Customers Care About What You Stand For
What Is It?
Every touchpoint, every impression, every interaction, and even employee or customer reactions on social media can impact your brand’s perceived value. With digital driving a need for even greater transparency, your values and mission are an increasingly important part of the equation. This is why everything your company does, from your customer experience to your internal culture initiatives, should be grounded in your mission. Your mission tells your customers, your competitors, and your employees what you do, what you stand for, and how you are distinctive.
Why Is Being Grounded in Your Mission so Essential Now?
Brands, products, and services are fully integrated into everything we do as consumers and in our professional lives. The constant stream of communication, access, and transparency has given customers the ability to shape the brands with which they engage, regardless of industry.
Today’s customers expect a measure of control over the products and services they use. So much so that control over a brand is now really a shared partnership between the organization and the customer. This creates an enormous shift in power, as customers no longer just purchase from brands. They join them. You don’t just buy a Big Green Egg. You become an Egghead. However, before customers align themselves with a brand, they want to know that it will deliver on its promises, meet their needs, and uphold their shared values.
The Association of National Advertisers’ Bob Liodice said it best: “Research shows that purpose-led brands grow two to three times faster than their competitors… Purpose is not simply a nice thing to have – it’s imperative in this day and age.”1
The digital space is the first stop in either grounding your mission – or losing all control of it.
How Does It Work?
Your mission must be memorable, impactful, and concise, but most of all, it must be authentic – organic to your business, not simply imposed upon it. When an authentic purpose permeates your business strategy and decision making, your goals, business interests, and higher purpose become one. Collaboration increases, learning accelerates, and performance climbs. You are truly grounded in your mission.
Customers see very little difference between their experiences with your brand and the brand itself. In today’s world, brand perceptions create customer expectations and shape the customer experience, bringing brand and CX together in a way unlike any before.
Your brand’s digital channels – websites, apps, social media, advertising, and digital customer service – are the avenues through which you can convey and reinforce your mission and the value you can provide. Your aesthetic design, photography, language, and tone should always reflect your brand architecture. Other, more subtle elements of the experience can also reinforce or confuse your mission.
For example, if you support environmental causes, you might offer carbon offsets during checkout and provide information on how to recycle product packaging. Any environmentally harmful practices will damage your reputation and erode customers’ trust in you.
We believe the most effective way to influence customer perception is to constantly deliver on your brand’s mission through valuable, compelling, and relevant experiences. To do this, your digital strategy should be built to align with and support your overall mission. Its role is to ensure that every channel you communicate through, every piece of content you publish, and every digital experience you offer reflects your mission and makes your customer’s life easier.
Who's Done It Well?
Chobani is a good example of a retailer that has authentically grounded its culture and products in its mission and values. The company’s founder, Hamdi Ulukaya, immigrated to the United States from Turkey in 1994, purchased an old Kraft Foods yogurt plant in 2005, and launched what is now an international brand that generates more than $1 billion in annual sales.
Chobani’s brand values and philanthropic efforts are built on its roots of entrepreneurship and natural, healthy, delicious food. The company not only spends time and resources on volunteer efforts and charitable donations, but also supports and mentors other small food startups and makes a point of hiring immigrants and refugees. As its website says, “The most important thing we make is a difference. It’s always been about more than yogurt.”2
These values and actions are not just advertisements or one-off publicity either; they are a fundamental part of Chobani’s day-to-day operations. “You can’t fool today’s consumer,” Ulukaya explains. “We all know when someone is BS-ing. It just comes across… When you are real, it’s easy; there is no pretending. The time that you save is enormous. So, I say forget about ‘bad’ or ‘good,’ just be who you are.”2
Where Can You Start?
To create a consistent experience that is truly grounded in your mission, everyone from sales and operations to legal and human resources has to be on board. Organizational alignment is crucial. Aligning your company’s internal strategies, processes, and culture to embody your mission increases engagement and performance among your employees, which translates directly to the experience they provide your customers.
When shaping (and re-shaping) your company’s mission, look to build consensus among leadership early on. Without mission-based behavior from leadership, you won’t be able to achieve alignment throughout the rest of the organization – or be grounded in your mission.
Once you have defined your mission, prepare yourself for perseverance and consistency. Articulating your mission is a never-ending task, not an exercise you can just check off your to-do list and forget about. Your organization will need to constantly live its mission, both internally and externally.
As you move forward with your mission remember that brands evolve just as people do – they grow, the market changes, and the products or services may change. However, this shouldn’t change the DNA of your organization or what it stands for. Organizations that have built a mission for the long run are more valuable than those that follow the latest fads and solely quarter-by-quarter returns.