June 18, 2024

The most important question in marketing


Marketing success can be boiled down to one question.

The answer to that one question can make all the difference in the world to your position in the marketplace.

… it is a difference that makes customers love you and stay loyal to you …

… it is a difference that makes you stand out in a crowded field of competition …

… it is a difference that can put you in the echelon of top-growing brands in the world.

That’s what makes it the most important question you can ask about your business – and your marketing.

Here it is:

“What is the reason you exist as a business beyond making money?”

The answer to that question has become increasingly important to the people you want to convert to loyal customers. People want to know you stand for a higher purpose than just driving sales and profits. They are drawn to a brand ideal that aligns with their values.

Guided by a brand ideal

A brand ideal is your business’s essential reason for being, the higher-order benefit you bring to the world, writes Jim Stengel in Grow. A higher-order benefit focuses on improving people’s lives.

This might sound a little too New Agey or naïve for a hard-nosed, data-driven business focused on quarterly sales targets or gaining market share. Not that those things aren’t important. They are.

But many of the fastest growing brands of the past decade are achieving those things (and more) by centering their strategy on a brand ideal. It gives them a distinct market advantage in important ways.

For one, it connects. A brand ideal connects the core beliefs of the people inside a business with the fundamental human values of the people it serves. It inspires customers and employees to care about the brand.

For another, it inspires innovation. Rallying around a brand ideal inspires continuous innovation toward a higher-order benefit.

One more: it clarifies. A viable brand ideal cuts through the clutter and clarifies what a business stands for and believes. This permeates the company culture and daily operations to focus on how to deliver its promise of improving people’s lives.

Some companies that are achieving this with a clear, viable brand ideal:

Starbucks – create human connections

Apple – great experience through beautiful, simple design

Redbull – uplift mind and body

Chipotle – food with integrity

Method – happy, healthy homes

Zappos – deliver WOW through service

Zappos is a good example of how an ideal animates business practices. Earlier this year it was reported that a Zappos employee spent 10 hours and 45 minutes on a customer service call. This broke the previous record of nine hours, 37 minutes.

Not many companies would encourage customer service reps to spend that much time on a call. But that is how Zappos delivers WOW. It makes service its main product and goes the extra mile to please customers. It trains employees to use customer interactions as a way to build relationships, not make the sale.

But sales have poured in. In the process of becoming the highest rated online retailer for customer service, Zappos has achieved sales of more than $1 billion.

Companies guided by a brand ideal are showing you can succeed by focusing on improving people’s lives. It’s not enough anymore to operate simply to drive bottom line profits. Businesses need to aim for a higher purpose to achieve long term growth.

What is your inspirational reason for being?


[BONUS: This episode of The Heart of Marketing podcast takes a closer look at how purpose-driven brands are changing the game, leading their categories and outperforming competitors. Listen in to learn more.]

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