Whether we recognize it or not, we as individuals seek meaning in our lives. People can unite around a single purpose and brands are beginning to understand the power of purpose-driven marketing. Consumers no longer flock to brands with the most expensive label or the most popular name; brands win customers over with their purpose and commitment to something greater than just seeking profits.

"Purpose" is defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary as the reason why something is done or used and brands are weaving purpose into their marketing strategies to attract consumers. A company's purpose is their clear reason for doing business and existing.

In a recent survey conducted by Ernst & Young and the Harvard Business Review Analytics, 91% of business respondents are developing their own purpose because there exists a clear correlation between purpose and marketing. It's also benefiting businesses in a huge way, generating profits and stronger customer loyalty. Here are five reasons why you need to have a purpose behind all of your brand marketing.

1. Purpose Helps You Stand Out Amidst the Noise

Purpose-driven marketing is one way for brands to connect with their target audience on a more emotional level by sharing similar beliefs or ideas. Take Uber for example. The car-ride sharing application faces competition from similar businesses like Lyft but Uber found one way to differentiate themselves from their peers. Uber partnered with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to promote a campaign that offered a $1 donation to MADD whenever drivers redeemed a ride over the 4th of July holiday. Their marketing campaign now had a purpose: to prevent drunk driving and to ensure party-goers returned home safely. Given how many startups and businesses are jumping aboard the on-demand bandwagon, Uber's decision to include a strong purpose that many drivers can relate to is one way the car-sharing app was able to stand out from their competitors.

2. Consumers Want More Than a Superficial Connection

Defining your brand's purpose and using marketing to amplify that purpose is one way to develop an emotional and psychological bond with customers. It's posited that customers will follow Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, which outlines five primary areas of needs experienced by most humans. Human needs like the desire for increased self-esteem and self-realization can be used as motivational drivers in marketing strategies, and purpose-driven content can help brands connect to customers on varying need levels. Much of marketing is based in psychology; customers look for brands that stand for something more than just the product or service they provide.

3. Long-Term, Not Short-Term, Is Your End Goal

All businesses want to have a long-term relationship with their customers. It's why brands like Starbucks and United Airlines have rewards programs for loyal customers, rewarding them when they hit specific milestones or a certain number of purchases. With a purpose backing your marketing efforts, you engage others in your cause and can build passion and loyalty amongst customers. Having a purpose can also inspire your internal team too. Unilever reported 76% of its employees feel their work allows them to contribute to the company's commitment to ethical and sustainable policies, and have enjoyed strong employee loyalty over the years.

4. Marketing Is a Form of Storytelling

Marketing and brand purpose go hand-in-hand. Rather than a sales pitch, your purpose is a story that can be amplified through various channels of digital marketing. This is an opportunity for your company to make an impression on your audience; if your marketing efforts don't have a point beyond selling a product or service, than you'll find yourself lost amongst other companies who only market for profit. Marketing is a form of storytelling - this is your opportunity to share with your consumer what makes your brand unique and to deliver a message that resonates with an audience. When you can integrate a purpose into your marketing messages, your brand becomes more than a store that simply sells a product.

5. Inspire Your Own Team

Purpose inspires and mobilizes your entire organization; without purpose, a company is simply managing its internal team and using money as a motivating factor. When you find your company's purpose, you can create a strong and sustainable organizational culture, improving employee happiness and giving them a reason to wake up everyday. A purpose needs to be more than words. Your company needs to live out your purpose in every aspect of your day-to-day operations. And while this might mean spending a little more time vetting the right people to bring into your organization, finding employees who believe in your purpose can keep your team motivated and internally driven to succeed. When your team is on the same starting page, sharing a common value, it comes across as authentic in your marketing messages and shows your customers you truly do care about more than money.


Purpose and marketing work in tandem, but in order to create successful marketing strategies you need to start with your company's purpose. Organizations who have a reason for doing business need to invest in purpose-driven content marketing if they hope to connect with consumers on an emotional level and seek long-term sustainability and scalability. So start asking yourself today: what's your purpose?

Published on: Oct 4, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.