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All you need is an idea, a little grit, and an empty garage to launch a global brand. Right? That is the story that we have liked to internalize for years. Perhaps it explains why ideas like Juicero and MoviePass not only saw the light of day but were generously funded before their spectacular demise. Or why the number of business filings in the US has soared to a 13-year high, according to the Wall Street Journal, despite the endless void our current health and economic crisis represents.
Yes, the barriers to building a business are amazingly low, but the same cannot be said of building a brand. Now I know what you're thinking, "Brit, aren't" brand "and" business "synonymous?" I do not believe that. Companies sell you things; Brands make you feel things. Businesses can be set up overnight. Brands need to be built over time. Companies are owned; Brands are communal. Real brands – those that get into our hearts – provide inherent, intangible value.
Related: 9 Tips for Creating a Fantastic Brand
So how do you create value beyond what you sell and beyond your core customers? When I ask this question early stage founders, they often throw around (and confuse) words like "purpose," "vision," "mission" and "values". But these catchphrases are not one and the same. They are separate building blocks of your brand framework.
To start building your own framework, do the following:
1. Define your why
At the top of your branding framework is the purpose or reason for it. It's an open invitation to the party – a reason for the public to like, subscribe, comment, and share, yes, but also a reason to believe in what you bring to the world.
When consumers subscribe to your purpose, they will be displayed for you. Case in point: Research by the Zeno Group found that consumers were four times more likely to shop with brands with a strong purpose. An Accenture analysis of Unilever's brand portfolio found that the purpose-built brands (like Dove, which are designed to build girls' trust by helping them turn down traditional beauty standards) grow 50 percent faster than the other brands and deliver more than 60 percent of the Unilever's overall growth.
Related: Why A Purposeful Mission Is Key To Engaging Millennials
Remember, this “why” is the foundation you start from. And during this trip I find it helpful to keep this quote from Simon Sinek in mind: "People don't buy what you do – they buy why you do it." Sinek places the "why" in the middle of his "golden circle" and then builds on "how" and finally on "what". To determine why at the center, ask yourself the following questions: What are you fighting against? What are you fighting for What are your competitive advantages that will allow you to prevail in these battles? What will be different in the world when you have achieved your goal?
2. Find your direction
Under purpose there is a vision that directs you where you want to go. Pangaia is a brand that caught my eye recently (and my wallet) and they provide a great example. At first glance, it sells clothes, but with just a few scrolls you can tell that Pangaia is using materials science to save the planet.
It has garnered a huge following in a short period of time – it sells us sweatpants and t-shirts. His customers, including me, buy something bigger than a fashionable sweatshirt (though that's a nice plus). We spend our money on Pangaia because we believe this brand can do something good around the world and we literally want to wear that on our sleeve.
Don't try to force a brand vision based on the current trends. Instead, play with your strengths. What are you good at What do you know? How can your skills support your why? For example, Pangaia consists of creatives who have worked in luxury fashion and scientists with experience in bio-manufacturing. The combination of these two very different strengths brings a unique and exciting strategy to the fight against climate change.
3. Plan your course
Next comes the mission. Or in other words, how to make your vision a reality. Pangaia works to save our planet by combining fashion with the science of sustainable clothing, and the company gives consumers other reasons to choose the why of their activities. Pangaia uses collaborative philanthropy to reverse planetary damage and help people. In October, for example, the company and beauty brand Costa Brazil created a collection of hoodies and t-shirts to support villages in the Amazon where the fashion industry has historically left a destructive footprint. All proceeds from the collection were used to deliver PPE and other medical supplies to remote villages and helped move doctors to the area to fight the novel coronavirus.
Think about how you can multi-dimensionally use your mission to set your course. From what angles can you approach the goals you set when you defined your why?
4. Go the way
After all, your values determine how you will behave on the trip. Does your entire company embody your why? Does your mission align with your vision?
Related: Don't Let These 3 Threats Kill Your Startup's Mission In The First 5 Years
While the answers to these questions must be yes, consumers do not expect infallibility, and a strong why can assure you of some grace. The Zeno Group study showed that consumers are six times more likely to defend and protect a purpose brand after a public gaffe.
But you can only take that so far. United Airlines has long invited passengers to fly the friendly skies. However, when a paying passenger forcibly towed an overbooked aircraft and the company's CEO defended the action the next day, the public noticed. Post-incident polls found that 79% of potential travelers would choose another airline, and 40% would do so even if it meant paying more and taking longer.
Stay in the game
Brands do not arise from aha moments – nor do they happen by chance. Your company could wear down years to build its brand identity and still be seen as a company. However, if you are intentional and determined in building your brand's framework, you will see profits. Momentum builds, word spreads. You begin the shift from selling to clients to recruiting lawyers. And that's what will support you in the long run.