Behind every business lies a purpose that explains a brand's existence. Sometimes referred to as your company's "why," this purpose gives your brand meaning and defines its place in the world. Your brand purpose is more than what you say on your company website or in your employee handbook; it dictates your company's actions and drives your internal team forward.

As humans, we seek purpose and meaning in our life, so it makes sense that we would seek purpose in the brands we choose to buy from. A case study conducted by the Harvard Business School and Ernst & Young noted that companies with a strong sense of purpose were able to innovate and transform better than companies that lacked a purpose. 89% of surveyed executives believe a strong sense of collective purpose drives employee satisfaction but only 46% said their company currently has a definitive sense of purpose. This number is anticipated to change, however, as more brands realize the importance of having a collective purpose to unite their teams and to appeal to purpose-driven consumers.

Often times, this purpose has little or nothing to do with the actual product or service that is sold by a brand. Take the family dining restaurant chain Denny's, for example. "We believe that our place in the world is to be America's diner--not just a place that serves food," says CMO John Dillon when asked about Denny's purpose. "For Denny's, our purpose is all about feeding people, but that also includes feeding people in the emotional sense. As a waitress, you're not just serving food, you're serving [customers] little life moments in a place where friends and family and even strangers can make connections."

Similarly, Arby's brand purpose is "inspiring smiles through delicious experiences," a purpose that makes no explicit mention of the food they serve. "We are a 52-year old brand that began with a purpose," says Chris Fuller, VP of Brand and Corporate Communications. "Our original founders saw a need to differentiate their product and brand in a crowded marketplace, and today we aim to instill a strong clarity of purpose across our entire brand." This purpose has inspired Arby's charitable work and since teaming up with Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign in 2011 has collectively resulted in more than 460 million meals provided to children nationwide. Arby's and Denny's both have a strong sense of purpose at the heart of their organizations that gives each brand a reason for their existence beyond just serving food to hungry customers.

Sometimes, to discover your brand purpose, a company needs to go back to its origins and understand why they are in business in the first place. "We knew knew from the beginning we wanted to do something more meaningful," says Steven Krein, CEO and Co-founder of StartUp Health. "Our purpose has nothing to do with making money; it has everything to do with making an impact that benefits startups in the healthcare industry."

Sage, a leading accounting, payments and payroll software company also turned to their roots to discover their purpose, which is to honor and support the success of business builders--small businesses and the entrepreneurs that lead them. Their business is their passion and Sage has rallied and inspired its 13,500 colleagues to rally around their purpose of honoring business builders and supporting their success. "One of our founders had a business, like many of our customers, and he wanted software to help him perform better estimates and keep track of his accounting," says Jennifer Warawa, EVP of Product Marketing. "After building software to benefit his business, our founder realized there was a market for the software he created and today we want to be a business's greatest champion and ally."

A brand purpose can also be a promise to a community, like WebPT's promise to empower therapists to achieve greatness in practice. "WebPT is more than just software for therapists, our purpose is to advocate for the physical therapy profession as a whole," says Heidi Jannenga, President and Co-founder of WebPT. "We wanted to a create a community within our industry, regardless if you use our software. Part of our purpose is to deliver content that is built around what we believe in and what provides value to our industry."

Giving back to the greater community has also given Verizon retailer TCC an opportunity to rework their company's purpose. "We wanted to create a culture that makes the world better for those outside the company but also for our employees and for our customers," says Scott Moorehead, CEO at TCC. Along with Ryan McCarty, Moorehead developed TCC's Culture of Good, a movement that inspires employees to give back to their local communities while upholding their three ideals: Impact local communities, customers and employees. The key to getting a culture of good to stick in your business is to "Align your purpose with your business objectives," says Moorehead. "If [your cause] doesn't match the business and employees feel they don't have any reason to care about your cause, they will ultimately stop caring."

Purpose gives your brand meaning and can easily answer why your brand exists. For TCC and WebPT, their purpose defined their businesses more than just selling a product or a service; it showed their brand stood for something greater than profit. And for restaurant chains Arby's and Denny's, their purpose explained why both restaurants continue to serve food to customers every day. Your purpose is more than an explanation of the things your business can provide or a summary of what you business does. It's the "why" that propels your brand's existence and covers the impact you have on your community.


So I ask you, do you know your brand's purpose?

Published on: Oct 13, 2016
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