Marketing / How being a purpose driven brand sets you apart from the competition

How being a purpose driven brand sets you apart from the competition

The way to the customer’s heart is…? Well, that’s a million dollar question and those who know the answer are already making those millions. Some say that choice is the enemy of focus. When consumers are flooded with choice, how do you make your brand stand out? Some suggest the best way to differentiate a brand is by a product’s quality, price or characteristics, others by customer service or loyalty schemes. Catriona Forrest, UK Head of Brand at Virgin Games, is convinced, that purpose is the best route to brand differentiation.

“All the other methods of differentiation can be copied. For instance a company can release the same promotion as yours, you paint your product blue, another company can paint theirs blue too. Whereas if you differentiate by purpose, that makes your company authentic and it’s something that can’t be copied by others,” says Forrest.

Purpose, is not a mission or a slogan, it’s more like an ethos of the company and reflects the bigger picture. “It’s moving away from how and what you do, to why does your company exist and what is its role in society,” thinks Forrest. “Businesses have objectives, they know what they want to do, where they want to get to, there are inevitably initiatives within that, while purpose is more about the role your company plays in someone’s life, beyond business objectives”.

It’s very difficult to differentiate your brand among telecom providers for example: at the end of the day, any new offer you provide for your customers can be copied by your competition. Virgin Mobile, in Australia, for instance took a purpose driven approach to differentiation. Their purpose is to ‘Make Mobile Better’, but not in the technical sense.

“We can connect people, we can help them to make a phone call, but so can all the other mobile companies out there, but the way that they looked at things was to take a step back and understand: how mobile makes a difference in people’s lives and how can they make mobile better, so being driven by this purpose, they created the “R U OK?” campaign. This offered clients free calls to their family and friends on certain days,” explains Forrest.

Prior to launching the campaign, Virgin Mobile’s research found that with the growth of social media, 57% of Australians were calling their families less and less, while the same research found that 60% wished they received more phone calls, as speaking on the phone made them feel more connected than just using social media. As the company was committed to making a positive impact in people’s lives by connecting them, they teamed up with a not-for-profit suicide prevention organization R U OK and launched the initiative.

As a consequence of the campaign, 59% of people felt more positively towards Virgin Mobile. “As a result of being driven by their purpose, not only did Virgin Mobile differentiate their brand in a very generic industry, but they also did something that really connected and engaged people with their business, because it’s about having more than just mobile,” says Forrest.

“The interesting thing about it is that McKinsey did a study, I believe last year, that showed on average 30% of a company’s value is based on its relationship with society. So actually how people feel about your company can have a massive impact on the value of your business. The flip side, is when you don’t do it right, you see an equivalent drop in the value of your company.”

Forrest warns, however, that a company should not be shouting on every street corner about their purpose, the main point is that they know about it themselves and are being driven by it. “The purpose has to be more than just a tagline, or a slogan, because as soon as you do that, then suddenly it’s not a purpose, it’s a marketing tool, and people recognize that and switch off,” says Forrest. “Whilst you don’t need to tell people this is our purpose, this is what we do, it should become apparent to people that you are working in a purposeful way”.

Catriona Forrest also believes that when a company is driven by a purpose, it helps to break siloes within the organisation and bring the whole company together.

To hear more about brand differentiation, join Catriona Forrest at the Digital Content Summit in London on the 23d of May.


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