Does your brand purpose recognize that I’m irrational?

The reason a well-defined brand purpose is so powerful is that it recognizes a fundamental human truth: we’re all irrational. I don’t mean every once in awhile. I mean, we’re irrational more than we’re rational in our decision making. There is a great quote from Duke University Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics Dan Ariely:

“...we usually think of ourselves as sitting the driver's seat, with ultimate control over the decisions we made and the direction our life takes; but, alas, this perception has more to do with our desires-with how we want to view ourselves-than with reality”

When you stop and think about it, you probably can easily come up with a recent story where your emotions got the better of your cool, calculating rational side. For me, it was a story about cigar buying (how I ended up paying for 15 cigars when I really only wanted 5.)

The good news is that accepting our inherent irrationality can lead us to a good place.

What’s all that got to do with brand purpose?

When we define a brand purpose, we give priority to our Big Audacious Meaning. That’s the difference that our brand can make in a life, community, or even the world. This goes beyond the rational, attribute-driven positioning that consumes organizations’ strategic efforts. The positioning has a role in providing a foundation, but it ultimately takes a backseat to defining a larger meaning. Why? Because of what Ariely teaches us and what we all know when we’re brutally honest with ourselves. We are emotional (irrational) creatures.

At the core of our desires is the need to be connected to something larger than ourselves. To feel like we are contributing to making a difference in the world. This is an incredible motivator for each of us. Organizations that recognize this can create powerful bonds with prospective believers. This is done by identifying that brand purpose, and then expressing it to prospective believers in a way that invites them along in the journey to create that impact.

Is this radical? Unconventional? You’d be surprised by the organizations that have adopted this approach They aren’t obscure not-for-profits. They are brands like Dove Skin Care, TOMS shoes. Warby Parker, and more. What’s most compelling is that these are fast growing brands, outpacing their competitors who haven’t embraced the power of brand purpose.

It’s not how business has been done in the past. If you’re stuck in that mindset, it can feel a little unsettling. It can feel a little irrational. But that may just be the most valuable thing about it.