Purpose has become a hot topic in the last few years.

Research shows that the reason ‘why’ a brand or company exists has become an important factor for consumers, customers and employees.

A global study in 2020 of 8,000 consumers by Zeno Group revealed that 94% of global customers said it was important that companies they engaged with had a strong purpose. These customers were four times more likely to buy, trust and champion brands that they believed exhibited clear and authentic brand purpose.

This comes off the back of multi global surveys conducted by market research companies over the past 5 years such as Millward Brown Katar and Porter Novelli, that have found a rising sentiment for the need for companies to share their Purpose with their team, customers, investors, and other business partners.

“Companies that lead with Purpose and build around it can achieve continued loyalty, consistency and relevance in the lives of consumers,” Deloitte’s head of brand and growth strategy concluded.

(You’ll notice I use a capital ‘P’ for Purpose – that’s deliberate, as I believe Purpose has become one of the defining factors of success or failure for businesses and brands in the early 21st century.)

Why is this happening?

People – whether they be consumers, business customers, employees, or business partners – are becoming more curious about what motivates and drives businesses and brands.

25+ years ago it didn’t seem to matter if a brand was produced in a sweat shop, where employees were paid next to nothing, and they worked in dangerous conditions. And it didn’t matter to business customers if the management team of the company who supplied them didn’t treat their employees well – as long as the product or service they delivered was good.

But things have changed – social media has ensured brands and people can be called out for doing the wrong thing. Consumers and business customers have ‘grown a conscience’ about who we buy from.

Why is this important to smaller businesses and start ups?

People buying from small businesses have the same concerns as consumers of big brands and employees of big companies. Purpose has moved from ‘nice to have’ to ‘need to explain,’ because small business customers need to know, like and trust the businesses they buy from.

What is a ‘Purpose-driven’ brand?

‘Purpose’ refers to the reason why a brand exists. This is a concept explored extensively by the writer Simon Sinek in his book ‘Start With Why,’ in which he argues that “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”

A Purpose-driven brand or company is one that has identified why it exists – and has aligned its culture, products/services, operations, and communications with that Purpose.

To identify its Purpose, a business and/or brand needs to define:

  • Why it exists (its reason for being)
  • What it stands for (and against)
  • What it believes in; as it relates to the market it operates in, and the product or service it provides
  • What it is here to do for its customers and other stakeholders

How do you define your brand’s and or company’s Purpose?

There are currently two main ways of defining your brand / business Purpose.

The first method is to think about the questions posed above in a calm and rational manner. If you’ve tried this, and nothing really comes to mind, you can seek professional help from Purpose coaches and consultants who will take you through a series of carefully thought-through questions, which are designed to elicit a deeper understanding of Purpose. They are experts at asking the same thought-provoking questions in a multitude of slightly different ways. This process is referred to as ‘layering.’

Experts in this approach include Simon Sinek, the author of Start With Why, who I referred to earlier in this article.

This approach is certainly helpful at getting some basic information; however, it does have one major flaw – Purpose isn’t rational, it’s intuitive and emotional. So asking rational questions won’t get you to the real truth of why a brand or business exists.

It’s a bit like asking the monkey to play a song, when you should be asking the monkey’s owner – the organ-grinder.

The second method seeks to overcome this, by asking these same questions of the subconscious, rather than the conscious mind. After all, the limbic area of the brain is the repository of our beliefs and values, while the reptilian centre is believed to drive our intuitive thinking – both of which exist in the subconscious part of the human brain.

In other words – you are asking the organ-grinder, not the monkey.

How do you ask questions of your subconscious?

There are a few of ways of doing this – each designed to ‘switch off’ rational thinking, and ‘switch on’ intuitive and emotional thinking and responses.

The first technique is to answer these questions when you first wake up from a good sleep – your rational brain hasn’t quite kicked in, and your subconscious is still half awake.

The second way of doing this is to engage in an activity that you have learnt to do subconsciously, and to record your answers as you do the activity. This might include walking (particularly in nature), running, cycling, surfing (although your recording device might not survive the experience!), or any other form of exercise that you enjoy and which relaxes you while you do it.

There is a third technique, which I been refining over the past 10 years ago or so, which I call ‘Business Meditations.’ These are either delivered live or can be accessed online via pre-recorded audio clips. During these exercises, participants are guided through a visualisation, with relaxing ‘Theta’ music to accompany the voice. There is a questionnaire to complete at the end of the meditation, which captures the ideas and deeper reasons for ‘why’ their brand and/or company exists.

If this sounds intriguing, and you’d like to define your business and brand Purpose using this technique, you can book into one of the workshops I run for Realise Business, on behalf of the NSW Government’s Business Connect program.

Purpose is one of the key driver’s for success – are you ready to discover, define and share your business and brand Purpose?

Justin Cooper is the author of Marketing is Dead, Long Live Purposing, a book designed to help business people define and connect with their Purpose, and put it to work in their businesses and brands. As a Purpose coach and consultant, Justin helps business owners define their Purpose, Mission and ‘Brand Promise’ in a new, intuitive and authentic way, and align it with their branding, products & services, culture, operations, and communications.

Justin is an advisor and workshop host for Realise Business.

If you would like to learn more we have some up and coming workshops