The biggest branding mistake too many companies make

When you consider manufacturers with “function,” which come to thoughts?

Patagonia, most likely. Possibly Lush, or Nike, or Starbucks.

The time period “model function” will get bandied round rather a lot in advertising and marketing circles, which is smart. It’s shiny, it’s engaging, and from the skin it suits proper in with our fast-paced, socially conscious tradition. Shoppers more and more need transparency—we all know that—and model function looks as if the reply. It’s achingly near the reply.


However the fact is, it’s what you are promoting, not your model that wants function.

That will sound like splitting hairs, however there’s a vital distinction: whereas “model function” is usually reverse engineered onto an organization as a part of a consumer-facing advertising and marketing technique, enterprise function is foundational: it’s greater than a message that informs your communications, it’s the explanation your communications exist within the first place.

Put merely: it’s time for companies to cease utilizing “model function” as a method to conveniently swimsuit sure standards, or align with social developments. Objective must be constructed into your organization from the bottom up.

Sufficient with the advantage signaling

Organizations with enterprise function as their guideline have sturdier foundations, and subsequently a considerably longer shelf life. They’re each nimble and steadfast of their core beliefs.

Take The Physique Store, as an illustration. When it began within the Seventies, the corporate’s unique imaginative and prescient was to promote merchandise sourced instantly from producers, which had been by no means examined on animals, and which used solely ethically-sourced, cruelty-free, and pure substances.

The Physique Store’s function – “we exist to combat for a fairer, extra lovely world” – is watertight, extending past a single marketing campaign or trigger. It’s easy, it’s broad, however it’s rigorous—it stands as much as scrutiny. And it’s about a lot greater than the impression its model makes on customers. You received’t catch The Physique Store overstating its mission to do good in an effort to promote merchandise. It doesn’t need to – we intrinsically know what it’s about, as a result of it merely does precisely what it’s about.


Moreover, the enterprise’s function permits it to vet its actions in opposition to what’s taking place on the planet at current. Throughout the 50 years since The Physique Store’s launch, what it means to combat for a fairer world has advanced, and the Physique Store has been capable of develop with its viewers’s understanding of equity and sweetness.

In an interview with BritishAmerican Enterprise final 12 months, the CEO of the Physique Store, David Boynton, spoke publicly concerning the worth of function as an inside metric that informs how The Physique Store regulates its substances and packaging, the way it treats its folks, and the way it responds to and learns from crises. “When you have a function like we do that features the phrase ‘fairer’,” Boynton mentioned, “You need to be throughout issues like this.”
Strolling the stroll

It’s little shock that many of the manufacturers we most affiliate with function (Dove, The Physique Store, Nudie Denims) are additionally those who prioritize sustainability. Objective and sustainability complement each other and have a optimistic affect on companies’ backside traces: based on our 2021 CEO Purpose Report, 4 in 5 CEOs (83%) agree that purpose-driven companies are higher at navigating sustainability than companies pushed by profit-growth alone.

However when a sustainable “function” is extra about lip service in exterior going through communications, companies put themselves in a scorching seat that does extra hurt than good. Take North Face, which just lately came under fire from oil companies and environmentalists alike as a result of its manufacturing mannequin doesn’t match as much as its proclamations a couple of extra sustainable world.

Then there’s BrewDog, which lately has highlighted its dedication to bettering the world by means of sustainable practices and punk ideology. The craft beer firm confronted criticism in June for a pervasive tradition of bullying. An open letter by former and present workers spells out that rebelliousness and edginess don’t equate to progressive values, and means that the corporate’s latest pivot towards “sustainability” might have extra to do with outward picture than real function.

Practical function

Examples like BrewDog and North Face present that companies with superficial model function usually tend to concentrate on exterior expressions of their function, but fail to behave on it on the most elementary degree.

However the fact is, function doesn’t must be the first message of each communication – whether it is, it’s a must to surprise why an organization is spending a lot time speaking about it as a substitute of vetting its actions in opposition to its sense of function.

One unlikely hero on this entrance is Crocs.

Crocs has at all times completed what it says on the tin: they’re all function and little or no glamour – practical (some would possibly say ugly), snug, sustainably made sneakers. We knew Crocs to be the go-to shoe for individuals who didn’t need to look good, however who needed to be on their ft all day—nurses, cooks, or suburbanites padding across the yard.

Then, a couple of years again, Crocs abruptly turned a surprise hit with the style crowd: in 2016, Christopher Kane debuted a Crocs collaboration throughout his London Trend Week SS17 present, and the model went on to forge partnerships with the likes of Balenciaga, streetwear label Alife and rapper Put up Malone.

However Crocs didn’t want to vary its id to be cool – actually, it’s Crocs’ robust, distinctive sense of self that’s made it such a shock success within the streetwear house. It’s that age outdated adage – staying true to your self actually is the best factor you are able to do.


Having a transparent function gave Crocs the north star it wants to remain true to itself, guaranteeing Crocs can stand as much as scrutiny. Whether or not worn by a nurse, a chef, or a rapper, Crocs – as a product and as a model – at all times does precisely what it guarantees.

The finish of brand name function

So, what’s the lesson that each model ought to take to coronary heart from the likes of Crocs and The Physique Store?

It’s so simple as this: function is simply really efficient when it’s totally functioning as a basis for a enterprise at each degree.

Objective is rarely totally shaped if it’s merely a device for becoming a member of in on common – even necessary – conversations. I’d go as far as to say that with out the core basis of rigorous and deeply embedded enterprise function, “model function” doesn’t actually even exist.

Profitable companies – it doesn’t matter what they champion – method function as a promise they make to themselves first, to allow them to observe by means of on that promise to their clients, and to wider society in the long term.

Rik Haslam is govt artistic accomplice at international model consultancy Brandpie, and has created award-working work for manufacturers throughout a number of sectors together with British Airways, HP, IBM, Nissan, Pfizer, and Virgin Media.