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August, 2022

Setting an authentic organizational brand purpose as a competitive advantage

The fallacy of constant growth as the primary organizational objective pushes many organizations to redefine why they exist beyond profit, forcing them to rethink everything from marketing strategy to content development and community engagement. 

The belief that the purpose of businesses should go beyond maximizing profits is becoming more common. At the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer findings, 68% of customers believe they have the power to force organizations to change, and 86% of people expect CEOs to speak out on societal issues. Whether creating a more equitable world, reaching net-zero emissions, protecting consumer privacy, etc., many organizations are redefining their missions, values, and how they impact beyond profit. For many, having a “purpose” drives much of their business and operations from aspiration to strategic priority.

With this elevated prioritization comes significant complexities, as businesses rethink everything from their product design and brand messaging to employee and target engagement strategies. Developing a clear brand strategy to get all this right able to resonate with consumers who decide which brands to choose is critical—especially taking into account that price and quality still matter.

Brand Purpose = Growth

Do consumers make purchasing decisions based on what brands stand for? Anyone may think that while people care about these issues, more traditional purchasing criteria, such as price, still reign supreme.

Deloitte’s research of 11,500 global consumers found that the purpose skeptics may have a point. When they asked people why they chose to purchase from a specific brand across eight different categories (automotive, banking, apparel and footwear, beauty and personal care, furniture, travel, household equipment, and electronics), quality and price were individually cited as top-three purchasing criteria anywhere between 61% and 86% of the time (at least one of the two reasons appeared almost every time).

Stopping here, we assume that while people state they care about issues beyond end-product delivery, they often vote differently with their wallets. But there’s more to the story.

When we dig deeper, we see many areas where people elevate other reasoning apart from quality and price, but in a more nuanced way.

  • For a third of consumers 25 and younger, sustainability is a top criterion for beauty and personal care product purchases.
  • For banking decisions, nearly a quarter emphasizes data privacy as a critical requirement to winning their business. Additionally, business models arise around data privacy in the business-to-business (B2B) space. For example, OneTrust works with half of the Fortune 500 to “operationalize trust” through implementing privacy programs.
  • Globally, 57% consumers indicated that they are more loyal to brands that commit to addressing social inequities.

A clear theme emerges: While all brands still need to deliver price and quality, these two dimensions are essentially commodity features rather than differentiators. Other factors, including purpose-related factors, then become competitive differentiators. In short, purpose is a more personal endeavor. When organizations know whom they are serving and what those individuals care about, they can position their purpose as a competitive differentiator and, significantly, move in the direction those consumers expect.

And there is evidence that organizations that commit to purpose are gaining that competitive advantage. For example, when Deloitte polled 1,099 global executives, they found that high-growth brands (those with 10% or more annual growth) translate purpose into action in markedly different ways from their lower-growth peers: They look at purpose more holistically. These holistic purposes capture a new kind of growth that is more equitable and inclusive across all stakeholders while tied to issues people genuinely care about.

→ 68% of customers believe they have the power to force organizations to change

→ 86% of people expect CEOs to speak out on societal issues

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