In branding literature, the ideal is also sometimes referred to as the why or the purpose of a brand. All the components of the brand story must be aligned with the ideal, and build up to it too. Airbnb’s aspirational tagline “belong anywhere”, is a good example of how uplifting a brand ideal can be. Even though the ideal appears simple, the broadness of the statement allows the reader to derive whichever meaning fits them best, whether that’s: “if you stay at an Airbnb, you will feel like a local”, “the Airbnb community is where you belong” or even “if you don’t want to feel like a tourist, use Airbnb”.
“Your brand ideal cannot be: sell products, make money, close the company and retire.”
Keep in mind that…
Beyond its immediate relevance to your activity, a good ideal should be both aspirational and never-ending. As a brand, your ideal cannot be “sell products, make money, close the company and retire.” Every organisation has an impact on its stakeholders. A brand owner must understand that impact and use it to build an ideal that promotes a positive societal outcome. The ideal of the New York Times Company, for instance, goes beyond providing news coverage to its subscribers by promising to “seek the truth and help people understand the world.”
A good brand story doesn’t have an ending. In a perfect world, the brand keeps growing and growing, constantly innovating to improve itself and its products and stay relevant to new generations of customers. A good brand ideal can help drive this ambition by setting a target that is either very hard or downright impossible to reach. For example, the American Cancer Association ideal is to create “a world without cancer.” Though that goal may be impossible to reach, the underlying objective of “a world where no one dies of cancer” may not be, which helps galvanise support among members, and drive donations for research.
Brand Storytelling Handbook
Though an ideal is hard-to-reach by design, it should still be realistic. There should be no dissonance between your ideal and your actions as a brand. If a brand’s ideal is to “sell products that bring joy” but their products are being manufactured by children in coal-powered sweatshops, the brand is going to have a problem. Additionally, it’s best to avoid generic or overly broad ideals like “make the world a better place.” Not only will you not stand out, but your consumers will (rightly) question your actual commitment, not to mention the link with your products or services.
More broadly, the cacophony of terms relating to a brand’s purpose, mission or ideal can be confusing even for hardened marketing professionals. All experts, as well as most agencies, have their own home- brewed definition of what these terms mean, us included. A mission statement, for example, should relate to something that can be achieved on a regular basis (no one wants to fail a mission), whereas an ideal should be an aspiration that you can build towards but never quite reach. This is why it is so important for brands to have a clear definition for the terms they use. The idea is to minimise confusion and ensure internal alignment.
Questions to ask yourself
- What positive impact can your brand have on its stakeholders? On society at large?
- Is your ideal in line with your activity? Are you living up to your own ideal?
- Is your brand ideal aspirational enough and (nearly) impossible to reach?
- Is your ideal clearly conveyed both internally and to your audience?
- Does your ideal flow naturally from your context and trigger?