The "Why" Factor: Does Your Brand Have One?

Posted by Hanna G Fitz on Monday, May 26, 2014 Under: Brand Development
Most people think of their brand as being their logo, brochures, signage and other collateral material. In fact in initial meetings with clients when enhancing their brand image is mentioned, there is an initial objection along the lines of not wanting to change their logo! Your brand is more than just a symbol or playing “Best dressed”. While the physical attributes form an important part of your overall Brand DNA, your brand image is determined by unseen factors such as perceptions held by your stakeholders.

Great brands know that like personal relationships, in order to attract customers the physical attributes of the brand must be appealing yet, when motivating customers to buy and stay loyal, these companies center their brand on something deeper “PURPOSE”. This is the WHY Factor, the purpose for creating your products and services. In Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, when the boy asked the Alchemist why other chemist where unable to become Alchemist, he replied “They were seeking the treasure of their personal legend without wanting to live out the legend.” In other words great brands while mindful of the gains from success often start with a more noble purpose such as change how things are done or enhance people’s lives. They are driven by passion mindful that gain is the natural result.

Take Apple for instance, their brand success is not only as a result of a great logo and catchy tagline, but the company’s ability to communicate and deliver a definite purpose and deliver great products. According to Steve Jobs, the MACINTOSH was designed for people who wanted to use a computer not learn how to use one. They called it “the computer for the rest of us”. Though most computers today are simple to use, Apple is still known for its innovation and ease of use. In fact they emphasize this point by not packaging some products with “user manuals”.

Giorgio Armani is a another brand has remained true to its purpose and core values by creating fashion that simple (practical), sensual and elegant. The company is known for its pastels and minimalist timeless style which is reflected in all Giorgio Armani’s designs. Over the years this Why of the Armani brands has remained consistent, not incline to follow the fads and customers can rely on the brand to deliver these values every time.

This “WHY” factor of branding has set the great brands apart from the followers. Companies who merely imitate other brands put themselves at a disadvantage and are unable to create authentic connections with customers. They lack the WHY factor and their competitive advantage is often built on price which can be a very vulnerable position in the long term. When a brand operates with a clear purpose, it can rise above competition and offer a unique experience that customers are willing to pay more for.

“When you have a “WHY” Factor, you are no longer selling a product or branding you are selling a movement.”

Another brand that has stayed true to its purpose and offers a clearly differentiated product in the fashion industry is Donatella Versace’s Versus line. The brand clearly targets a the rock n roll, trendy, sexy young at heart crowd”.

Versus By Versace Fall 2013

She does not just sell clothing, she sells a movement, a kind of rebellion against the status quo of how people should look or dress. She offers her target audience a sense of individuality yet access place in the tribe. The brand is true to its message knowing that it isn’t for everyone.

Its WHY factor transcends the logo and collateral which acts as a support for this message. It is reflected in the product design, its positioning with Hollywood’s infamous rebels and season-less collections (breaking traditional fashion industry rules).

Coco Cola, a powerful global brand, doesn’t focuses on trying to get consumers to buy its dark soda with all its never ending fizz, and excellent logo! They sell us happiness in a bottle, the logo is a marker to remind us that this the one that offers happiness in a bottle. Its messages are always feel good and promote unity and harmony across cultures. People identify with this message perhaps beyond the product.

Brands can learn a lot from the brilliantly executed Barack Obama Presidential Campaign in 2008. He went from an unknown to completely changing the race for presidency by leveraging the power of WHY. Obama’s strategy unlike his opponents was not solely focused on economic indicators and political factors (that usually dominates the race for presidency), but was centered on being the “Change we can believe it”. While his brand image included a well-dressed package, the real power was in his message’s ability to win the trust and hearts of the American people in a time when everyone was looking for a light of hope.


His story was so strong that race and name did not matter. He was a symbol of the American dream, a man who had searched and overcome travails and found his identity and a calling as a restorer of hope and change for the American people. In a well executed strategy, he was able to turn factors which could have been weaknesses and use them to his advantage to become the first African-American President and the most powerful leader of the free world.

It must be noted that while a strong purpose and message will get customers to buy the first time, the true test is your brand’s ability to deliver quality consistently. This is what has kept great brands like Apple, BMW and Giorgio Armani as frontrunners in the game for so long. Customers know that when they buy these products they can expect a certain result, style, quality and the feeling of being part of something unique. Great brands don’t just aim to stay in the game, they own the game by innovating and leveraging value through their purpose.

So yes your logo and look will create the initial appeal, but the power of your brand lies in its ability to have a clear and meaningful purpose that goes beyond product, and connects on an emotional level with consumers. When you have a “WHY” Factor, you are no longer selling a product you are selling a movement.

In : Brand Development 

Tags: great brands  branding for purpose   

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