Branding: It’s Time to Get Purposeful

Suspension bridge in the forest

“The human story as it’s unfolding now is a bit of a cliff-hanger. Automation, digitalization and ongoing economic and political volatility are inspiring a great searching of the corporate soul. A new idea – and ideal – of successful business in the 21st century is emerging: purposeful business.”
Valerie Keller, EY Beacon Institute Global Leader

How companies run their business today is continually, and often dramatically, changing. For instance, almost all companies now have corporate responsibility or environmental sustainability practices that they embrace and post on their websites.

Now, there is a new, and perhaps even more important practice, and it’s all about purpose and becoming a purpose-driven business. Often the fuel behind mission and vision statements, purpose fills the role of defining the critical “whys” for a company: why it exists, why people work there, and why customers buy from it.

The broad-reaching impact of purpose

I’ve researched and written about purpose-driven companies quite a bit recently. What I’ve discovered is that all purpose-driven companies have an underlying goal of making our world a better place – and when they successfully achieve this, it shows up in happier employees, satisfied and loyal customers, and greater profits.

EY, a global professional services organization, defines purpose in its recent “How can purpose reveal a path through disruption?” report. It notes that there is a group of best-in-class purposeful companies that define this practice as “…a human-centered, socially engaged conception of purpose that seeks to create greater value…”

What can a company achieve when it is purposeful? For the above-mentioned report, EY surveyed global business leaders who shared their opinions on the link between purpose and value.

    • 52% said purpose builds greater customer loyalty
    • 51% believed it preserves brand value and reputation
    • 42% saw it as helping to attract and retain top talent
    • 40% found purpose as core to the development of innovative new services or products

“People don’t care what you do. They care why you do it.” Simon Sinek, Author and Visionary Thinker

What does it take to become a purposeful brand?

The EY report shares recommended actions for companies that want to turn purpose rhetoric into reality. In EY’s list of actions, there were three in particular that I believe are key to branding:

    • Be ambitious and inspiring, yet grounded in the reality of what you can deliver.
    • Convey your purpose in terms of the long-term value created for the people you serve.
    • Focus on where it matters most – at the commercial front line.

As a writer, I have to say that each of these is a quality that I would like all of my work to achieve. Yet, I can be even more successful when clients share with me how they would like to see their brand purpose conveyed. For instance, one of my clients has a set of guidelines for style and tone of voice, with specific objectives about how to drive its purpose through words. This is an essential guideline for not only writers, but for all of marketing, so that we uniformly keep the company’s purpose at the forefront of our communications.

For another take on this, I took a pulse on what chief marketing officers might have to say on purpose and branding. In a recent article on, Syl Saller, the chief marketing and innovation officer of Diageo a global beverage alcohol company, shared her insights on how purpose drives great creative work and value.

When discussing purpose, Ms. Saller noted brands can contribute more to society than just their functional benefits, and that the networked consumer knows and cares about what her company says and does. She also noted that “…starting from people’s needs and a brand’s higher purpose leads to better, more powerful, creative work which moves people.”

Saller and her Diageo colleague Mark Sandys also shared this list of questions that can help companies build a stronger brand purpose.

    Clarity – Why does this brand exist?
    Credibility – Do we have a right to play in the space?
    Courage – Do we have the courage to try, and the courage to fail?
    Collaborating – Can we work with people who are passionate about the same purpose?
    Consistent – Can there be balance between becoming famous for a purpose which is also fitting the cultural context so that we remain relevant?
    Commitment – Do we have the investment and resolve to commit?

You might ask yourself if your company has a strong purpose that your customers and employees clearly understand. If not, use these questions – and EY’s recommendations – to build your purpose into a cornerstone for everything your company does, from your brand on up!


Further Reading:

Brand Guidelines Help Protect Your Most Valuable Asset


How Can Purpose Reveal A Path Through Disruption?

How Great Leaders Inspire Action


By Nancy Langmeyer, ETMG Writer
Nancy is a freelance writer and marketing consultant who has the remarkable gift of turning technological concepts into marketing copy that is informative and easy to understand. She writes everything under the umbrella of marketing communications, from white papers and collateral to infographics and blogs, for some of the largest technology companies in the world. Blogs are a favorite, especially when Nancy gets to interview corporate executives and turn their insights into thought leadership pieces under their bylines. If you ever meet her at a cocktail party, don’t ask her what she’s writing about – first of all, she’s probably under a non-disclosure, but secondly, she can write high tech fluently, but not speak it.