industry thoughts from Clarteza

27 April
Mag Retelewski

Why Your Brand Needs Purpose

Being a dancer has always been a passion of mine, but it was little more than an unfulfilled childhood dream until I finally decided to take up ballroom dancing – as an amateur – almost two years ago.

Now, when it comes to my professional career, I generally understand what’s required of me and what I’m capable of; I’m aware of the steps I must take to get things done and the skills I must master to ensure success.

Ballroom dancing on the other hand, has been a whole new challenge. It’s always exciting to start something new, but it can be humbling too. Here I was learning an entirely new skill – at an age when most professional dancers would be retiring – and feeling as vulnerable as a first grader. Once I started making progress though – even if it was only minor at first – I felt positively exhilarated. Beyond physically mastering the complex dance steps, I was proving to myself that I had the ability to move out of my comfort zone. And ultimately redefine myself.

Inspired as I was, I decided to set myself a new challenge: to be the best dancer I can possibly be. This meant, being willing to be evaluated, judged and scored at competitions. So, I decided “what the heck” and signed up for my first national dance competition: the illustrious and daunting Fred Astaire CCDC Dance Competition to be exact.

Call me crazy; yes, even I had moments when I thought: “Is this even me?!” – but the experience was worth every adrenaline-inducing moment. It really felt incredible to be on the path to achieving my goal. And as so often happens when we grow in one area, the lessons we’ve learned along the way impact positively on other aspects of our lives. In this case, my experience at the dance competition inspired me to think differently about the world of business and my role in it.

I make a living advising companies how to successfully manage and market their brands, by understanding the habits, preferences and needs that drive their target audiences.

Now, most companies are familiar with the mechanics of successful brand marketing. And aware they not only need to deliver on their brand promise, fulfill people’s need and create an awesome customer experience. But what separates the ordinary from the outstanding, is the fact that the latter get that true brand loyalists are loyal because their favored companies truly contribute to making a difference in the community.

They get that people are far more willing to stand by a brand if they know the brand is environmentally conscious, and makes a difference in people’s lives and ultimately in the world.

This brings me back to my dance competition … and my “ah-ha” moment …

At the post competition awards dinner one evening, there was a presentation by some teachers from the Fred Astaire organization in Texas, who work with kids from underprivileged communities.

These Fred Astaire dance teachers were truly making a difference in the kids’ lives by engaging the kids in an activity that meant something to them. But it was about more than teaching these kids the art of dance; it was about instilling a sense of self-esteem, by giving the kids a chance to excel at something they enjoyed. And which they might otherwise not have been able to afford to do without the generosity of these teachers.

The highlight was the over 40 young boys in black outfits who came onto the stage after the presentation and started dancing salsa. They really were quite amazing – so full of energy and enthusiasm – you could see their powerful performance had moved everyone deeply.

The genuine smiles on those boys’ faces spoke volumes. It was plain to see they loved dancing and performing; something I could relate to. And it made me realize that no matter your background, age, or gender, sharing a common passion is a hugely connective force.

When they finished, there was a standing ovation. Not even the professional dancers and competition participants – with their intricate and beautifully delivered routines – were cheered as loudly as these young boys. This spontaneous burst of emotion was followed by the Fred Astaire organization announcing a collection with all the donated proceeds going to that school; no penny left behind for “administrative fees”.

Clearly inspired by their performance, everyone in the room felt compelled to contribute. It was a truly heart-warming moment. And it made me feel great to be a part of an organization that cares enough to make a difference. I was grateful for the opportunity to make a difference, and this not only solidified my love for dance but for the Fred Astaire brand; surely defining me as a loyal fan.

This event was a shining example of a brand purpose. And highlighted how rewarding it is for brands to convert their customers into loyal fans. People don’t respond to what you do, but why you do it. And that’s what brand purpose is all about. If you can frame your brand’s vision in such a way that it matches your customers’ core values – in other words, get them to buy into your “why” – and if you are authentic and true to your vision and values, well that’s when the magic happens.