By Lourica Halteh, VP of Brand Development & Design at Waffle
As an Art Director working at agencies for almost a decade I worked with many different brands. Often times we would work on established brands with 100+ page brand guidebooks and dedicated marketing teams to ensure that the work is “on-brand”. While for the most part, this makes sure that the company’s communication looks, sounds and feels coherent there is one particular thing that should be unfailingly present. That is purpose.
A brand’s purpose is the reason a company exists. People love brands like Tesla, Apple, Lego and Patagonia because their purpose comes through in their products. I know it’s cliché to quote Simon Sinek on brand purpose, but clichés are clichés for a reason.
“People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.”
Sinek is behind the golden circle concept. Simply put, at the core of every good brand there is a “why”. Why do we do what we do? This is a cause or a belief. It’s bigger than money. Then there is a “how”. This is the way we do things. This is what makes us unique. Then comes the “what”, this is the obvious one. This is what our product or service is.
With Tesla, for example, their original purpose statement was “to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable transport.“ This is the “why” part. Their company culture, focus on design and technological innovation and strategy to elevate electric vehicles and make them accessible is the “how” they do it. The “what” is their compelling and affordable series of electric cars and charging infrastructure that have become one of the most sought after car brands in the world.
Tesla does not do traditional, paid marketing because they don’t need to. Tesla owners are their brand ambassadors. They spread the word about the product and its’ purpose because they believe in the same cause as Tesla. There are YouTube channels, articles, websites, discussion forums, boot camps and events all about Tesla created and spread by their customers.
People see brands as extensions of themselves. They know that the choices they make, the brands they support, have a direct impact on the world they live in. People choose brands the same way they vote for government representatives. They research them and consider the way they help shape our collective future. When a brand communicates a purpose, or a mission, they need to follow through. It’s not enough to just make a statement with a one-off, socially aware tv spot . It should be the driving force behind every business decision.
I have a BFA in graphic design at the American University of Beirut, where the concept of design as an analytical process and a tool to solve big problems was the ethos, and on graduation day it felt like after four years of intense training, very late nights, brutal critique sessions and the occasional cry we were finally ready to be released into the world and make it a “better” place. Naturally, I ended up in the most virtuous industry a designer could dream of, advertising.
I was young and this was my first “real” job. I landed a position at Leo Burnett in Beirut. During orientation, we learned how things work and most importantly, the Leo Burnett philosophy, “Humankind”.
Here is an excerpt from their website:
CREATIVITY HAS THE POWER TO TRANSFORM HUMAN BEHAVIOR.
This is the core belief of what we call HumanKind. It’s not about advertising or brand propositions or marketing. lt’s about people and purpose. lt’s an approach to marketing that serves true human needs, not the other way around.That’s why everything we do for brands is designed with a human purpose in mind. A brand without purpose is one that will never be understood or embraced by people. A brand with purpose can be a true agent of change and transform the way people think, feel or act. A brand with a true Humankind purpose can change the world. Our dream is to be the best creator of those ideas that truly move people – bar none.”
I was immediately seduced by the people, impressive client roster and rooms filled with awards. It was very easy to get behind that philosophy as a young, hopeful designer, looking to change the world. We would have meetings with the creative leaders in the Leo Burnett network to showcase all the work we produced and rate everything on a scale from 1 to 10.
A 10 meant you were changing the world. Nobody ever got a 10. The standard was an 8 and anything below a 7 was considered mediocre at best. We worked hard to change the way people think and feel and we wanted to be associated with brands that did this.
It’s a lot easier to build a meaningful campaign for a brand that has a unique and clear purpose and acts as agents for positive change. It has become important, now more than ever before, to be hyper-conscious of the impact of our decisions and actions and to take seriously the platform we have as brands to push our business and industries to be better.
When I joined Waffle, I found myself in the ideal situation where I had an opportunity to combine my experience and training over the last 10 years in design, branding, advertising and strategy to help build a truly purpose-driven brand that really stands for something. I work closely with the founders, Sam, Quentin and Michael, to make sure that our purpose is clear and informs all our decisions as we grow.
Over the past year we have been working through a series of workshops, user-research and brand-building exercises that will help create the foundation of our brand values, purpose and vision. We have a lot of questions to answer:
Why does Waffle exist? What do we stand for? What value do we bring our customers? How does it change the lives of our customers? What are we trying to change? What makes us different? Where do we want to be in 10 years?
We are still working on answering these questions. Between the different perspectives and motivations of our founders, the obvious opportunities to innovate and evolve the insurance experience, understanding what customers feel and need and deciding what impact we want to have on the world and future, it’s been quite a task to find the perfect overlap.
While we work to develop our purpose, there are three things we believe will stay true to our mission. First of all, we want to reinvent the insurance experience for customers so that it is relevant and focused on their needs. It is a prerequisite to have a great user experience, we don’t consider that unique to us alone. We do believe one of the major pain points for customers is experiencing exclusions in their coverage. We want to make sure that people feel safe and secure with Waffle, no matter what happens. Secondly, we believe that it’s always better to stop something bad from happening than fixing it after the fact. Last but not least, we believe that building strong communities starts with empowering individuals. People are inextricably linked. What happens to one of us impacts us all. Communities that thrive are the ones that work together for the betterment of society at large. Insurance, in its simplest form, is a product based on a community pooling together funds so that if someone in that community is going through something challenging, they have the financial support they need to get through it.
Waffle is still in its infancy, and we have a long way to go, but going through this process now and asking all the tough questions is an integral step in making sure we start our journey in the right direction. As we develop our product and go to market in this coming year, we hope to engage all our stakeholders, build strong and loyal relationships that enable us to deliver value, grow, learn and evolve.