When we act like consumers and contemplate a higher brand purpose, we most often think about the importance of corporate social responsibility, and look for postings about how the brand supports the environment, employee rights, community causes, and the like.
However, there is another form of purpose that we don’t really talk about much. The kind of purpose that can’t be measured by donations to charities, the number of free items given away, or employee volunteer hours. It’s the kind of purpose that changes our lives in little ways. Like what we learn in “A Dog’s Purpose,” which is the narrative of a dog who was valuable in the lives of all those he touched in all of the many lives he led.
In this popular story as a book and movie, we learn the purpose of a dog’s life is to teach his and her humans that life is about fun, helping and saving others, focusing on the present vs. regrets, living for today with someone who loves you back. If we define purpose for brands accordingly, that would mean a brand’s purpose is about sharing happiness; helping others live their best, most joyful lives; and being present.
So if your brand looks at purpose from the life values you share, teach, and nurture, what would those be?
We remember how brands make us feel — about a transaction, a product or service, about ourselves — more than we remember how many donations a brand has made to serve the needy. If we define a brand from its ability to help one achieve happiness, we have to take a look at how we define happiness. Jonathan Haidt, a social psychology professor at NYU, researched this question and came up with “The Happiness Hypothesis,” a book he wrote that suggests the following values are what we seek to find that ethereal “happy place.”
Elements of happiness include:
- Nurturing others
- Making a difference in the world
- Fairness and justice
- Associating with others who have like values
Brands that deliver on these values create happy customers in ways that go further than the product or service sold. The above values are aligned with something far greater than products. Self-actualization, which Maslow defined in his hierarchy of needs in 1943 in his paper, “A Theory of Human Motivation.” According to Maslow, “Self-actualization is “achieving one’s full potential, including creative abilities.” This is the apex of life’s journey — reaching the goals you set and realizing the dreams that keep you awake. However, brands can achieve “happy” customers — happy being happy people vs. just customers happy with transactions — by fulfilling the other steps of Maslow’s hierarchy, which are:
Step 1: Physiological needs — clothing, food, water, shelter, sleep
Step 2: Safety and Security — Health, employment, property, family and social stability
Step 3: Love and Belonging — Friendship, family, intimacy, sense of connection,
Step 4: Self-Esteem — Confidence, achievement, respect of others, becoming an unique individual
Step 5: As defined earlier
Many products are designed to achieve the basic needs listed in Steps 1 and 2 in ways that others do not. Luxury, prestigious, delicious, and other attributes go beyond basic human necessity. And many others fulfill our need for Love and Belonging, and Self-Esteem, or at least by making us think they do. The way a brand fulfills these steps influences our purchasing choice, our public opinions; a brands’ reputation, Net Promoter Scores, and so on.
Defining a brand’s purpose by the above, and not just the Corporate Social Responsibility purpose aligned with your mission, is key to defining the ways you deliver happiness. And there are many ways you can do this.
- Coke defined happiness with its Open Happiness campaign that was one of the brand’s most visible and talked about, debuting in 2009.
- Apple defines happiness with imagery that shows happy people, in happy places, being simply happy!
- And Target holds First Place on the Forbes list of happy brands because of its upbeat, energetic atmosphere with fun, trendy products that make us feel fun and current.
The key to success today, and elevating your brand to a higher level, is to define your brand’s “life” purpose in ways that are realistic, meaningful, and actionable for your customers.
As you continue to look at your brand’s purpose and build marketing and customer programs around it, think beyond what your brand actually does for the world and your communities, and ponder more about what your brand does to help people find their higher purpose.
- How do you further self-esteem?
- How do you further one’s ability to nurture and help others?
- How do you help people be the difference they want to be in this world?
Aligning with life’s higher purposes, not just happy transactions for customers, sets brands apart in ways that take price, selection, and even convenience out of the equation.