Ride in 5: Making the search for your ‘why’ easier
Posted by: Kat McSweeney - 24.07.23
What you need to know
As a marketer you know that when a business or brand is clear on who they are, what they stand for and why that is important, so will its customers and employees.
Defining, articulating and implementing this ‘purpose’ or ‘why’ plays a key role operationally and culturally across your business. It’s your North Star, a shared goal, the DNA that runs through every action and decision the business makes.
This narrative isn’t merely a marketing tool, it forms your very foundations, giving you a clear strategic direction for everything that comes next.
The problem is convincing everyone else in your business:
- That your ‘why’ is currently missing and you need it.
- To agree on exactly what it is.
This is where it can get complicated. Read on for our helpful guide to smoothly navigate this journey.
Developing your brand purpose. What to do before you start.
Get everyone inspired
Share Simon Sinek’s The Golden Circle TED Talk with any stakeholders or colleagues that you need to get onboard. It’s a golden oldie, but simply explains ‘people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it’. You could also share some best-in-class examples from in and out of your sector- see ‘Get Inspired’ for some of our faves.
Get everyone on the same page
The biggest stumbling block can be collating everyone’s different ideas and organising these into a coherent framework. Even when working with the most well-known frameworks it can be complicated, so be super clear how you define them from the off.
These are definitions we use:
- Vision is the picture (of the world you want to create).
- Mission is the road map to get there.
- Purpose is the reason you exist (the fire in your belly).
- Values are the behaviours and beliefs you live by.
Ultimately it doesn’t matter whether you call it your purpose, core belief, North Star or your commitment… it’s simply the story of why you exist, why that matters and how you deliver on that.
And finally, remember, the answer lies within
Your ‘why’ doesn’t have to be about changing the world or saving the planet, if that’s not what your business was set up or evolved to do, then don’t pretend it is. Patagonia’s ‘why’ (to save our home planet from climate crisis) isn’t just their brand purpose, it’s their business model.
Whatever you decide on needs to influence every commercial, operational decisions and your communications. Therefore, in the words of the great Dolly Parton, the job is to “find out who you are and then do it on purpose” and then amplify that in a way that matters to your colleagues and customers.
4 tips for articulating your business and brand’s strategic foundations
01 Involve the right people at the right time
Have your key decision-makers and influences been heard? Ask colleagues from all areas why they believe what your company does is important, and then use that insight to workshop it with your key decision-makers and influencers.
This is not about asking everyone their opinion but bringing people on the journey and promoting co-creation and ownership to create something authentic and universally celebrated.
02 ask why why why why why…
03 be single-minded, memorable and motivating
Your ‘why’ statement needs to be simple enough to bring focus to everyone in the business and help them understand the shared goal and direction. But at the same time, it needs to be exciting, inspirational and aspirational – it should sound like something people want to be a part of.
This requires the balance of head and heart, the intangible supported by your tangible actions. Remembering that you need both will help and inevitably you will have stakeholders advocating more strongly either way, so make sure you maintain the balance.
There will be loads of great things that come out of the workshop, but don’t be tempted to try and say everything. Be confident, stay focused, choose one thing and stick with it.
It’s easy to just slip into the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of things, especially when collaborating with operational staff, product teams and sales colleagues.… The 5 ‘whys’ technique is a good exercise to help you elevate your purpose conversations and find that creative spark. Ask yourselves “Why do we exist and then ask again why is that important, and then again and again…
We can imagine the exercise for Vanish’s reworked brand purpose could have gone like this:
- Why: to create market-leading cleaning products for clothes
- Why: to remove difficult stains
- Why: to make clothes look better
- Why: so you can wear the clothes you love for longer
- Why: because the emotional connection we attach to much loved garments makes a difference in our lives
04 stress test it
This piece of work is not your 5 year business strategy or even your marketing strategy which continuously evolve and respond to the market – this story creates your foundations. Ask yourself if your ‘why’ will be true of your business in 10 or 20 years’ time. If you grow and diversify, will it still work? Ikea’s ‘why’ and ‘how’ story has been the same since 1948.
Ikea’s ‘why’ and ‘how’ has stayed true to their founder’s belief since 1948.
The why: (The IKEA vision): “To create a better everyday life for the many people.”
The how: (The IKEA business idea): “To offer a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.”
Lego recognised that their strength lay in fostering creativity and imaginative play. This focus on the core value of Lego as a creative tool helped rekindle interest in the brand after a slump in the 1990’s.
The why: (Lego’s mission): “Inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow.”
The how: (Lego’s vision and promise): A global force for learning-through-play. By creating fun experiences inspired by our unique building system that combine logic and reasoning with playfulness and imagination, we prepare our playful learners for life.
“Ambitious about Autism.” An award-winning brand campaign and charity partnership that is rooted in the brand’s purpose. This supports their ESG commitments AND demonstrates the role they play in customers’ lives.
The why and how (vanish’s purpose): Vanish is committed to developing a sustainable future. One in which clothes are able to live many lives, both through providing solutions that remove stains and revive your favourite clothes and engaging consumers to drive positive behaviours to promote sustainable fashion.
Need a hand?
By helping businesses to better define and articulate their strategic foundations and brand strategies our strategy and creative teams have helped many businesses strengthen their brands.
Ride Shotgun can guide senior leadership teams to communicate their strategies clearly, unite internal teams and create more distinctive brand stories and campaigns.