Why a shared purpose creates the most engaging content

To create really engaging content online, brands need to create a sense of shared purpose with their customers. Here’s how they can do it.


You have embraced content as part of your engagement
strategy.  Now it’s time to start
thinking about creating the right kind of content.  The right channel matters, and so does the
right format.  But the most important decision
is not channel or format, but context. 

There are three contexts for content:  brand promise, brand purpose, and shared
purpose.  Brand promise is about your
product.  Brand purpose is about your
company.  And shared purpose is about
your customer.  To really unlock the
potential of your content strategy, find your shared purpose. 

Most brands focus their content around their Brand Promise – what a brand commits to
deliver.   Content reinforces the reasons why a customer should want to purchase a product.  Quality, features, price, status.   Content based on brand promise is meant to
persuade.  It is focused on the

In contrast, some content is based on Brand Purpose – what a
brand aspires to achieve.  Content
reinforces why a customer should associate with the brand.  Vision, values, culture, contribution.  Content based on brand purpose is meant to
inspire.  It is focused on the

As an example, consider the mission statements of Dunkin
Donuts and Starbucks.  One is clearly
focused on brand promise.  The other on
brand purpose.  Can you tell which is

Make and serve the freshest, most delicious
coffee and donuts quickly and courteously in modern, well-merchandised stores.

To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one
person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.

Now notice how their content strategies differ.  Both use the same channel effectively
(Facebook) and the same format (rich imagery). 
But the context is entirely different.

In general, brand purpose
is more engaging than brand promise.  It creates a stronger emotional
connection.  “We are alike” is more
enduring  than “I like you.” 

Some of the most successful brands are orienting not only their
content strategies, but their entire brands around the idea of brand
purpose.   Research by Jim Stengel and
Milward Brown
found that companies oriented around a brand ideal – a
“fundamental human value that is authentic to the brand” – outperformed the
S&P 500 by almost 400% over the last decade.

In a digital age, everything is transparent.  Authenticity becomes paramount.  And meaning becomes as important as
money.  If you are only working on
content related to your brand promise, it’s time to work on your brand purpose. 

If you are at the level of brand purpose, you are ready to
unlock the next achievement:  shared purpose.  In a social age, the most important
relationships are not between the brand and individuals, but between individuals
themselves.   As a result, brands need to go beyond the
purpose of their brand to a purpose they share with their customers.  

Nike, for example, has taken its brand purpose and
extended it to include not only its customers, but the entire world.  Its mission is “to bring inspiration and
innovation to every athlete* in the world. 
If you have a body, you are an athlete.” 
Through engagement platforms like Nike+, it helps runners – whether or
not they buy Nike products — achieve a shared purpose of “run further, get

Coca-Cola has also extended its brand purpose to a shared
purpose.  Its mission is to “refresh
the world, inspire moments of optimism and happiness, and create value and make
a difference.”  On its new Coca-Cola
corporate site, it goes well beyond a brand promise (about its products) or even a brand purpose (about the company) to a shared purpose
with its customers and partners. 

Shared purpose doesn’t have to be serious, lofty, or
noble.  Look at what Oreo has done to
extend its brand purpose (“celebrate the kid inside”) to a shared purpose
(“help people separate their Oreo and save their favorite parts for eating.”  Enjoy!

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