It most definitely is. More and more brands and companies are redefining themselves as purpose-led.
Companies are spending time defining a purpose for their brands that stretch beyond market dominance and high profit margins. They’re learning that consumers are making carefully considered choices to buy from companies that have a purpose that they personally identify with and that reflects their values and beliefs. Consumers are loyal to brands that act authentically and demonstrate a commitment to a purpose that goes beyond profit. In a world of turmoil, consumers also expect their brands to be aware of the issues affecting society and to take a stand. In some circles these are referred to as woke brands.
There is a danger for organisations who pay lip service to a purpose rather than intrinsically linking it to their DNA. This can make the intention seem inauthentic, just a campaign or a marketing tactic. Consumers are much wiser. They can see through it. And if they feel their trust has been betrayed, they will abandon the brands.
It’s possible for an established organisation to define their purpose, change how they do business and for that to be authentic. Take the time to rediscover the reason your company exists
Why you exist? Why do the people in the company do what they do? Why they get out of bed in the morning to come to work (reasons that are not salary driven)? What difference to people’s lives or society would you like your products or company to make?
Once defined, a purpose sits at the centre of an organisation’s vision driving culture and every business decision and informing how the brand looks and what it says. It’s such a powerful thing that it can’t be left to chance or considered to be a marketing tactic.
The landscape is changing. The world we are operating is changing at an even faster pace than before. Geopolitical changes have caused a shift in policy. Technological innovation has sped up how we access information and given us ever more information at our fingertips. As people access products and services at phenomenal speeds, their opinions are formed at the almost the same rate. Their attitudes and behaviour towards products and services are affected by what they are exposed to, causing them to change.
Closer to home, the sector has had its fair share of change too; funding cuts have resulted in housing associations re-thinking how they deliver a valuable service to its residents and communities. For some, this means reaching into new markets and entering into competition with commercial entities. One thing that hasn’t changed in ten years is the need for more affordable housing and the constant need for the sector to make its voice heard.
A recent global brand report says that it’s more important than ever to strengthen brands to remain relevant, stand the test of time and cope with rapid changes. Housing associations reaching new markets and entering into competition with commercial entities means that they can no longer afford to not pay attention to their brands.
The time has come to carefully consider your brand, if you are to compete in the same arena as commercial entities or inject commerciality to your organisation to generate higher surpluses.
How do you build a brand that stands the test of time? Your branding is what will get potential customers to notice your organisation. They will form perceptions about who you are and what they can expect from your organisation, services you offer, homes you are selling or renting. This makes them feel a particular way about you and influences their attitude and behaviour towards your organisation. Those perceptions are what make up your brand. To build your brand is to manage those perceptions.
What is that perception? It’s a reflection of your purpose, your business mission, who you are, how you differ from the competition, what you are promising the target group and what they need. Anything else will not succeed.
Consistent representation of your perception builds recognition and trust – developing a brand that doesn’t just describe the attributes of the product or service but also explains the functional benefits and conveys the emotional benefits.
Be purposeful. Consumers appreciate that organisations seek to make money, which in turn brings about jobs and security to many people. This is no longer enough. They expect for organisations to have a higher purpose – to improve lives and the world. The new generation of consumers want to know how the organisation is contributing to the wider world before they part with their hard earned cash to purchase an organisation’s products and services. Therefore, your purpose becomes your foundation for future growth.
The sector certainly has this one nailed. Some may struggle to properly articulate their purpose in an authentic manner, but they have a purpose.
Be authentic. If you give your organisation a personality that resonates with who your consumers are, they will pay attention to you. A Marketing Week article on the subject suggests that the eight values comprising authenticity are the abilities to be genuine, original, unique, expert, visionary, passionate and honest, and integrity.
Defining your authenticity may give an organisation the opportunity to shape future perceptions especially if the organisation had any historical baggage that may affect this.
Be different. The traditional housing sector is one that had become commoditised. You will need to distinguish yourselves from your peers and tell consumers why they should choose you over the other choices they have. Defining the point of difference give you the ingredients with which to tell people what to expect from you.
Be noticed. Use your key differentiator to get noticed. The aim of your brand is to get noticed over the next brand. Create an impactful and visually appealing visual identity and engaging marketing communication.
Be elastic. Your brand does not only serve the organisation now, it helps you gear up for the future. In an ever-changing environment, you have to make sure your brand can adapt and react to the changing landscape.
Where do you start? Organisations will have to review their brands for relevance, commerciality as a starting point. Checking what those perceptions are, what is the personality of the brand? Does it align with the organisation’s mission, vision and values? What is your brand story? What does the marketing collateral look like? Does it effectively and consistently represent the brand? What has been the customer’s experience when dealing with the organisation? Only when you have a clear understanding of where you are now, can you start to add the blocks to build a strong brand.