The Power of Brand Purpose in Uncertain Times

14 Apr 2020
The Power of Brand Purpose in Uncertain Times
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Marisa Richter

Your brand promotions and campaign launches might suddenly feel irrelevant. But in the era of COVID-19, doubling down on brand purpose can inspire powerful new brand behaviors and pave a path forward.

Let’s be honest: in times of crisis, the abstract idea of purpose may fall to the bottom of your list. You’re shuffling priorities. Stretching resources. Morphing strategies and tabling plans.

Yet, just weeks after the pandemic brought the world’s economy to a halt, we see many businesses pivoting to embrace their purpose above all else—bringing it to life through new brand behaviors rooted in today’s reality. Take Nike: the brand articulates its purpose as “uniting the world through sport to create a healthy planet, active communities and an equal playing field for all.” Amidst COVID-19, the company is using its platform to encourage the world to stay home and converting its footwear manufacturing facilities into PPE production lines—a different way to live its purpose of creating healthy, supported communities. There are countless examples across every sector: museums that count on foot traffic and tourism are live-streaming exhibits and programming for free, living out their purpose to enrich and inspire.

In this environment of uncertainty, when “selling” or “promoting” doesn’t feel appropriate, doubling down on purpose—rather than abandoning it—can help businesses find their role in this new reality.,

Chances are, the pandemic is pressure-testing your purpose in ways you’ve never anticipated.  

Purpose as internal motivation
Let’s start from within: internally, consider the effects of COVID-19 on employee engagement. In a virtual workplace, employees may be left feeling distant and disconnected. Humans are social beings, yearning for belonging. So, how can companies keep employees engaged in a time when they might feel unmoored and alone? Amplifying your company’s purpose is a great connector, giving employees a collective sense of meaning and reinforcing your staying power.

Now more than ever, emphasizing your company’s purpose is critical. Talk about it often. Focus on why your work is important and how it affects the world. Chances are, the pandemic is pressure-testing your purpose in ways you’ve never anticipated—and now is the time to take bold action.

It’s also important to consider the shift in personal perspective that’s taken place in the midst of a global pandemic. Our priorities have shifted. The contrast between what’s important and what’s trivial has come into sharp focus. This might leave some employees feeling like their work is insignificant or menial. Focusing on your company’s higher purpose is a way to give them a sense of motivation, and to steer your efforts toward the future.

Purpose as external intention
The same principle applies to your brand’s external presence. When we work with clients to define a brand strategy, we want to articulate a purpose that rings true to consumers in their head, heart and gut. It must logically make sense, align with their values and connect on a primal level. But moreover, a purpose must translate into powerful, tangible brand behaviors.

Though we are in uncharted territory, the future-forward brands that look to their purpose will connect with their consumers in new ways, emerging stronger than before. Now is the time for brands to make a real difference in the world (and stir the hearts of their audiences) by putting beliefs into action. The video-sharing service Zoom has made their services free for all teachers and students in K-12 schools and universities. Allbirds is giving its shoes away to frontline healthcare workers. And blooming botanical gardens that can’t welcome visitors? They’re delivering the power of nature directly to hospitals.

Long after this moment of crisis has ended, people will remember the brands that stepped up to help—and chances are, there’s a unique way for yours to do just that.