At the beginning of this decade, Michael Porter formulated the concept of “shared value” referring to the idea that companies should be oriented both to the benefit of their shareholders and to the benefit of society. It was a proposal that aimed to go beyond the well-known corporate responsibility, integrating the social impact of companies. After all this time, there has been a lot of talk about “purpose” but it is still one of the least clear concepts in the business world, and with it brands.

What is brand purpose?

Purpose is a compelling reason for the existence of a brand, beyond generating an economic benefit. It combines the ambitions and beliefs that motivate an Organization, as well as the changes it wants to make in its ecosystem.

It is not exclusively a social focus or linked to the environment, it could also be understood as non-social. A magnificent example of purpose resulted when President Kennedy asked someone at NASA what his responsibility was, and this person told him, “I help put man on the moon”; It turned out that this individual was a cleaner, but he was right.

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It should not be confused with the terms Vision or Corporate Mission. See:

Purpose is the answer to the question of why you exist. It is the WHY formulated by Simon Sinek in his theory of the Golden Circle, whose answer must transcend economic profit as I have cited above.

The Vision is the answer to the question of where you want to go as a Company. For example, “to be the market leader in LED lighting manufacturing.”

The Mission is the answer to what you have to do to achieve the goal defined in the Vision. Following the previous example, it could be “manufacturing all kinds of LED lighting models adapted to all the needs of the market”.

In this equation we would be missing a variable that would answer the “how” and that is represented by the Company’s Values . How the Organization behaves during its performance. This is an element directly linked to the corporate culture.

Purpose-Driven Brands Reap Greater Benefits

Jim Stengel, CMO of P&G, published in his book “Growth” the results of a 10-year study of 50,000 brands. The bottom line was that those brands “with ideals” that focused on improving people’s lives were able to beat their competitors and grow 3 times faster than them. He even claimed that investing in them was up to 400 times more profitable than an investment in the S&P 500.

Some brands were born with a clear sense of purpose, such as the well-known Patagonia or Tom’s, and today it would be difficult to conceive of them detached from it. However, for the vast majority it is still a major challenge, they are unclear whether they should address it and, if so, how to do it.

Purpose Strategy

Many companies have social responsibility programs that, if they have been approached from a brand perspective, could constitute an interesting first analysis. However, focusing only on the social or environmental component can be very limited. It is advisable to be open to ideas by analyzing the Company’s own history, the concerns of employees, customer demands, the way in which our product/service affects the community and the strengths of our own brand.

Stengel himself divides purpose into five categories, which can prove to be of great help in your search. These are as follows:

  1. Explore new horizons and new experiences. E.g. Airbnb exists to promote exploration and open up all kinds of new experiences.
  2. To make people enjoy joyful and amazing experiences. E.g. Coca-Cola exists to inspire moments of happiness.
  3. Connect with the world and with each of its inhabitants. E.g. Starbucks exists to inspire the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.
  4. Provoke pride by enriching people with feelings of trust. E.g. Mercedes-Benz exists to epitomize a lifetime of achievement.
  5. Break the status quo, redefine new categories. E.g. Apple exists to break with the status quo and make available to people the most advanced, better-designed devices capable of making their lives easier.

Finding and structuring a purpose is not easy and will take time. Once located and defined, it will be necessary to integrate it into the brand and business strategy so that it really creates value. The best way to bring it to life is through brand culture, trying to bring meaning and value to all stakeholders – employees, customers, society. It can also be very helpful to carry out an exercise of creativity that is capable of synthesizing it in a
that reinforces the meaning of the brand, wherever it intervenes, reinforcing its own personality. I particularly find TED’s “Ideas worth spreading” awesome.

Anyone today demands transparency and honesty from brands, questioning why they should care. According to Meaningful Brands, we wouldn’t mind if up to 74% of the brands we live with disappeared and 75% expect something more from them. A magnificent open door to consider the value of purpose in the equation between business-brands-people-environment.


Carlos Puig Falcó

CEO of Branward®


Photos: Shutterstock


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