Understanding brand goodness and why it matters

When we hear the word “Brand” we might think of the name, visual identity, look and feel of a company we know. For our purposes, let’s define the term “Brand” as the purpose and perceptions you own in the minds of your market, not ornamentation or copy. When we think of brand in this way, it becomes a business value multiplier, and the way companies manage their businesses to be enduring long-term. 


When we hear the word “Goodness” our minds might drift to thoughts of altruism, predetermined wholesomeness or morality, or perhaps if it’s lunchtime we think of something really tasty. 


What happens when we combine those words? ‘Brand Goodness’ takes on an entirely new meaning than the individual words carry on their own. 


Where Brand, Positive Impact and Creating Meaning Collide

In today’s world, customers and society at large expect more from businesses. From social campaigns and culturally diverse representation to environmental impact and sustainability practices, businesses are challenged to operate in a way that has integrity with their values and the ethos they are trying to project to customers, prospects, and even investors. This is just the modern-day requirement for a company to live its values - or else get caught and pay the price in lost loyalty, share price, and public trust. This is just being “good” by today’s market standards.


Yet you can be a “good” company, but you still have to have a relevant and differentiated meaning to your customers. The practice of operating in a way that is demonstrative and aligned with your company’s values must go hand-in-hand with a company also solving a real problem, or resolving real tension in the lives of its customers – that’s where Brand Goodness comes in.


Brand Goodness is a company’s ability to solve two tensions in the world that your customer or society at large could not resolve on their own or with another brand. For example, customers may have a tension around the cleanliness of their home: they want their home to be hygienic and deeply clean, but they also want the products they use to not add to toxic run-off. Method cleaner brand recognized this tension, and created a brand and suite of products to solve it. While the positive impact of non-toxic cleaning products is self-evident, there wasn’t a real market opportunity until that general “good” value was tied to a customer tension: “yeah, save the earth, but I need my house to be truly germ-free, too.”


Why Does Brand Goodness Matter? 

Because strong values around social justice, climate justice, climate health and sustainability, and human decency and respect are something every company should drive into their operations. Yet, for you to be a market force you must marry that goodness with needs and tensions in your customer’s lives. Sometimes, those values and the tension you’re resolving are very tightly intertwined, like they are for the Honest company or for Tesla. Other times, they are less linked - for example, Wal-Mart driving sustainability practices throughout its supply chain and operations resulted in $2B addition to their bottom line, which ultimately helps them doubledown on their commitment to “Lowest Prices, Always” to their customer, with the added benefit of those prices coming without the typical side of guilt. 

Ensuring you are operating from a place of integrity and values is critical to avoiding being called out; ensuring you are resolving a real problem or tension in the lives of your customers is critical to multiplying your value in the lives of your customers. Tying the two together can bring greater market sustainability to your company, and a stickiness any brand would be envious of. But both remain deeply important to your long-term relevance.

At Northbound, we believe the ultimate driver of shareholder value is stakeholder relevance. That relevance comes from Brand Goodness. Companies must live their values, and brands need to be grounded in a clear reason for being, resolving pain points in our shared experience as human beings. We believe that if a brand is true to its purpose, employees gain a north star for decision making and customers are drawn to an answer that clearly resolves a tension in their world, allowing the purpose to stretch beyond a simple marketing tool to become an authentic force for good.

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