Let’s be honest, the main reason why a majority of us venture into business is to make money. It is also probably the reason why most of us fail. However, successful entrepreneurs have a different story. Theirs is a tale of how they noticed an existent gap in the market, set up a team and exploited that opportunity with all that they had. For the most part, many brands are happy with that: an established market presence, profits every year, and happy shareholders.
On the other hand, there are a handful of organizations that have loftier ambitions. For them, setting up a successful business is just the first step. Jim Collins, in his bestseller Build to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies alludes to a secret ingredient that sets apart great companies. Those firms that incorporate this extra component have managed to outlast their competition while remaining top of the mind for clients that continuously purchase their products. This secret is a brand purpose.
Global refreshments’ giant Coca-Cola says that exists to inspire moments of optimism and happiness. This purpose is evident across all of its products and in its marketing approach. The largest beverage maker in the world exhibits fun and inspires consumers to share in the cheer of a drink of Coke, Fanta or Sprite. With such a statement, profit seems to be the last thing on the company’s mind, and in its place is the satisfaction of the client. Yet, they rake in billions each year. Has their strategy worked? I would argue that competitors like Pepsi are still playing catch-up! Coca-Cola has gone a notch higher in supporting sports in schools, nurturing great talents which would have otherwise remained in oblivion. Some notable Copa-Coca-Cola graduates in Kenya include Victor Wanyama, Dennis Oliech, and Michael Olunga who have gone on to realize successful football careers.
Away from the lure of refreshments, local mobile phone operator, Safaricom, tells us that it exists to transform lives. When Kenyans are not complaining of high data charges and call rates, their attention is drawn to life changing initiatives such as the MPESA Foundation and Safaricom’s permanent brand presence in supporting Kenya Rugby Union as well as nurturing talent through popular grassroot tournaments such as the Chapa Dimba tournament. Safaricom has therefore managed to become a household name that holds an integral part of the Kenyan society, not just by easing the cash transfer process, but by being present in many initiatives that support the welfare of the common mwananchi.
Brand actualization is the ability of companies to achieve their brand purpose and drive positive societal change. It is proof that it is not enough to make money or realize quick growth and expand into new markets. Rather, a key ingredient for business survival is in becoming a key driver of change for the society by empowering lives. Coca-Cola has done it, so too has Safaricom, among many others. If you think about it, any organization that has remained consistent in the lives of most societies, their initiatives impacting real, long lasting change has achieved actualization.
There are 3 key steps in realizing brand actualization:
You are probably already known for the products you sell. You have had good business over the years and your name is known in the market. But what do you really stand for beyond making money?
Having great intentions for society is not enough. Your consumers need to experience it for them to be able to believe in you. Does your product or service deliver the experience you promise? Is the quality maintained over lengthy periods of time?
Having declared your stand and firmed it up with a solid consumer experience, brand actualization involves maintaining the brand culture and striving to change the world.
Actualization is a lofty goal and the vast majority of brands fail to achieve it. Difficult though it may be, a solid track record and a clear brand culture that employees have bought into and coupled with great products that offer exemplary client experiences puts you on the right path. If you are not satisfied with conventional definitions of success, brand actualization is the way to go.
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