Brand Promise vs. Brand Purpose

I spend a good part of my week working with brands trying to do more  and do it better in the social space. The vast majority of the brands I work with are well established, generally low consideration, but well-loved products. These are brands that have been built over years via TV, price promotions, and some couponing. They struggle, as you might imagine, with what to do and say in the social space. Mainly because they have no real purpose. 

I don't say that dismissively. But, it's true. There's not a really good reason a lot of these brands exist beyond generating incremental profits for the company that makes them (and who generously sends me money every other week! Thanks guys!). The best brands – or at least the ones that seem to have some real momentum in the minds of consumers – seem to have some clearly articulated purpose, are values driven, and see their role in society as integral to everything they do.   Without that purpose, it's hard to maintain quality interactions with consumers because – unless you are a wildly entertaining brand a la Skittles recently – it's hard to get consumers to care about much beyond your new flavor or your price. 

Brands need a purpose.Beyond a promise. A promise guides messsaging, it helps the consumer understand what they'll get from the brand or how the new features will work or what the benefits are. But, we humans care more about actions than words. In some cases – the best cases for brands –  we actually care about what the brand is doing, how it's living in the world, and what it's contributing into the network of connections we've all made with each other. And, when branding is really done well, we come to brands – we learn about them, we try them, add them to our consideration set – through the work in the real world that brands are doing. And, for the best brands, those actions are driven by a higher sense, a higher purpose. 

And, without that clear sense of purpose, the reason for existing, it's hard to generate real meangingful connections with people. And, without those, most of a brands social efforts will be kind of empty and, ultimately, not very valuable for people or the brand.