There’s nothing worse than working under ambiguous conditions. Leaders don’t provide clear direction. Colleagues are confused, and profits become hard to predict. These uncertain conditions wear away at the company’s brand. Nothing newsworthy makes the brand feel static. Customers don’t know what to make of it. And a lack of innovations pushes it further out of consciousness. Without purpose, you commit the brand to a slow demise.
Purpose brings focus to a business, it rallies leadership around a strong sense of direction. Staff feel involved and motivated. Purpose is palpable, it defines what a brand stands for, and sets it apart. It acts as a beacon for customers, who share the same ideology, who in-turn provide their patronage and support.
For new brands with something to prove, purpose is a strong motivator. But for legacy brands it’s harder. Their success, leads to a focus on operational management. Routines, bureaucracy and structures, eventually distract from the original vision. This is when uncertainty can begin to set in. So how do we rediscover our purpose, and maintain our edge? Here are four key principles to keep you on course.
Take a time out
Bill Gates famously took a “think-week” twice a year, to reflect on his past and his future. For some hard-workers, this can seem like sacrilege. There is always something more pressing, something more urgent. But this dedication to task, is exactly how businesses become distracted, and stray from their course. Time spent away from the business, to reflect and consider future strategies, is vital to gain perspective.
Your brand didn’t just materialise, it took years of planning, risk and resources to get where it is. This investment deserves attention, in the same way a key piece of machinery needs maintenance. The idea of a time-out, is to evaluate what you did right, what you did wrong, and determine your next-steps.
Inspiration is a tricky word in business. It doesn’t sit well with rational thinkers who depend on statistics to guide their decisions. But for me, business and therefore branding, is a creative endeavour. It’s an entity you breathe life into, through hard work, determination and imagination. As customers become committed, you become obligated to evolve your offer, and for that you need inspiration.
Psychologists, Todd M. Thrash and Andrew J. Elliot state,“The heights of human motivation, springs from the beauty and goodness that precedes us, and awaken us to better possibilities.” Think about that for a second. It’s about observing what has gone before, making connections, and seeing new ways of doing things. For many, this can be a challenge. But like anything if practiced, it can be mastered. Creative people develop a daily habit of looking at the world. They are curious and collect ideas from wherever they find them. So, when the demand arises, they have the fuel to spark their imagination.
Every industry is changing. It might not feel like it on a day-to-day basis, but look at your sector five, even three years ago, the landscape is probably quite different. Your customer’s needs may be shifting, your competitors are perhaps more aggressive. Or external influences, such as new regulations, may have forced the goal posts to move. You probably consider yourself as in-touch, with a strong purpose, but does it fit with the way business is changing?
Look at the current landscape, identify key changes, consider trends. Read thought pieces to get a sense of what your business landscape may look like, in the future. Every brand is a work-in-progress, so speculating on future scenarios, is a way of iterating for a successful future.
Familiarity can lead to complacency
The day-to-day job can become routine, and with routine comes complacency. Soon enough time will have passed and you’ll develop a creeping sense that the culture isn’t aligned. Staff have become too familiar, things are taken for granted and the brand lacks fresh-thinking.
This is a time to reconnect with your colleagues. A growing tool to facilitate this is an online brand site that covers, purpose, company strategy, value and guidance for how staff can contribute. This is often shared between HR, Marketing and Leadership. The site becomes a dynamic environment to develop the culture, share your benchmarks and drive your brand.
The pursuit of purpose allows us to think on a grander scale. To transcend our daily perspective and step outside our limitations. Purpose, takes a business from vague direction and wasted efforts, placing them on the path to possibility. Yes, it is an elusive subject, and requires skill to transform it into business value, but the return on investment is worth it.