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3 top ways that businesses can use purpose to drive innovation
February 17, 2022
Innovation is critical for business growth. Companies have to innovate to remain competitive in a world where start-ups are increasingly eating their lunch with seeming ease. In the first half of last year, new businesses were registered at the staggering rate of nearly 80 per hour in the UK, according to Companies House – the really successful ones creating solutions to problems that established players had completely missed.
While most companies are aware of the need to innovate, many struggle to find clear pathways to success. Taking a broader perspective that goes beyond existing products to focus on the critical needs of the world can shine a light on the right pathway. This is fundamentally about having a purpose.
By helping to solve problems faced by people and planet, companies not only find opportunities for growth, but can also develop a culture that breeds new and more meaningful output. For businesses that get purpose right, it can be as powerful a weapon for innovation as it is in marketing.
And to be clear, purpose is a mechanism for driving profit - purposeful businesses outperform the stock market by 133%, according to Deloitte. And 63.4% of business leaders think that having a purpose helps them to be more innovative (EIU). Purpose is never going to be a panacea, but it is an underused lever in innovation, enabling businesses to change their standpoint to one of bigger impact outside of their familiar world.
For companies looking to use purpose to boost innovation, Revolt advises three key areas of focus:
1.) Assess market opportunity through a purposeful lens
Assessing market opportunity through a purposeful lens is a compelling companion to capability analysis and interrogation of market data. There is real lasting impact to be made in solving the world’s most critical problems, and crucially you will also find the biggest commercial gains.
With a purposeful lens, you can identify long term trends that throw the spotlight on real problem solving, not just what happens to be in the zeitgeist. For example, while a pet care brand might feel the pressure to embrace the trend for natural ingredients, a purposeful lens could provide a disruptive solution to the high carbon footprint of domestic dogs, unlocking a new audience of pet owners.
Using a purposeful lens also helps companies to better understand their environments so they think and act differently. A vitamin brand that believes in equality will predominantly look first at the issues of inequality in healthcare, rather than reacting to the trend of people eating more gummy vitamin formats.
And a purposeful lens is an effective way to identify new and distinctive white spaces, by stepping back and looking at the bigger picture concerns of your audience and where they overlap with your brand and product offer. It can also help shape distinctiveness within a white space.
2.) Consider how purpose can be used to innovate through your business model
The way you do business can be as impactful as what you sell to savvy consumers these days, leading to competitive outcomes. In recent years, we’ve seen a raft of direct-to-consumer (DTC) start-ups, shunning traditional business models and grabbing market share online. Many established businesses are also now looking to emulate the early growth success of these disruptive start-ups. But the DTC playbook is tiring and markets are becoming saturated with like-for-like “blands” with increasingly samey founder stories.
Purpose within your business model can provide standout here. For example, Revolt's client Reel, a subscription paper brand, is not only sustainable but also actively supporting a sanitation ecosystem for people in developing countries without access to sanitation. While a multitude of DTC toilet paper brands have launched recently, Reel has become the fastest growing brand in the category on both Amazon and Target.
3.) Build a purposeful community around you
Whether it’s a movement of passionate advocates and influencers who are fighting for the same cause, or people and organizations who bring focus and credibility to your impact, building a purposeful community around you is key.
Purpose can be a great vehicle for community building and content development. There’s a wonderful intersection between content, community and commerce, and purpose fuels this. For health food brand The Gut Stuff, Revolt built a brand around a conversation and a social movement around empowering and democratizing gut health. And we did this without any product. The community following came from a clear purpose and a sparked interest in the role of gut health in their lives. When The Gut Stuff introduced the product, the audience was already there. Beliefs and cause were aligned, making buying the product a natural fit and fix, as it delivers on the purpose they believe in.
Used effectively, purpose can be a key tool for guiding and unlocking the untapped potential of innovation. But it does require real commitment and bravery. Purpose should create a culture that supports and fuels innovation, with all areas of the organization working to a common belief and goals.
Businesses that embrace purpose as a lever to drive innovation should see it as a long-term strategy not a short-term fix. It means staying focused on your belief, but being agile enough to adapt and learn from your failures. And all the while being honest with your audience.
Purpose is not a magic pill for business success, but used properly it can be a very effective tool for unlocking innovation. It can help to make innovation truly distinctive. And it can be used to land innovation with a passionate and receptive audience.
By Jenny Bust, Innovation Lead and Jenny Double, Strategy Director & Innovation Lead, Revolt
Revolt's Innovation Studio is working with the likes of Reckitt's Access, Mars' Launchpad and Green Park Brands to develop new purpose-led commercial breakthroughs.