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The world is changing in a big way. From a global pandemic that altered the course of work in one weekend to significant calls for political and societal change. For brands, if you’re not keeping up, you may be dying.
Your brand is dying
To say that a brand is ‘dying’ may be provocative and turn some heads, but it only signals how ‘human’ a brand is and can be. If a brand is dying, it is seen in the public eye as human, embodying specific characteristics, capable of living and breathing. Also, for a brand to become more human, it must change, evolve and take risks, ultimately leading to its longevity.
But what truly separates brands from humans is that death is not inevitable. Brands don’t have to die. They can be reawakened and transformed only when they’ve defined their true purpose. With purpose also comes connection, which shortens the bridge between a brand and a consumer.
In the race to promote purpose, however, brands must work to understand their core values. Survival requires understanding that this isn’t a new concept and that to be successful, brands need to be empowered by brazen creative minds that can bring these values to life at every touchpoint of the brand.
Knowing your purpose and speaking to your community
While having a purpose is the talk of the town these days, it has always been central to success.
For Nike, the brand is defined by an overarching goal to unite and empower communities, moving the world forward with sustainability and equitable access to sports. To accomplish this, it makes athletic gear, but more importantly, takes a prominent stand on hot-button social issues.
Take, for example, their 30th-anniversary ad for the “Just Do It” tagline featuring Colin Kaepernick. If Nike didn’t have a long history of supporting black communities and pushing for societal changes, the ad would have been just that, an ad. Instead, it became a cultural moment, generating record followers and likes on social media. Yes, it also called for a boycott of the company’s products, and a few pairs of Nikes were burned along the way. But ultimately, Nike wasn’t willing to back down from its values, and it paid off. Online sales jumped 31%, and its stock surged to record highs.
Defining a purpose has always been the first step in a brand’s progress, and it should always speak back to why the brand exists in the first place. The products it creates and its actions to expand its purpose should align. And while identifying a brand’s purpose might be a challenge for some companies, it is a necessity and a survival tactic.
Connecting with consumers in this way has always been paramount and grows rapidly every day as younger generations accrue more purchasing power. It’s clear that Millennials and Gen-Z care a lot about a company’s values and actions, making it critical to humanize, create, grow and adapt your brand to survive and thrive.
Take risks to bring on internal and external ambassadors with one core belief
It might seem obvious, but for any of this to matter, people must believe in it. And these “people” aren’t just existing customers — they’re employees, company leadership and the communities in which it operates. The people who empower a brand’s purpose must be its true believers.
Creating a culture where employees are a brand’s most fervent advocate requires space and opportunities to take risks — particularly creative risks that challenge the status quo. This ecosystem is important to a brand’s longevity and survival. Risk-taking is one of the most important human characteristics for a brand to adopt. It must evolve with customer demands and values to remain relevant while remaining anchored in its core belief system.
When Mastercard launched True Name™, it was pioneering how a financial firm can connect with consumers in an impactful way. Research done by the brand found that 59% of people who identify as non-binary feel unsafe while shopping — a routine task that should be fun. By taking a risk and challenging the status quo, Mastercard upgraded its cards to ensure that members of the LGBTQ+ community could use their true first name without requiring a legal name change.
Mastercard took on the risk to make its community feel seen and respected. By listening to their advocates and consumers, the brand not only removed any barriers to inclusion but kept its promise to keep payments smarter and safer for their communities.
All in all, competition to break through with customers has never been more crowded and aggressive. Some will die. But the brands that will survive will be willing to take risks and understand the enduring role purpose plays in connecting with customers while creating a true culture. The ones who do this the best will not only survive. They will thrive.