Activating Brand Purpose Through Movement Thinking

Scott GoodsonMarch 23, 202227643 min

How do you activate a brand’s purpose? By sparking a movement. That’s how REI took its brand purpose of ‘awakening a lifelong love of the outdoors for all’ and grew it into a cause that is working to better both people’s wellbeing and the planet.

Movement Thinking in effect reframes your company or brand’s purpose in a way that people can understand and want to participate in. Because people don’t join a purpose. They join a movement inspired by purpose. In fact, one way to define a movement is that it is ‘purpose, activated’.

As Suzanne Tosolini said to us:

What Movement Thinking does is create a way of internally activating a purpose that inspires action. It turns strategic choices involved in creating a company or brand’s vision, purpose, promise and values into something that every employee can understand and see their place in. It makes strategy relevant and actionable as well as more inspiring.

Movement Thinking is not a top–down approach, there are five movement building blocks that invite people into a cause they care about.

1. Dissatisfaction

Identify your dissatisfaction in the world. All movements start with a grievance. What’s the wrong that urgently needs to be made right? For the ‘Against Dumb’ movement StrawberryFrog launched for Smart Car, the dissatisfaction was the fact that a large number of people were against overconsumption and waste, especially big, unnecessary cars, minivans and SUVs.

2. Desired Change

Name the change you want to see in the world. What do you want to see made different in the future? In the Smart Car example, it was a desire to restore the urban landscape.

3. Nemesis

Name your enemy. What are you against? You need to identify it/them and pick a fight. Note that it is often the ‘villain’ that’s causing the grievance above. In the case of Smart Car, the enemy was stupidly overconsuming, which we shorthanded as ‘dumb’. (There’s one caveat when identifying the enemy: don’t simply be against your competition. You may hate your competition but nobody else cares; the outside world is looking for you to take on something more meaningful and interesting.)

4. Stand

What will you stand for in the quest to overcome your nemesis and achieve the desired change? In the case of Smart Car, it was a stand for a more conscious form of consuming, which we shorthanded as ‘smart’.

5. Action

What will you do to get people to care and participate? This is often a form of communication or expression, as many movements first get traction via strong symbols (eg pink ribbon, yellow bracelet), posters, ads, or even a song (eg ‘We Shall Overcome’)

Taking Movement Thinking Further

A common misconception is that higher purpose and Movement Thinking are the domain of marketing and branding within a company – and thus matter only to the chief marketing officer. We hear this often in our meetings with clients, which is why we often say that company leaders can change company culture and employee mindsets and behavior more effectively with a movement than with old-fashioned mandates. A movement ignites trust, engagement, ownership, creativity and passion, whereas the mandate pushes for compliance, and typically pushes the best employees out the door.

Too often, CEOs end up issuing a mandate around their company’s purpose, when they should be leading a movement. Movement Thinking, we’ve seen, can help CEOs to introduce a new purpose for their organization in a way that is connected to its employees, that’s cross-company and not top–down because, in today’s environment, the power to change corporate culture is with employees, not leadership alone.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Scott Goodson and Chip Walker, excerpted from their book, Activate Brand Purpose: How To Harness The Power Of Movements To Transform Your Company

The Blake Project Can Help: Please email us for more about our purpose, mission, vision and values and brand culture workshops.

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