How to build a mission-driven brand

A mission-driven brand can resonate with customers and bring its employees along for the journey of its success

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In the ever-evolving world of startups, a remarkable shift is taking place. Gone are the days of solely focusing on the “what” – now, it’s all about the “why.” Welcome to the era of mission-driven brands, where purpose runs through their veins.

Building a successful startup is no longer just about offering an incredible product or service; it’s about embodying a cause, making a difference in the world.

This pivotal shift isn’t a passing trend. It’s a call to action for startups everywhere. It beckons them to weave their purpose into their business strategy, resonating with consumers who yearn for something more significant than a mere product.

This transformative move can mean the difference between fading into obscurity and becoming a trailblazing business that drives true change.

Consider my journey with Zero Gravity. Armed with the final £200 of my student loan, I founded Zero Gravity from the confines of my childhood bedroom. Though resources were scarce, our mission was crystal clear. Talent is spread evenly, but opportunity is not – and we exist to change that.

Today, Zero Gravity has grown from a bedroom startup to powering 8,000 students from low-opportunity backgrounds into leading universities. We’ve attracted prestigious clients such as HSBC, KPMG, and Morgan Stanley, won three European brand awards, and raised £4m from social impact investors.

So, what’s the secret to building a mission-driven brand when starting out? Here are my top tips for making your brand much more than a mere visual gimmick.

Your brand is not your logo

When launching a startup, many founders fall into the trap of equating their brand solely with visual elements like logos, colours, fonts, and imagery. However, a brand goes far beyond visual identity – it’s fundamentally about the emotional connection people have with your product.

Before diving into visual representation, start by crafting your brand story. Envision your brand as a person – not their appearance, but their character. What they stand for, their belief system, how they communicate, and what drives them.

In the startup world, this means clearly articulating your brand’s mission, company values, core beliefs, attitude, and tone of voice. Only once this foundation is established can you explore how to visually convey this story through your brand’s imagery.

Your mission is your north star

To kickstart your brand story, the first step is to draft a compelling mission statement for your startup. This statement should encapsulate the core purpose driving your brand, the reason that ignites your passion to get out of bed in the morning.

A remarkable mission statement is concise, clear, free from jargon, and, most importantly, emotionally resonant. It should cut to the heart of why your company exists and why its existence matters to the world.

If you find yourself struggling, approach your startup’s mission through the lens of “why-how-what.” Why do you do what you do? How do you do it? And what does that look like in action?

Cultivate your brand’s worldview

A brand, like a person, possesses a set of core values and beliefs about the way the world works. When developing a mission-driven brand, these values and beliefs should align with and reinforce your mission.

Your values should champion behaviours that distinguish your brand from others, steering clear of generic concepts like “collaboration,” “integrity,” or “compassion”. Instead, opt for values that genuinely define your unique identity. If your values resonate with everyone, you haven’t discovered what truly sets you apart.

The same principle applies to your core beliefs. They should shed light on why you perceive the world differently from your competitors. What do you know that they don’t?

Build a team in your brand’s image

While you may begin your entrepreneurial journey alone, as you grow and scale, building a team becomes imperative.

Having a compelling mission behind your company makes it easier to attract exceptional talent. It enables them to understand the meaning behind their work and embark on a journey that extends beyond the present, anchored in a clear purpose.

When hiring, consider not only whether a candidate can fulfil the job requirements but also whether they can embody and champion your brand. At Zero Gravity, our team’s unwavering commitment to our mission and adherence to our values has been the key to our success. A mission-driven brand establishes a solid foundation for a unified organisational culture, empowering team members to keep the faith when the going gets tough.

Keep your story alive

Once your brand story is set, it’s crucial to develop a visual identity that brings that story to life in a memorable way. This is where designing a logo finally comes in!

However, building a visual identity is only the beginning of your journey. To establish a mission-driven brand, you must continually share your story through all channels. Whether on your business website, social media, press features, or in meetings with investors, your narrative must resonate consistently.

This ensures that your brand isn’t merely built, but also firmly established in the hearts and minds of your audience.

By embracing purpose, startups can transcend the noise of the business world, forging lasting connections with consumers who seek meaning beyond the superficial. Remember, a mission-driven brand isn’t just a label; it’s a force that propels your startup forward, leaving an indelible mark on the world. It’s your competitive advantage.

Small headshot of Joe Seddon founder of Zero Gravity
Joe Seddon, founder and CEO of Zero Gravity

Joe Seddon is the founder & CEO of Zero Gravity, a mission-driven startup that powers talented students from low-opportunity backgrounds into top universities and careers. Joe is one of Europe’s leading social entrepreneurs, having been recognised in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, named Leader of the Year at Natwest’s SE100 Awards, and honoured in the King’s 2023 Birthday Honours List.

Zero Gravity
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