Harness Purpose to Build a Stronger Brand

Human beings have a fundamental need for purpose—and brands that can tie into that need and harness it, benefit from a more motivated and loyal workforce and passionate customer base than brands that do not.


The Power of Purpose

A sense of purpose provides us with well-being stemming from feeling a sense of worth, of belonging, of achieving and contributing to something more than ourselves. In fact, without it, we may well experience negative thoughts and feelings including boredom, aimlessness, loneliness and even depression. We all know of “career-is-everything” individuals who are miserable in retirement. Or have heard stories of purpose-driven people who survive catastrophes and disasters through that extra motivation to finish/achieve their purpose.

Beyond survival and personal gain, people need to feel a part of something bigger. Whether that involves protecting the environment, saving animals, or helping fellow human beings in some way will naturally vary by individual, but all save narcissists feel good when they do good and serve a broader purpose than themselves.

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This need for purpose is a powerful force for brands to tap into. Of course, most brands and companies are charged with creating economic value, and that won’t change anytime soon. But there is no reason why, beyond growth and profit, a brand can’t also have a deeper purpose that employees, partners and customers can share in and be motivated by. Purpose and profit, far from being mutually exclusive, are happy bedfellows.


Brands With Purpose

Consider how Dove is motivated to expand the definition of beauty to be broader and more inclusive than the narrow historical stereotype excluding all but the genetic lottery winners. Or how Nike considers everyone to be an athlete worth helping achieve their personal best. Or how REI supports working together to create a better world for all.

Purposeful brands activate relationships with their stakeholders at deeper levels and act as public champions and lodestones for their chosen purpose. They ask (and, more important, they answer) questions like, “Why do we exist?” and “What are we doing to make the world a better place?”.

Of course, purpose-led brands must truly be that and not just pretend at it. In today’s environment, authenticity and transparency are essential for brands because they are essential to today’s customers. Woe to brands who attempt to “purpose wash” themselves to greater success. Not only will customers spend their money elsewhere, but retribution on social media will likely be harsh and damaging.

A study by Havas indicates that people don’t care if three-quarters of the brands in the world disappeared! I seriously doubt many purpose-led brands would be included in that list of brands that could disappear without consequence.

What kind of brand do you want to own and/or represent? If you’re building a new brand, or looking to imbue your existing brand with the power of purpose, you are well on the way to building what we at Six Degrees call a “power brand”. Power to you.

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Frank Schab
An experienced marketing and branding strategist, Frank has been helping clients optimize the value of their brands through insightful analysis and effective strategy for more than three decades. Along with holding positions at General Motors and Pfizer, Frank served as a Managing Partner at Interbrand New York and VP of Global Brand Research at Opinion Research Corporation before co-founding Six Degrees. His brand-building work in various sectors including hospitality, medical device, pharmaceutical, automotive and technology has taken him to 17 countries on four continents. Frank holds a doctorate in psychology from Yale University and speaks fluent German.

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