Return On Inspiration: The Better ROI


You’ve started with a product and now you’re trying to attract investors, draw an audience, and most importantly, build a brand. But brands today aren’t about products; they’re about stories. They reflect our personal worlds. They become extensions of our identities and markers of where we belong and what we stand for. And like all great stories, the brands that strike deepest — and stick around longest — are the ones that are crafted to inspire.

Apple isn’t selling computers and smartphones; they’re inspiring simplicity and creative freedom. Adidas isn’t pushing athletic gear and apparel; they’re inspiring style, comfort, and competition.

Brands that inspire spark consumers to aspire — inviting them to invest not just in a product, but in a quality. A way of life. A story they can become part of. So when considering what story your brand should tell, consider the validations of an inspirational approach.

Innovation is the root of all inspiration.

When your brand stands for more than a product and quarterly sales, but on an ethos consumers can connect with — those ‘consumers’ become supporters you’ll learn and grow from. And when you’re solving their problems and sharing their goals and values, they become investors in your success.

Take cosmetics brand Nubian Heritage, which started making beauty products drawn from traditional African remedies in Harlem circa 1992. Their passion for sharing their black soap and shea butter products — and the cultures they came from — resonated strongly with their supporters, who in-turn demanded and inspired more (and more diverse) products.

When inspiration is the underpinning force of what you do, you can devote time and resources to innovative new approaches and a more meaningful dialogue with your audience. Let them see how your story is their story — and your brand will become theirs, too.

Inspiration attracts and retains better talent.

Top talent is notoriously difficult to find and keep, particularly in a brand’s early stages when top salaries are harder to compete with. But inspiration is more than a tool for connecting with consumers; it often draws the best and brightest in search of work they believe in.

3M is a 115-year-old manufacturing company, but it recently rocketed to the top of the most sought-after workplaces for Millennials. Best-known for its adhesive products — like Scotch tape and Post-its — 3M shifted its brand strategy with an ‘Applied to Life’ campaign in 2015, creating short videos that showcased the positive and widespread impact those products make around the world. Now when 3M appears at tech conferences and college campuses, they’re hugely popular with STEM workers wanting to use their science skills to affect change.

When your purpose is more important than your bottom line, you inspire and attract employees who measure their own worth beyond the dollar signs — and who’ll stick around as you grow together.

Inspiration is investor friendly.

Brands that inspire consumers and employees alike make for more than a ‘feel-good’ narrative, they make for a strong ‘company culture’ and ‘stock price.’

A few years back, the beloved micro-blogging platform Tumblr was bought for a massive $1.1 billion, in part because it had amassed 550 million monthly users and 130 billion monthly posts, but mostly for having inspired a generation of creative meme-ers that generate consistent revenue. Similarly, Snapchat was recently valued at $25 billion after inspiring millions of amateurs to become storytellers and self-publicists — making the platform utterly indispensable in turn.

A brand that inspires doesn’t have ‘users’ — it has fans. Fans who become ambassadors for that brand, spreading the word and recruiting other fans. That’s what today’s investors are looking for: an inspired and self-perpetuating consumer base that generates loyalty and longevity.

Inspiration creates brands with legacies.

The more information today’s consumer has on a brand, the more he/she has a choice between that brand and others — which has led to a force in today’s marketplace known as ‘Conscious Capitalism.’

Founder and former C.E.O. of Whole Foods, John Mackey, didn’t grow a company with nearly 500 stores and 87,000 employees with better-tasting or definitively higher-quality products. He branded his company as one that is ‘ethical’ across all of its supply chains, inspiring a generation of eaters to reconsider how they eat.

TOMS doesn’t make the most comfortable, fashionable, or longest-lasting shoes. It was its ‘Buy One, Donate One’ model that inspired word-of-mouth growth and earned them $300 million in sales in its first 6 years. (They even doubled-down on that ethos later, after reports of aggressive sales targets started spreading.)

As we’ve suggested throughout, it’s the why — the story — the inspiration behind a brand that draws consumer trust, employee retention, and market growth. And it’s a bottomless well. Continuing to invest in inspiration over time is like reinvesting dividends back into a company you believe in, which in turn draws more and more investment (and $).

Take a look at your favorite brands and you’ll likely find something in common across all of them. They’re not your favorites for the things they sell, they’re your favorite for the things they stand for — and what that means to you and the world you want to live in.

That’s inspiration. It can apply to virtually any good or service you can imagine. But invest now and its value might just surpass the imaginable.

  • Subscribe to RSS feed
  • Like Us

  • Tweeter
  • Contact Us