What is brand purpose & why does it matter?

Your brand purpose is an expression of what you deliver to the world that solves a problem or resolves a tension for your customers, or for the world. The highest value businesses with the most longevity have operationalized a core purpose to govern everything they say, make, and do. That’s what we call Brand Integrity: When what you say matches everything you do. And Brand Integrity delivers sustainable business health in today’s world where authenticity and transparency are in high demand.

What a brand purpose is and isn’t

Brand purpose is the expression of your highest possible intentions and one that solves a real, true dilemma in the world or for your customers. It’s the very reason you exist relative to the needs and ideals of the market, your customers/prospects, and the world. It must be a resonant purpose – one that enriches the lives of customers (or future customers) and employees alike.

Most importantly however, brand purpose is something that you DO, and you can prove it. It doesn’t stay as just an intention or platitude or tagline. It is NOT pretty copy about how you see the world or what your vision for the world is. It’s an action that influences all business decisions. Follow-through must be applied to every aspect of the business – the customer experience, and to every operational activity, every employee experience, and all R&D development and roadmaps.

Great expressions of brand purpose range from altruistic to commercial. Some brands articulate their purpose through ESG or CSR lenses, focusing on values such as sustainability, equity, or charity. Others define purpose in a way that focuses on the total impact they make on personal and global outcomes or benefits. Both definitions can be correct. The common ground with successful examples of purpose is that they put brands in context of peoples' values and needs.

Purposeful brands benefit from a multiplier in value provided they successfully uphold the trust of their audiences. The trade-off is this: Appearing purpose-driven without following-through creates risks of exposure for any brand that relies on community-building and cause-related tactics.

Putting brand purpose into action

A company that is deeply grounded in its brand purpose and is an example of Brand Integrity is Patagonia. In every aspect of its business, Patagonia is seeking to protect the environment and combat climate change. From its core Values and activism to supply chain and investments, Patagonia has declared that “Earth is now our only shareholder.” As much as the company touts its active and dedicated role in protecting the environment, it acknowledges where it falls short of its own aspirational goals. Walking the talk builds trust among its employees, customers, and investors and a shared vision for what the company and the world could be.

Pushing brand purpose beyond the company

As Patagonia demonstrates, a brand purpose must be inspirational. And not just to your target audience with whom it should deeply resonate, but more broadly. Because elevating to a higher role in culture, and one that connects to your uniqueness as a brand and the ideals of your customer, ensures affinity in a way that is essential, meaningful, and trust-building. This is how you build a long-term, thriving business.

Putting brand purpose to work for your employees

Brands that consistently put their brand purpose into action help employees understand company goals and deliver on them. From hiring and on boarding, through training and promoting, employees should be provided with a clear articulation of a brand’s purpose. Ensuring that your team is built with individuals that share the same values and work toward the same goals is critical in employee retention and a successful business.

Additionally, brand purpose should inform key business strategy trade-offs such as prioritization of product roadmaps, how financial trade-offs are navigated, and what is promoted and incentivized in the culture.

The power of purpose

A brand purpose acts as a north star for all aspects of a business. It’s a guiding principle that contributes to big and small business decisions, actions, and experiences. When brand purpose is brought to life consistently across every touchpoint, inside and outside a business, a brand delivers on Brand Integrity and creates a multiplier in brand and financial value.

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