One of the top trends for 2018 in design is purpose-based branding. Meaningful design. Value-driven design. There are many ways to talk about it, there are many names we can give it. But why is this a trend and is it one worth investing in?
The why this is a trend is easy. We are consciously evolving as a species and as such have a constantly growing need for meaning in our own lives. No longer are we happy clocking in for work unless it brings us joy because we’ve realized that working for money isn’t very fulfilling. It leads to an empty, consumer-driven lifestyle that just weighs us down and creates debt that makes us feel unworthy of success and love.
Meaning is the real secret to happiness. You spend about one third of your life working, if you can’t find meaning in the work you do then a third of your time on earth is not bringing you any real, lasting joy. That’s pretty significant when you think about another third being devoted to sleep. That only leaves about one third left for things that can bring you joy…but a lot of that time is spent recuperating and getting ready for said meaningless work you need to do.
There is a global shift to recognizing that less really is more. We can see it in the tiny house movement, the work-abroad lifestyle, adventure over products, the rising desire to support businesses that contribute to a charity or cause we care about, repurposing old clothes and furniture, or eliminating plastic waste from our lives. Heck, even Waste Management, Inc has shifted from investing in property for landfills to technology that transforms waste to energy and supporting less waste practices. It seems counter-intuitive, but wouldn’t you want to work with a waste company that is looking for ways that you can pay them less?
Now we are seeing it come more fully into capitalism. Many of us are conscious about what we buy and we often choose to buy products from companies that share our own values because we trust that if they value one of the same things we do, then they must be ethical and good. By buying their product not only are we getting something that we need (or want) but we are also supporting them to continue the good fight.
The fact that purpose-driven brand identities is a ‘trend’ for 2018 isn’t really right. It’s more of a movement that has finally reached the design world and I doubt it’s going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that value-driven design will become a new design standard.
Ok, but is it worth investing in?
While studies have been done about the financial growth and potential of purpose-led branding and businesses Mark Ritson from Marketing Week questions the validity of the study itself. Do they have the right parameters to accurately test this with a reliable control group?
While many may not, the book Conscious Capitalism by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia was only written after a 10 year study to see how purpose-led businesses fair over a longer period of time financially and they found that if done right (and for the right reasons) yes, the financial growth is exponentially larger than businesses without a purpose.
If you want to create a ‘purpose-led’ business for the financial potential then you’re doing it wrong and no, it’s not worth your time because having a higher purpose means that you’re not in it for the money. That’s when purpose-driven branding becomes more of a trend, because then the business would be able to advertise that they uphold certain values to achieve a certain purpose and use it as a gimmick in their positioning.
To truly develop a purpose-led brand there has to be something beyond the money that drives you and the act of making money allows you to continue pursuing this purpose.
I love how Mark Ritson asks, then answers the question, “ Do customers want purpose filled brands? Sometimes. In some categories. Depending on how it is done. A lot of the time they don’t give a fuck. And usually most segments will not pay more.”
From: Mark Ritson: Stop propping up brand purpose with contrived data and hypocrisy
This really just drives home the point that purpose-driven brands aren’t in it for the money. The real value to a purpose-driven brand is in the clarity of focus that comes with it. It can help you decide what to pursue and invest in based on how it will help you achieve your purpose. Sometimes it’s a purpose that can really strengthen your overall brand positioning, but only if you truly believe it and are willing to go the distance with it because it’s not enough to just say it, you need to prove it over and over and over again in all ways, not just as a side project.
Sometimes you will sacrifice for this purpose, other times you will benefit from this purpose. The value of a purpose-driven brand and business isn’t the potential financial growth, it’s in the clarity of focus and meaning it brings to your work.