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5 steps to grow your brand without paid media

One of the biggest misconceptions I hear about marketing is that it boils down to paid media. Start-ups are therefore often reluctant to invest in marketing at the beginning, thinking it will come later, once they have a viable product, a loyal following or a big investor to back them.

But behind all the short-term growth tactics that marketing is now known for, lies a much deeper science: that of building a brand that creates a deep connection with the communities that it serves. Connections so meaningful that they grow the brand for you, without any need for paid media.

Some brands just seem to have the magic formula to achieving this whilst others struggle to break through, competing with the old hustle rules of the game. There are examples of brands who have grown without any paid media, such as Tony’s Chocolonely.  Others, such as Patagonia, have invested very little, and even then it is only to communicate on issues that relate to their brand purpose.

Let’s try to break down this magic formula to get your brand to not only grow but to serve the long-term well-being of all people and planet.

  1. It all starts with your purpose, your why

The first step is getting really clear for yourself on why your brand exists. This is what we call your brand purpose.

You can talk about your amazing product benefits or your breakthrough technology until you are blue in the face, but the real difference comes through your purpose. And that’s because it is scientifically proven that behavior and decision-making happen through the limbic brain, the part of the brain that is responsible for feelings and emotions. Talking about your purpose is what will create that emotional connection with your clients or your investors.

Start by asking yourself why you have created your product or technology, beyond the potential financial gain. Really dig below the surface to the underlying motivation. A few questions you can start by asking yourself are:

  • What frustrates you about the industry you are in today and what are you looking to change?
  • What will the world look like once you have made the impact you are looking to make?
  • What is it that you can uniquely bring that others can’t?

The watch-out here is to not get overwhelmed with trying to solve all the world’s problems. You should have a purpose that is big and bold so that it can make a difference but is also focused enough so that you are clear on what your brand is a stand for and what it is not.

Tip: Get really clear on your brand purpose and positioning, and create a brand story that brings that purpose to life.

  1. Shift your mindset from selling to serving

This may seem like semantics but it is a key mindset shift to make. In the world of purpose and impact, we are not selling. Selling is linked to the hustle culture in which we push, push, push to grow, grow, grow. Leading to never ending consumption.

What we are doing is serving. Serving communities, serving society by making a positive difference. This can be in terms of sustainability and environmental impact, but it can also be in terms of social impact and well-being. A good source of inspiration to think through how you want to serve are the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Again, stay focused here. Aim to make a unique contribution to one of those goals.

Tip: If you are serving, you no longer need to follow the old rules of the game. You simply need to offer to serve those who believe in your purpose in a way that is authentic.

  1. Find those who believe what you believe

Traditional marketing has you target an audience which is identifiable through demographics and lifestyle choices. But what really matters is finding those who believe what you believe. And this starts with your partners, your suppliers and your investors before even thinking about your clients. Ask yourself:

  • Who believes the same as you do?
  • Who does your brand purpose serve?

Finding those who believe what you believe is the difference between working to live and working with passion and purpose. And the same goes for your clients. Those who believe what you believe will love you and talk about you. That’s what drives loyalty and word-of-mouth.

Marketing for purpose is therefore not about appealing to the masses, but about connecting with those who believe what you believe. It may be counterintuitive, but the more niche you are to start, the easier it will be to grow in the long run.

Tip: Consistency and persistency are key to finding that niche as they lead to trust. Keep showing up, consistently and authentically. Those who share your purpose will find you and learn to trust you.

  1. Enable your clients to have the impact they are looking to make in the world

Marketing for purpose is no longer about shouting above the crowd and showing off your amazing product benefits. It is about creating connection and belonging by enabling your clients to contribute to your brand’s purpose.

Make your clients the hero of the story, help them to get engaged and make an impact themselves. Get them to contribute to your purpose so that they are making a difference in the world. This will drive real connection, commitment, and a sense of belonging to something bigger than the brand itself. This is how you build a love brand. And if they love you, they will talk about you, and that’s how you grow.

Tip: Ensure that your clients can contribute to your purpose in some way so that the brand is enabling them to make an impact in the world.

  1. Embrace collaboration over competition to scale your impact

We are so used to competing that we forget that working together can make us stronger. This means that if another brand is working towards the same higher purpose as you, they are your friend, not your competitor.

Connect with other brands or partners who share your values and beliefs. There are more and more industry collations that are emerging, movements such as B Corp and brands that are enabling their competitors to follow in their footsteps to make a bigger impact. Patagonia has opened its carbon-neutral factories to smaller brands who cannot afford to create their own. Tony’s Chocolonely’s has opened its supply chains to all players in the cocoa industry. Many B Corp beauty brands have come together to create the B Lab Beauty Coalition to tackle some of the industry’s biggest challenges together. Brands such as Mars and Weleda are training their suppliers to help them to on their own journeys to making a positive impact in the world.

The purpose-led brands that are truly breaking through and transforming the world are those who have let go of the notion of competition and instead focus on finding their allies and to grow their impact together.

Tip: It is through the right, authentic partnerships that you will be able to truly scale your impact.


Building and marketing a purpose-led brand requires stepping away from the traditional “hustle” rules of marketing which are about pushing and selling.

Purpose-led brands must shift from:

  1. Communicating their product benefits to connecting through their brand purpose.
  2. Selling to the masses to serving communities.
  3. Targeting everyone who needs their products to finding those who believe what they believe.
  4. Making the story all about the brand to enabling their clients to make an impact in the world.
  5. Competing to win to collaborating with allies to grow their impact.
The butterfly movements - illustrative picture

Whenever you are ready to take your brand to the next level, here are three ways I can support you.

  1. Sign up to The Butterfly Movements free community and get your copy of our purpose guide.

Join other purpose-led founders and pioneers and get weekly inspiration, access to articles, videos shorts and masterclasses as well as a free guide to help you nail your brand purpose:

  1. Work with me in a 2h breakthrough strategy session.

Together, we will define the key strategies that will make the biggest difference to grow your brand. You will receive an introductory questionnaire and leave with actionable next steps to drive immediate impact.

Find out more:

  1. Break through to your brand’s next level of impact by working with me as your in-house expert. 

Choose one of our packages to scale your brand’s impact:

  • Brand positioning package: articulate your brand purpose and develop your brand positioning to set it apart from the competition.
  • Brand story package: express your unique brand story to rally the right clients and investors.
  • Marketing strategy package: define your ideal clients, brand offering, marketing and content strategy to grow your brand’s reach and impact.

Find out more:

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