines your organization’s purpose— why you exist. It should clearly communicate what it is you do, who you do it for and briefly touch upon your overarching goal(s). It doesn’t have to be long, but it should say enough to give prospects and your employees an understanding of what you stand for.
For the ASPCA, their mission statement is “To provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States.” You understand their why is to stop animals from suffering, and everything they do. Every action they take supports that overarching theme.
For Lush Cosmetics, their mission statement is more like a series of “we believe” statements, all supporting their commitment to producing vegetarian products by hand, with fresh ingredients and little-to-no preservatives. That’s their jam, and every product they make revolves around their mission to move towards organic, use less or recyclable packaging and transparently detail what your soaps and lotions are made out of.
These organizations stand behind a message that’s bigger than themselves and their profit or personal benefit. As Simon Sinek says, “Trust begins to emerge when we have a sense that another person or organization is driven by things other than their own self gain.”
What is your organization’s greater purpose, cause or belief? Sit down and really think about your why. If you don’t know your mission, fat chance anyone else does.
Your brand promise is something very similar, but more like a quick “one liner” that says what you’re all about in only a few words. For example, we all know Geico’s iconic “15 minutes could save you 15% or less on car insurance” slogan. Learn more about creating your own brand promise here.
Crafting an Inspirational Vision Statement
A vision statement is very similar to your mission, except it’s what you see your company accomplishing later, down the road— not today. It’s acknowledging that you haven’t fully achieved your greater vision, but are setting a clear goal towards reaching it.
Your vision needs to be transparent and something you formally write, as failing to put your movement into hard words leaves your organization in a place where its ideals could be lost if a new leader takes over. Most companies that succeed have inspired leaders at the helm, but once they’re gone, the force behind your company’s values, passion and sense of identity could be lost.
Consider what happened to Starbucks. When Howard Schultz took over as CEO of the coffee shop in 1982, he laid the foundation for its purpose, wanting their cafes to act as a comfortable environment between work and home, or as he identified their vision as, to be that “third space.”
People loved this idea, enjoying fresh pressed coffee out of a ceramic cup, bringing their favorite book or computer and hunkering down in their little escape. The problem was, when Schultz resigned in 2000, the company made some big changes that weren’t in sync with his larger vision and lost much of their original brand loyalty.
Starbucks switched out their danish plates for plastic wrappers, sold their ceramic mugs to replace with paper “to-go” style cups and shifted the dynamic of “the third space” to a “get in and get out” environment. These seemingly subtle changes had a dramatic impact, making their culture about the coffee and profits instead of a symbol of escapism.
Your organization needs to include its product or service in the context of your customer’s lifestyle, earning their trust by communicating and demonstrating you share the same core values and beliefs— and consistently proving it in every action you take.
That’s how you ensure continuity of vision.
Establishing & Following a Set of Core Values
Once you have your mission and vision statements, as well as a strong brand promise outlined, lay out some values, or your big “hows,” for achieving them.
These are principles your employees can follow, but should also be values your team shares and believes in. They shouldn’t be a bunch of prestigious-sounding nouns scribbled into your “branding guidelines” that never see the light of day.
These should be actionable verbs and phrases which fully convey what you believe in. At Impulse Creative, one of our core values is “candor” which we support by “being clear and honest, with sensitivity and genuine support” to our clients and team— and with everyone we interact with.
These aren’t values that we leave at the door when we walk out of the office (or for our remote workers, when they close their laptops!). They are principles that we always carry with us, because they are values our entire team believes in. They are values we share as real people, not simply as coworkers and business professionals.
Remember, skills can be taught. The key is to hire people who believe what you believe, as everything your employees say and do must be consistent with these beliefs. If they aren’t, you threaten your organization’s authenticity and position yourself in a vulnerable place to lose customer loyalty and trust— and broken trust is hard to mend.
For Passion to Survive, it Needs Structure
Can someone describe the way they feel about your company without using language about price, features, quality, etc.?
It’s those companies who don’t have a clear idea of their why who are forced to use manipulations to land customers, but they aren’t the ones we come back to. Winning someone’s trust and loyalty takes passion, authenticity and brand consistency.
Simply download The Brand Plan. This step-by-step workbook can help you conceptualize your why and put it into words, giving your employees a clear sense of your company's values to move forward with structure and zeal.