Movements are nothing new. We watch them take shape through religion, politics, and social issues. By “movements,” I mean real, coordinated group actions focused on creating significant change. They are the great game-changers of society, and as marketers we just love game-changers. So it’s only natural to ask, can there be brand movements?
To put it another way, has group action ever created movement around a brand? How about Apple? Walmart? Mad River Glen Ski Resort? These are three distinctive brands, and each has spawned distinctive movements. Of even greater interest, perhaps, is the difference between these brands and the many, many brands out there that have failed to create movements.
So, what is that difference? What creates movements? Purpose.
Each of these brands were born and led with a sense of purpose. A purpose employees and customers alike could unite around. A purpose that was authentic, human, and honest. In some way or another, the visionaries behind these brands were out to improve the way we live, not to simply make a buck. Though, as they discovered, having a real purpose is also the easiest path to real profits.
But make no mistake. While profit supports the purpose, purpose must lead the way. When profit leads, decisions are made only with an eye towards future profit. Then greed takes over. And no successful movement was ever born from greed.
Nobody cares about a brand who’s only goal is to take their money.
When purpose leads, decisions are made to further the cause with the support of profit. It’s easy to see it in action when looking at non-profits like The Sierra Club or United Way. These are brands that advocate a better way of life, something anyone can and will rally around.
Great for-profit brands do precisely the same thing.
Apple has a purpose not shared by its competition. So does Seventh Generation, Southwest Airlines, and King Arthur Flour. In each case, their leadership understands that real success means focusing on a mission-driven purpose which is supported by profit, and not the other way around.
The effects of movements have increased dramatically in the digital age. Companies are realizing that they no longer control the brand. Customers do, and at best the company can work to influence their perceptions. But for the company with a purpose, that same customer becomes part of a movement around the brand, an advocate for the cause.
Low pricing alone cannot create a movement, yet a brand who’s purpose is to provide the best products at the best price can. See Walmart.
A great product alone cannot create a movement, but a brand that creates great products to further an authentic purpose can. See Seventh Generation.
As marketers, we must push our organizations to find their authentic purposes, and make sure marketing works in support of that purpose. Purpose creates inspiration both within the organization and without. And inspiration creates real movements of passionate believers.
So let’s get moving.