The Role Of Brand Purpose In Brand Strategy

min read
September 15, 2023
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Executive summary 

  • A purpose helps connect brands with their audiences and build loyalty while guiding their decision-making.
  • Brands that lead with a solid purpose have enjoyed consistent success from a loyal following.
  • Brand purpose should be integrated into marketing and messaging and be clearly lived out through a brand’s actions.
  • Developing a brand purpose requires a thoughtful strategy and constant monitoring to ensure success. 

There is nothing interesting or engaging about a brand that exists to sell something—every brand is selling something. No, the most successful brands are able to answer what their deeper purpose is and gain buy-in from their target audience. A strong purpose separates value-driven brands from a business that just sells stuff and helps attract value-aligned customers to build a true, loyal following.  

By understanding the role of brand purpose in brand strategy, you can make more insightful business decisions and develop messaging that resonates with both your existing and potential customers. Creating a meaningful brand purpose takes work, but it can guide you in developing a powerful and effective brand strategy.


What is a brand purpose?

A brand purpose is a company’s reason for existing beyond simply making money. This statement usually answers the question “Why?” and highlights the motivations behind offering a product or service at all. Although a purpose guides your marketing and communications, it’s more than just a marketing ploy—it creates a foundation for a brand and how it carries out its business.

A well-defined brand purpose is not just a flashy statement or empty slogan but a guide for decision-making and building loyalty. It can be anything from helping consumers fulfill a need to giving back to the community.

Some examples can be:

  • To pioneer carbon-negative organizations
  • To encourage others to follow more sustainable daily habits
  • To give resources to those in need
  • To support communities with programs or funding


Is a brand mission the same as purpose?

A brand purpose is separate from your brand mission or vision statements, although they are all connected. While your purpose is your brand’s reason for being, the mission and vision of your business are what come after, and how your brand will aim to leverage its existence.

You can define your brand’s mission and vision in the following ways:

  • Brand mission – The mission statement highlights how a brand intends to serve its consumers and what it is trying to achieve.
  • Brand vision – The vision statement communicates what a brand stands for and wants to accomplish into the future.

It’s important to use each one as a tool in its own way and understand the nuances of each to avoid confusion. By addressing each, you can establish a firm foundation that your brand can always look to for a sense of direction.


Why is brand purpose important?

A brand purpose helps shape your brand identity and creates an idea of what your audience should expect. This intention guides brand strategy, communications, and marketing as you aim to connect with consumers. 

However, brand purpose does much more than just guide a company’s strategy—it is meaningful to customers too. 64% of global consumers say that brands that actively communicate their purpose are more attractive.

Altogether, brand purpose is important for the following reasons:

  • It demonstrates the value that your brand offers to society
  • It allows brands to build stronger relationships with their consumers
  • When a brand’s purpose resonates with a consumer, they are more loyal and more likely to return for future sales
  • It makes your brand unique and able to stand out from others


How to develop your brand’s purpose

A compelling brand purpose requires a thoughtful, comprehensive process based on understanding your brand and those who support it. To develop your brand’s purpose, you should follow these steps.


Conduct a brand audit: Understand your current position

The first step is evaluating your brand’s current image. To conduct a brand audit, you should gather a complete picture of your brand by evaluating your existing messaging, current values, and existing customer perception.

Consider some of the following steps to assess your brand’s current position:

  • Gather customer feedback
  • Conduct market research
  • Lay out your brand mission and vision
  • Identify competitors
  • Perform employee surveys

These strategies will allow you to see how your brand purpose is currently perceived by consumers and stakeholders. Starting with this foundation will allow you to interpret your perceived purpose and recognize areas of improvement before developing a clear statement.


Identify core values and beliefs that align with your audience

Your audience’s values shape their decision-making, so you must identify the intersection between what you and your consumers value as you craft your brand purpose. Identifying this intersection helps solidify your purpose and create a message that resonates. 

Brands like Patagonia have connected with their customers through a shared value of the environment. Other brands, like Dove, connect with their customers through the shared value of self-love and confidence. They have been able to establish these relationships because of strong shared values.

Understanding your audience’s core values and beliefs and how they intersect with your brand’s will carry you into crafting your statement.


Craft a clear and inspiring brand purpose statement

Your brand purpose should aim to both inspire customers and avoid leaning into cliches. Of course, you want it to resonate with your target audience and draw them to your services, but it is essential that it is also based on genuine motivation and not just for the sake of marketing.

Your purpose statement should convey your message in a clear and concise way so that your target audience can quickly and easily understand your purpose. Make it clear and intentional by narrowing down why your business exists into a single sentence.


Gain internal alignment: Engaging stakeholders in the process

When determining brand purpose, it’s essential that everyone in the business agrees on what the brand is all about. Therefore, stakeholders should be included as an integral part of defining your foundational purpose. These stakeholders include employees, company leadership, partners, and more.

Having a unified force aligned in values only makes the brand and its direction stronger, giving a benchmark for stakeholders to consistently refer back to. This sense of direction leads to better motivation, better focus for strategy, and guided action.


How to communicate your brand purpose effectively

After you develop an intention you’re proud of, it’s time to communicate it to your audience and potential consumers. You can develop the greatest brand purpose, but if the messaging isn’t there, it may fall flat. Ensure your purpose resonates by following a few key strategies.

Integrate your brand purpose into marketing and communication strategies

The best way to highlight your brand purpose is to intertwine it into all of your marketing and communications. Making it a consistent part of your messaging helps align your brand with your purpose so that your audience can associate the two together.

Examples of purpose-centered marketing campaigns include:

A purpose-driven marketing campaign is not only memorable, but it helps your audience see what your brand is all about. Leading your communications with intention is more meaningful and is sure to resonate with potential consumers.


Use storytelling to convey brand purpose

Storytelling is a powerful tool that can take your brand’s attributes beyond typical marketing communications. Stories help connect us, spread ideas, and evoke emotion. Therefore, storytelling allows you to communicate your ideas to customers in a memorable way.

You can use storytelling in many ways, like showing how your brand developed its purpose, why your brand does what it does, or how this purpose has benefited others.

Some great examples of the brands mentioned above incorporating storytelling include:

  • Dove showcasing stories of customers embracing their confidence
  • Patagonia telling the story behind overconsumption and how the brand’s purpose was developed to address it
  • Airbnb telling stories of travelers and homeowners and how they connect to others


Leverage social media and digital platforms for authenticity

By creating a social media strategy that incorporates purpose, you can authentically connect with your audience, make your values clear, and build brand trust.

Dove is an excellent example of a brand that has used social media purposefully, spreading the message of body positivity by including posts about women who have succeeded in embracing who they are. The National Park Service is another great example of a purpose-driven social media strategy, using funny tweets to encourage people to connect with the outdoors.


Partner with influencers and advocates to amplify your message

In recent years, the power of influencers has become stronger and stronger. Influencers can promote products or ideas on social media and influence a wide audience to try out a product or service.

By developing strategic partnerships with influencers, you can advance your brand, spread your message to a wider audience, and find those who agree with your purpose. Influencers already have a strong following that trusts and respects their opinions, giving you a gateway to new consumer relationships.

The key here is to find influencers that agree with and personify your brand intention. This alignment will go a long way toward connecting you with an audience that wants to see more from you.


Case studies: Businesses with successful brand purpose strategies

To demonstrate the power of a strong brand purpose, it’s valuable to see how other brands have used theirs to shape their messaging. A few brands exemplify the potential of shared values with customers in generating business success.


Patagonia®: Embracing environmental responsibility as a brand purpose

Patagonia is an excellent model for using the strength of a brand purpose to connect with its audience. The company specializes in selling outdoor recreation clothing but also exists to protect the wilderness. Patagonia embodies its purpose by following through on environmental initiatives and activism efforts. 

The people who spend time outside and use Patagonia’s products are most likely the same people who care about the environment and social issues. As a result, this audience has two strong reasons to return to shop at Patagonia—they benefit from their quality products, and they want to support their foundational purpose.


TOMS: The One for One® model

TOMS shoes have become almost synonymous with their purpose, thanks to their strong support for communities worldwide. The One for One® model is TOMS’s commitment to giving away one pair of shoes for every pair that they sell.  

TOMS claims that they have been in business to improve lives, and this purpose clearly resonates with its target audience. When people buy shoes from TOMS, they know that they are not only receiving quality shoes but also supporting a greater cause. TOMS developed this model 17 years ago and gave out 100,000,000 pairs of shoes before adapting their model to give 1/3 of profits for grassroots good.


Airbnb: Creating a sense of belonging and community

Airbnb’s purpose is to create a sense of belonging and inclusivity by connecting people with accommodations in destinations around the world. Airbnb demonstrates this purpose by sharing stories from hosts and guests, highlighting how Airbnb provides community and a sense of belonging while being a key part of successful travel plans.

With this successful strategy, people know that they can rely on Airbnb to provide them with a place to feel comfortable during their travels. Today, Airbnb remains the number one service for connecting travelers and homeowners with successful arrangements.


Dove®: Championing Real Beauty and Body Positivity

Dove’s brand purpose is to help all women realize their confidence and achieve their beauty potential. This purpose stood out most through the company’s Campaign for Real Beauty. Dove began this campaign in 2004 to inspire women and young girls to feel confident in their skin.

Since then, Dove has centered its messaging on embracing natural beauty and supplementing it with rejuvenating skin care products, bringing a loyal following of confident women hoping to look and feel their best.


Measuring the impact of brand purpose

After implementing any strategy, the next step is measuring its success. Measuring the impact of your brand purpose allows you to determine whether it resonates with your audience or whether you need to adapt your communications.


Identify key performance indicators (KPIs) for brand purpose

When you implement purpose-driven messaging, you must gather information on whether or not it works. This process starts with determining which metrics you will use.

Brands may choose a variety of KPIs, depending on what works best for them. Some potential KPIs include:

  • Customer satisfaction
  • Brand sentiment
  • Employee engagement

Be sure to establish realistic, achievable goals to provide you with an accurate measure of your success. After identifying your ideal metrics, monitor them regularly to verify that your purpose is resonating.


Conduct surveys and gain customer feedback

As you roll out and share your purpose statement, it’s essential to determine how your customers perceive the changes. Surveys and focus groups can gather input from your target audience to see how they view your brand’s purpose, whether it’s meaningful to them, and if it inspires them to act.

Depending on the feedback you receive, you may find you’ve been successful, or you may have to adjust your messaging to ensure that your purpose comes across in a clearer and more impactful way.


Track customer loyalty and advocacy metrics

83% of US consumers say they are more likely to be loyal to brands that lead with purpose. Customer loyalty and advocacy are helpful indicators of how well customers align with your brand values. 

Consider these metrics to see if your intention is resonating with customers:

  • Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  • Customer reviews
  • Social media interactions
  • Customer referrals and retention


Assess employee satisfaction and retention rates

Employees are the life of your brand and the ones who will carry out your brand purpose. How they interact with your consumers and perform business functions is invaluable to your success, so their motivation is crucial. Studies even show that employees work 20% better when motivated.

An alignment with a brand’s reason-for-being motivates employees. If your employees are dissatisfied or there is high turnover, your intention may not be as tailored to your employees’ visions as you thought.


Brand purpose evolution and adaptation

Even with an established brand purpose, you have to be ready to adapt, as change is the only constant. Changes in audience perception, social trends, and current events can all require you to pivot at any point, pushing you to evolve and adapt your purpose.


Stay true to your brand purpose while adapting to change

Yes, your brand will have to adapt to changing markets and trends, but that doesn’t mean your purpose will change too much. For example, Dove will always stick to their purpose of highlighting real beauty and body positivity, but they have adapted to social concerns and societal values by embracing more diversity in its brand imaging and leadership. 


Embracing flexibility: When and how to reframe your brand purpose

Determining the balance between adaptation and consistency is its own art form. Even though you should remain true to your purpose, there are scenarios where you may have to reframe it to fit the times.

Sure, Patagonia won’t be moving away from concern for environmental issues, but they can reframe how they act on their purpose depending on current events. Your brand has to be ready to adapt in the same way—always ask, “How is our brand purpose relevant today?”


Handling controversies and brand purpose misalignment

Controversy is the bane of any brand and often comes from a misalignment of brand purpose—when your purpose and actions contradict.

For example, controversy can arise when brands that champion an intention to protect the environment end up making headlines with harmful environmental impacts. 

Still, a brand can hold to its purpose even in times of controversy. They must show commitment to their values,  a willingness to reframe their actions, and a desire to be better in order to retain their value-driven customers.


Create brand strategies with your purpose in mind

Brands that have a solid purpose as a guiding light are more successful and more attractive to customers. Before developing your brand strategy, you need a strong intention that highlights the foundation your brand is built on and the message you want to resonate with customers.

Here at PETERMAYER, we can help you determine your brand purpose through market research and targeted brand strategy planning. We help you build a strategy grounded in data and ingenuity that helps you navigate change and stay in tune with your customers. Contact us today to schedule a discovery call.

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