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To appeal to your consumer’s self-actualizing needs, brands first need to discover their purpose.
If someone stopped you on the streets and asked you if you were satisfied with your life, how would you respond? For someone who is financially sound and can afford to live the life they lead, chances are they will probably respond with “pretty satisfied.” They may even say they are full of happiness because they can afford the things they want and feel good about the things they have.
But now suppose you ask how many of those same individuals, who report a high satisfaction with their life, feel that their life has meaning or purpose. Chances are, not many people will be able to confidently say they have discovered meaning in their lives and struggle to identify their personal sense of purpose. Studies have revealed that citizens of wealthy nations are starved for meaning in their life, part due to the lack of religion in their lives. And millennials, once described as lazy and narcissistic, are focusing on finding happiness more than prior generations.
The lack of meaning provides an opportunity for marketers to appeal to the self-actualizing needs of millennials by providing these emerging adults with a purpose. But while most business executives recognize a strong collective purpose can increase their bottom line, only 46% reported their company has a sense of purpose. A brand purpose can fill the void left behind in nations where religion is largely unaccounted for, giving consumers a way to express their feelings of individuality.
Data from a Gallup World Poll discovered while wealthy nations rank high on life satisfaction, countries with low GDPs ranked higher for meaning. And while religion does play a significant part in a society’s level of life meaning, the United States, where 77% of Americans believe religion is losing its influence, reported higher meaning over wealthy nations like France and Japan.
One generation in particular, the millennials, has struggled to find life meaning as they move into adulthood. Beyond the stereotypes that millennials are lazy, selfish and narcissistic, millennials are one of the most educated generations in American history but 3.8% are unemployed. Millennials entered the U.S. workforce right after an economic depression, and their struggles to find employment could be factor that has driven them to rethink what a successful life constitutes. Millennials are also less religious than older generations in America, with only 41% stating they believe religion is very important, but remain just as spiritual. In this regard, millennials are similar to wealthy nations who seek to discover life meaning, which is thought to be important to well-being throughout the entire human lifespan. And millennials can turn to purpose-driven brands as a way to freely express their self-worth and to replace the lack of religion in their lives.
Purpose-driven marketing has seen brands behave like organized religions, offering some of the same basic principles religions use to connect with their conglomerates. For marketers working to attract consumers, behaving like a religion can deliver satisfaction to self-actualizing millennials who currently are starved for meaning. Clothing businesses, for example, can provide avenues of self-expression for consumers who choose clothing brands that best reflect their personality. “I’d like to say that for us, it’s very important that we guide the customer to find his personal style,” says Mark Motwani, CEO of Senszio. “While he’s selecting fabrics or determining the size of his jacket pockets, or the color of his shirt buttons, he is essentially creating his wardrobe and choosing how he expresses himself. That said, it is an ever-changing journey and one that isn’t influenced by mainstream trends or fads.”
What makes brands effective in delivering life meaning is when they offer three key benefits to customers: 1) core beliefs and values, 2) symbols, rituals or myths and 3) a relationship with a community at large. When a brand uses purpose-driven marketing to attract customers, they market their “why” in the hopes of attracting individuals who share a similar belief and resonate with a brand’s purpose. With a purpose in hand, brands offer consumers an opportunity to express their individuality and self-worth. Brands can help customers communicate to others that they are valuable, meaningful human beings and captures the value consumers place on the benefits they receive from particular brands. “When you can relate to a brand and connect with it, your desire for success is greater because you have experienced firsthand the potential that it has to change and affect others,” says Alejandro Chaban, founder of Yes You Can! “You need to form a human connection with your customer and also create valuable content with depth. Passion, determination and a personal understanding of your consumer are three very important points to consider.”
A brand purpose is more than a promise; it’s a commitment to action that will impact your employees, customers and the world around you. Just like how millennials seek meaning to guide their everyday lives, a brand purpose helps your business understand where it’s headed and how to get there. And like millennials, not enough businesses have a clear understanding of their “why”. When brands and people can close the gap that prevents them from finding their purpose, they can both experience a greater life meaning that explains their place in the world.