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What is our why? The question all brands should be asking

What is our why?, brand purpose

There are too many businesses in existence.

The sheer number of startups and businesses in most sectors today is scary. When you’re an outsider in an industry it can be easy to look in and see the success of brands and fancy a slice of the pie. In reality, in that industry there will be winners and losers. There will be a lot more losers than winners and entering into that market is adding more losers into the mix.

The world does not need more me too businesses and brands need to start looking at themselves and asking the question “what is our why?”

Focus on your unique brand purpose

Your customers need you to add real value. They need to understand why you exist. They need to be able to distinguish you from your competition in order to make a decision to buy from you. 

Without a clear reason for existing and brand purpose, you’re blending in. Brands of the future don’t blend in, they stand out. They stand for something and they’re not afraid to alienate parts of the market they exist in. They carve out a very particular part of their sector for themselves and build a brand based on unique values.

One way to differentiate and develop a reason for existing is by aligning your brand with a cause. Don’t overcomplicate it and don’t be a me too cause (NB I don’t mean the #MeToo movement when I refer to a me too cause. I’m referring to adding on causes used by other brands). Move beyond statements like “I want to save the planet,” and be specific and simple with your why. Don’t stunt your ambition but do be realistic about the impact one organisation can have in the world.

You should produce a mission statement and tagline but instead of filing it away as a never to be seen again document, live by it. Let your why guide every decision you make. If an action doesn’t align with your why, don’t do it.

In business and marketing, we’re often asked to take on new projects and opportunities. It’s easy to get lost in a sea of everything other than the thing we want to be doing. Use your why to dictate your yes and no answers. Does it get you closer to achieving the change you want to make? No? Turn it down. 

You need to be able to communicate your why in less than a minute. I’ve lost track of the number of networking events I’ve been to where I’m either none the wiser as to what someone does or I’m completely turned off because it’s a load of waffle.

Communicate your why consistently and passionately with an elevator pitch. If you’re like me you might cringe at the phrase but having a consistent way to communicate your brand’s reason for existing is important to connect with and serve your audience. People are time poor and the quicker you can get across your brand message, the quicker you can start serving those who care. 

Build your why into a manifesto

An easy way to ensure you live your brand?

Create a manifesto.

Typically, a brand manifesto describes why your organisation exists. It should include your values, why you exist, who you’re here to serve and what you will and won’t do to reach your goal. Brands like Nike, Apple and Patagonia all have brand manifestos.

Your audience isn’t just made up of potential customers, it’s made up of your future employees. The best brands have principles they live and die by. On the wall of Gymshark HQ you’ll find “GET SHIT DONE – DON’T BE A DICKHEAD –NOT TALENTED, OBSESSED” written on the wall. These statements are used to show existing and potential employees what they’re about. Simple statements like this can keep a brand going when the going gets tough. They also help humanise a brand to build relationships with their future workforce and customers. 

If you can’t answer the what is our why? question, you don’t need to exist

This might sound harsh and I’m not just saying it to be controversial. If you want to be one of the 80% of startups that fail in their first year or the small businesses struggling to pay themselves a fair wage, then please go ahead and be another me too business.

But if you want to thrive in 2020s, you need to craft a very clear “why” for your organisation. One based on unique value, one aligned with your audience and one that can be easily shared to attract customers, partnerships and your future workforce.

Before you start jumping into marketing tactics, ask yourself why are we here?


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