Many consumers today are expecting more out of companies than just providing good value in products and services. A study shows that a business’ “brand” – how it is identified and perceived by the public – is defined significantly by showing social responsibility and having a higher sense of purpose than making a profit.
Building a company that connects with people on a personal and emotional level requires “conscious branding,” which begins with a business being aware of its identity (who we are, what we stand for, and what future we would like to co-design), the ecosystem it lives in and how it can add value to the world and its people, says Julius Geis (www.juliusgeis.com), a branding expert who has created strategies for over 40 companies and is the creator of Identity Built Branding™ (IBB).
“The way we relate to brands is radically different now, and the upheaval of 2020 magnified this,” Geis says. “People want brands to be a navigator for change. They expect responsible branding and for companies to be proactive and transparent.
“Brands that only see dollar signs need to shed their rigid conceptions of business. The brands of today must be living organisms that are relationship-centric inside and outside the company. When a brand is anchored in an organic identity and moving from a place of purpose, consumers are drawn to its authenticity. It’s time to move away from brand-fakes that manipulate people. Let’s embrace branding designed to strengthen our collective connections.”
Geis offers three tips for businesses to build their brand inside and outside the company in ways that connect people and a higher purpose:
- Engage in organizational self-searching. Geis says companies can determine their purpose by asking questions such as: What is the core reason we are in business? What are our non-negotiable, guiding beliefs? Where do we come from, and what are our backgrounds of experience? What do we wish for the world to become? “The understanding of a company’s collective self,” Geis says, “or its founding spirit, is the focal point for strategic development and decision-making.”
- Investigate disruptive relationships. A deep analysis of relationships within the company and with the outside world, Geis says, is a fundamental part of removing the obstacles on the road to company self-identity, unity, and greater purpose. “It starts with your culture and extends to everyone your company has contact with,” Geis says. “Probe relationships, from internal employee-manager connections to the relationships between the brand and its suppliers, consumers, and communities. The problems lie where these relationships are disrupted. That points to the underlying cause and leads to ways to strengthen these relationships in a sustainable manner. But without solidifying the work culture first, connecting in a stronger, sustainable fashion with consumers can’t happen.”
- Embrace truth and change. “Change happens when a company finds its true sense of self and strengthens its culture accordingly, rather than continuing randomly or aimlessly and manufacturing a false identity that will inevitably crumble under the pressure of reality,” Geis says. “When you’re operating from a place of truth, your relationships are grounded in trust and a like-mindedness that allows them to move and react to the flow of business and culture. Rigid relationships built on false premises or forced connections will always struggle to evolve.”
“Many brands have lost public trust,” Geis says. “They’ve lost their power and their way. But finding or rediscovering their purpose can connect them inside the business, which must happen in order to connect with today’s consumers that demand a world awareness. As we move towards a better understanding of our interconnected culture and economy, branding in its traditional structure and motives will disappear.”