Brand purpose has always existed and been a part of brands, but lately, instead of being hidden within the company’s walls or the founder’s head, brands are leading with it. And for good reason—with the research to back it up. Not only do your customers, your associates, and the public at large, want to know what you do, they want to know why you do it.

If you are responsible for telling your brand story, you need to be able to communicate your why with authenticity and without hesitation. If leadership doesn’t tell the story and then demonstrate by example, and live it, followers won’t either.

Not every brand is going to save the world, cure cancer, or deliver clean water to third world countries. Brands shouldn’t attempt to connect to causes that aren’t part of and reflective of their true purpose—everyone from consumers to employees will see through that. But in its own way, its purpose should be to make life better. That’s their unique “why.”

Brand Purpose Is Smart Business

Countless market studies show that brands that know and understand their purpose perform better overall. We’ll start here: Brands that have a high positive impact on people’s lives have grown in brand value 2.5 times more than those perceived to have a low positive impact (175% vs. 70%) according to the Kantar Purpose 2020 report. Another study found that companies outperforming the market were better able to infuse purpose into everything they do (80% vs. just 32%).

A 2015 study by Harvard Business Review and Ernst and Young showed that companies with a strong sense of purpose are able to transform and innovate better, as well as improve employee satisfaction. “Purpose is about galvanizing and driving people forward. What we found is that overall if people have a greater sense of purpose, profit will follow.” And it impacts two groups that should be very important to you: your customers and employees.

The Customers

More research from Kantar Consulting shows that 61% of millennials have a clear preference for brands that stand for something. Importantly, 80% of all consumers believe that companies can improve the social and economic conditions of the communities where they operate. What that means is that you can’t create your product and pollute the environment wantonly. You can’t squander resources for speed and profits. You’re expected to be visible and involved in your community and to treat your employees as more than cogs and costs to be traded.

The Employees

Just like sports, it takes talent to stay in front. More and more, talent is choosing to use their talent for good. In fact, an overwhelming 90% of millennials say using their skills for good is important. The benefits are twofold. The company gets the best talent, and talent that is more engaged. As Elon Musk said, “Putting in long hours for a corporation is hard. Putting in long hours for a cause is easy.”

How to Find Your Why

It’s there. We believe that. It might not have been articulated because it wasn’t something companies often did before. But before you jumped into the 4Ps of marketing, there was an idea, a need, and way to fill it. If you don’t know it, or even if you do, here are three places to look to find or reestablish your purpose.

Your History

If you’re not the founder of the company, dig into the archives and see what led to the direction of the company. What was the ultimate problem they were solving? For many, the idea starts as “this should exist” and the “why” it will make lives better is the purpose.

For example, Subaru has a long history as the vehicle arm of Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. If you look at their timeline you’ll see manufacturing innovation, land speed records, model releases and other milestones. But that’s not why they exist and you won’t see it in their marketing. Right next to their corporate history, you’ll see Safety and how the company worked to develop safe and stable automobiles for any condition, protecting occupants of the car that the owner loves. This leads naturally and authentically to today’s lines like Love, It’s What Makes a Subaru a Subaru, campaigns like the Love Promise, and being named Most Trusted Brand by Kelley Blue Book four years in a row.

Your Customers

These people choose to do business with you because, in all likelihood, you have competition. Discover what fuels their decision. Their answer to “why” they do business with you could shed insight into your “why” as well. And the answer may surprise you.

Your Employees

Similarly, employees on the front line have a solid understanding of the interactions that make your brand what it is. Why the customers chose you. And, as importantly, why they work there. It is a great exercise to connect with employees and see if leadership is accurately communicating their defining purpose, and not just touting the end results or side distractions of it.

Brand Purpose Isn’t the End, It’s the Beginning

At Wilson Advertising we believe that every brand can live forever, and we believe that every brand has a purpose; that’s where their Position and Offer set their roots. Because it is something that is authentic, inherent and personal to the brand, it’s not something that should be subjected to a contest to decide the Best Use of Brand Purpose. Sorry World Advertising Research Center. That’s not what brand purpose is for and why consumers continue to distrust many businesses and marketing. You have a purpose, and as a marketer, it is your responsibility to tell and reveal that part of your story. Discover your ultimate why and let it guide everything you do.


To discover the steps successful brands use to discover renewed brand growth, download the Five Gates of Branding.
Five Gates of Branding

To see case studies in the power of brands, download the Power of Great Brands.
The Power of Great Brands

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