Simon Sinek’s ‘Start With Why’ and other ways to identify your brand’s purpose.
We all have a purpose for getting out of our beds in the morning (even when it’s super chilly and the heating isn’t on yet). For brands, purpose is the wayfinder of your business and everyone in it – a short statement that sums up everything you are and what you hope to achieve. In other words, it’s a pretty big deal. Having a brand purpose helps you to always have something to work towards and can play a huge in everything from making business decisions, to finding the right team (or them finding you) and even how you work with your clients.
Our brand purpose or our ‘why’ (we’ll get to that in just a sec) is ‘to inspire creativity in everyone’ and yep, by everyone, we mean everyone. For us, creativity exists in all people – even those who don’t necessarily consider themselves to be creative. Great ideas come from anywhere and every single decision we make, workshop we hold and brand we build is designed to inspire creativity.
So, how do you go about getting one of these brand purpose things?
Simon Sinek’s ‘Start With Why’
If you work in branding or marketing (or not) you’ve probably heard of Simon Sinek’s TED Talk ‘How great leaders inspire action’ (Ps: If you haven’t heard it, that’s your homework for the next 17 minutes and 58 seconds)
In his talk (and his book) Simon talks about how there are three tiers in the golden circle: why, how and what.
He says that every business knows what they do (products, services etc), some know how they do it (their USP) but very few know why they do it (purpose). In his talk, he uses Apple as an example – if they were to start with what they do, this is what it might sound like:
What: “We make great computers”
How: “They’re beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly.”
The thing about this way of communicating is that it’s, in a word, ‘meh’. Every computer should tick those boxes because they’re a given. Sure, they’re good to have and yes, this information might make us consider buying one, but it’s not the most inspiring. Instead, this is how Apple actually communicates:
Why: “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently”
How: “The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly”
What: “We just so happen to make computers”
Don’t know about you, but after reading status quo, we’re ready to deck out our studio with a bunch of Macbooks (well, more of them). By having a strong brand ‘why’ we’re able to identify with Apple as we would with a person on a purpose-driven level: If someone has the same purpose as you, you’re more likely to become best friends, right? This is what happens with brands too.
“The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe” – Simon Sinek
Simon’s ‘Start With Why’ is a great way to define your brand purpose because it forces you to ask these questions: Why does our brand exist? Why would someone choose us? Why do we do what we do and how we do it?
Don’t Start With Why
The thing about these questions is that they all seem simple enough, until you start trying to apply them to your brand (that’s when it can get tricky). When it reaches this point, we always think it’s best to not start with why (sorry Simon) and instead, work with what we know: How and what. By discussing these two elements, discovering ‘why’ becomes a whole lot easier.
When it came to defining our own brand why, that’s exactly what we did and it made things much clearer than when they did to begin with (trust us, there were a lot of post-its)
What: We design, brand, code and share (and just so happen to have an awesome time doing it).
How: We refuse to play it safe and never accept mediocrity (eg: like putting a giant toy bus in the middle of Glasgow City Centre)
Why: We exist to inspire creativity in everyone.
When it came to defining our ‘why’ we looked to our ‘how’ and our ‘what’. The things we do day in and day out and the way that we do them meant that we were already living by our why, we just didn’t have it down on paper yet.
The ‘why, how, what’ method doesn’t work for everyone and hey, that’s okay! When it comes to defining a brand’s purpose, sometimes it’s good to go back to basics on what you, as a brand (and as people) believe in.
To build your purpose, write down everything that your brand believes in and what it stands for – it could be about charity, or culture or innovation – write down every single thing that comes to mind. After it’s all scribbled across your whiteboard or covering your entire office in post-its, that’s when the fun bit starts. With each point, you’ll notice patterns form, and the more you break it down, the closer you’ll get to your brand purpose.
One thing to note – there’s a difference between your brand purpose and your brand values. Your brand purpose is the absolute no1 reason why your brand exists, where your values are more like guiding principles. Rule of thumb is that the one that feels the most aspirational is your brand purpose.
Problem Solving Purpose
Sometimes your purpose is right in front of you (it’s just hiding, they’re difficult like that). By working backwards from a problem that exists, you can come up with your brand purpose. Look at Dove:
“We believe beauty should be a source of confidence, and not anxiety. That’s why we are here to help women everywhere develop a positive relationship with the way they look, helping them raise their self-esteem and realise their full potential.”
Dove identified that the beauty industry often sells products based on insecurity. For them, every single decision they make comes back to solving that problem. This way, they’re able to make a positive difference, give value and allow everyone involved – from their team to their customers – to feel part of something bigger.
What Makes You Different?
When it comes to what you do, there might be lots of other brands doing the same thing. They might even do those things in the same way. What really makes your brand different is your brand purpose. This is where a bit of research comes in. Whether it’s looking at your competitors, brands you aspire to be like or even brands that you’ve always identified with – research other brand purposes and find the gaps. Having a unique purpose will make you stand out and reach the right people.
The thing about having a real brand purpose is that it doesn’t have to please everyone (that doesn’t get you anywhere) but instead, it attracts those (both customers and a team) who have a genuine connection with your brand – because what makes you different is what makes them different too. That’s where brand loyalty comes in.
Once you have your brand purpose, defining everything from your vision to your values and your brand personality becomes a whole lot easier because you have a tangible aspect that can always be used as a benchmark. From there, these brand foundations affect the way that your brand communicates in everything that it says and does – whether that’s on a global scale or in the way that you decorate your studio.