Why Purpose Matters from the C-suite to the Shopping Aisle

January 18, 2017 Comments

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The world’s most innovative brands, from small businesses to multinational corporations, are using purpose to not only guide long-term business strategy and create emotionally engaging ad campaigns, but also to foster employee and customer support, distinguish themselves as a force for good and increase the bottom line. As more companies find and promote their purpose, the race to be noticed as a corporate change maker and establish purpose driven customer loyalty is becoming increasingly competitive.

The rapidly growing use of social media has changed the way brands communicate with consumers and what used to be a monologue is now a dialogue. Anyone with a Facebook account or a Twitter handle can coauthor brand stories and become an ambassador or adversary, so make sure you get the right story across. People want to know what your brand stands for and how it’s contributing to the world. Authentic storytelling – which needs to be supported by actual impact – can inspire others to celebrate your brand and share your message.

An excellent example of a company using purpose-driven storytelling to strengthen the emotional connective tissue between it and consumers is Philips, whose mission is to “make the world healthier and more sustainable through innovation.” The technology company created The Breathless Choir video to showcase how its products are helping people with lung failure find their voice. This heartwarming short film – watched roughly 8.5 million times on YouTube – evokes a captivating emotional response. One viewer commented, “This is the first time I actually watched a whole ad and clicked on the link for a replay. This video is absolutely lovely and inspiring.” By creating media that depicts a purposeful narrative you can increase your customer engagement and become the chief celebrant of your community.

It’s essential that brands “walk their talk,” not only to cultivate consumer goodwill, loyalty and trust, but also because purpose – like profit – is now measurable and competitive, which makes it much harder than ever to get away with “purpose-washing.”  One of the metrics used to analyze purpose performance is Radley Yeldar’s, Fit for Purpose Index that assesses companies from the Financial Times 500 and Eurofist 100 to select the top 100 brands actualizing positive impact for people, society or the planet. Rank is based on four categories: purpose and story, communication, performance and behavior, which provide a well-rounded assessment of which brands are “purpose washing” their advertising campaigns and those making real change.  Whether you are just starting to define your brand purpose or want to double down on your efforts, it’s critical to your long-term brand reputation and business growth that you prioritize activating impact and then effectively tell those stories.

Even CEOs are being ranked on purpose. Harvard Business Review’s (HBR’s) annual 100 Best Performing CEOs in the World list rates corporate leaders based on quantifiable performance over the lifespan of their executive careers. In 2015, HBR incorporated Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) metrics into the rating process, which considerably shifted rankings. Executives at the top of the list are looking beyond short-term profits to long-term vision and realizing how purpose is critical to a brand’s ability to attract and retain top talent, respond to customers’ cry for corporate good-doing, increase the bottom line and satisfy investors. The takeaway is that if you want to create a purposeful culture that propels your brand– socially, environmentally and economically speaking – you need to weave purpose into the essence of your business, from the supply chain, to internal employee culture, to marketing campaigns and public outreach.

Consumers are increasingly aware of the perils of our planet and want to be part of the solution. They are saying ‘we want a better world and are eager to stand behind the brands pushing the purpose needle.’ That desire to make a positive impact is creating a culture of contributory consumption in which people support environmental and social initiatives through their purchases. Here’s the data to back it up. In an international survey, Unilever found that 54 percent of people “want to buy more sustainably.” What’s more is that they compared consumer-stated sustainability considerations with real purchasing decisions and found that a third of people are consciously buying from brands with missions they believe in. The consumer goods giant is listening to what customers want by incorporating sustainability into its purpose – “to make sustainable living commonplace,” – and some of its brands. Results show that promoting purpose is growing profit as the Sustainable Living brands segment of their company is outpacing the rest of their portfolio by 30 percent. If you want to be part of what Unilever estimates is $1 trillion dollar untapped market for purposeful brands you have to effectively define, act on and communicate how your brand and its mission is helping people and planet.

Purpose is more than table stakes, it’s competitive from the shopping aisle to the boardroom and the faster you clarify and share your purpose the sooner you can carve out a competitive advantage.


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One response to “Why Purpose Matters from the C-suite to the Shopping Aisle”

  1. Doug says:

    Great read (and purpose). It’s amazing more companies don’t work to capitalize on this energizing and differentiating sense of direction.


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