It pays to be bold – how investing in brand purpose creates rapid returns

We help companies build a brand and customer experience that reflects the scale and ambitions of the business and helps simplify increasing complexity as they grow. These are companies that have a logo and a ‘look’ but require a stronger sense of purpose and consistent set of activities to drive them forward. We call these “businesses that are bigger than their brands.” In this week’s blog we share a story of how creating a purpose-led brand helped such a business accelerate growth.

So many companies struggle with purpose. At its worst, ‘purpose’ is a set of words pinned to a wall or shoved in a drawer whilst work carries on regardless and the culture is toxic.  But at its best, a bold purpose provides clarity and focus that helps win and retain customers and talent.  To be truly purpose-led you need to have insight into how you positively impact the needs and wants of your customers and talent and the world in which they live. One example of a company that has developed a purpose-led approach to growth is Ceres. Ceres is a leader in the electrochemical technology sector that delivers clean energy  through its proprietary next generation solid oxide fuel cell technology.

Ceres’ story is impressive. In the four years leading to 2019, its market cap had risen more than five-fold, revenues had doubled each year and staff numbers had also increased five-fold. Its proprietary technology attracted major companies with a strategic imperative to deliver clean energy to cities, businesses, homes and vehicles.  The company was about to open a second site which would effectively double its operations. Phil Caldwell, its CEO, was convinced that at such a pivotal point in the company history, Ceres needed to articulate and align behind a clear purpose and a brand story that would reflect the ambition, industry leadership and future scale of the business. 

Ceres share price

Using our ‘4 Cs’ insight model, we helped Phil and his leadership team investigate what mattered most to Customers, how a wider Context of societal trends might affect the future, what the Company was best equipped to deliver, and where it had Competitive differentiation. 

Ceres’ purpose is genuinely world-changing.  Ceres exists to provide clean energy for a clean world – a purpose that is both motivating and directional.

Purpose drives and informs all aspects of brand building. It helps define who your target audience is and what they need. It drives how you want to be special and different (the ‘positioning’ of your brand). For Ceres, that was leading the electrochemical technology sector to enable the world’s most progressive companies deliver clean energy at scale and at speed. 

Purpose also informs the values and personality of the organization. Brand personality is critical for companies. It’s the tone of voice in communications, it’s the visual style, the sales messages, the factory environment and even the packaging. For Ceres, it informed its choice of a protectable, relevant and appealing brand identity for customers and stakeholders to find, buy and recommend. Ceres’s brand personality reflects a business with bright people who want to challenge and help change the world  – ‘personable and provocative’, as they describe it.

Ceres’s purpose meets the 6 criteria of a great purpose

Phil said, “Caffeine helped us articulate our purpose and successfully engage our leadership group and the wider business with it. The outcomes exceeded my expectations and our people are genuinely excited by the brand.”

Last year Ceres opened the new £7million fuel cell manufacturing facility in Redhill, Surrey. The launch marked the start of the ‘new’ Ceres – two sites with colleagues who may have come from different operating cultures and be in different places but who are unified by a common sense of purpose and values.  This year Ceres’ share price reached a new high. It’s a business whose leaders recognised the value of purpose and who are putting that purpose into practice with impressive results.

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