Brand purpose is one of the most powerful tools for growth and
sustainability in a global marketplace devoid of trust in business.
A brand's purpose is its reason for being - it goes beyond what you
do, or who you're doing it for. Purpose is the why: why your
business exists, and why that should matter.
Purpose is psychologically hard-wired into our motivations, and
consumers are increasingly paying attention to how their brand
choices can improve their lives in a meaningful way. They are
choosing to buy from brands that support their values and
aspirations, and gravitating towards brands they can engage with on
a human level. In a meaning-starved marketplace, brands that know
their purpose and use it wisely will build more significant,
sustainable relationships and retain a more engaged workforce.
It's not about aggressively attaching yourself to causes or
bombarding consumers with do-good messaging, but rather organising
your business around a central reason for being that guides brand
behavior and allows you to leverage your strengths for social good.
Dove, for example, exists to celebrate the natural beauty that
lives in every woman.
So what does purpose mean for businesses and brands playing in
Africa's economic performance over the past decade has been
staggering. The IMF predicts growth in Sub-Saharan Africa will
reach 6.1 percent in the next year, making it the second
fastest-growing region in the world. Rising domestic consumption, a
growing middle class, a young population, and the emergence of
accountable and democratic governments are all contributing factors
to Africa's steady economic performance. The continent is home to
some of the world's most attractive emerging markets, but many
societal challenges persist without much hope of resolution, and
often governments do not have the ability, much less the appetite
or intent, to solve these problems alone. The purposeful mind views
these challenges as opportunities for commercial success. Business
is one of the most powerful forces for driving social change, and
Africa is hungry.
The Phillips brand promise -sense and simplicity- puts insight
about humans at the centre of their operations. Since the
introduction of the first incandescent light bulb in 1891, Phillips
has strived to develop simple solutions that make lives easier. In
2012, Phillips launched an initiative to install 100 solar-powered
lighting centres across rural Africa by 2015. Phillips saw
opportunity in the fact that over 500 million people have no access
to electricity, and that a basic solution has the potential to
strengthen Africa's economic, social, educational and cultural
activities. The LED lighting centres focus on schools linked to
villages and towns, and will provide communities with powered areas
that can be used for sports, education, healthcare and commerce. If
you're thinking this is all about doing good - think again.
Phillips already sells these centres as temporary lighting
solutions in the developed world. The aim is to demonstrate that
Phillips is a part of the quest towards a sustainable future
through technology that has the potential to transform lives: smart
business, if you ask me.
Mobile technology continues to transform African societies.
Sub-Saharan Africa is the fastest-growing mobile market in the
world, and this growth is driving innovation. Safaricom's M-PESA, a
mobile-phone based electronic payments system, transformed the
lives of Kenya's unbanked with a simple, compelling message: "send
money home". From its beginnings as a basic text service that
allowed people to transfer money to loved ones in remote areas
through their handsets, M-PESA now processes more transactions
domestically than Western Union does globally, says GSMA. Those without formal bank
accounts can not only transfer money, but also save, invest,
insure, pay bills, shop and apply for credit through M-Shwari. With
15 million subscribers and handling transactions responsible for
31% of Kenya's GDP, Safaricom is proof that purpose and profit are
not mutually exclusive.
Brand purpose is not a nice-to-have when expanding into the rest
of the continent. As African markets grow at unprecedented speed,
it is the brands that understand their core purpose that will
succeed. It's not about trying to save the world; it's about
understanding how you can add value to the lives of your new
customers. That means addressing their needs and aspirations and
often, in Africa, that will mean helping them solve a societal
issue that holds them back.
By addressing these needs you will bring about the good in a way
that is unique, resonates with your stakeholders, integrates
seamlessly into your business and brand identity and, most
importantly, makes business sense. The brands that get it right
will most certainly prosper.