Having a higher purpose connects your mission to your vision, serves collective well-being, and goes beyond just making money. It’s a reason for being that inspires and motivates employees, customers, and all stakeholders to invest in you. A higher purpose provides a competitive advantage and helps you create passionate brand believers. Most importantly, when implemented correctly, a higher purpose connects your incredible work to measurable social and environmental impact.
A higher purpose is different from your organization’s vision and mission. In short, your vision is an aspirational description of what the company wants to accomplish; and your mission describes what it currently does to achieve this. Having a higher purpose gives context to both these statements by clarifying why your organization exists in the first place, beyond the economics.
Every company has a WHY, yet very few fully understand what it is and what it means to the future of their business.
Strategy can only be written and change actuated within a defined philosophy.
Whether related to your operations, product, communications, sales or marketing, executing strategy without alignment to a clearly defined philosophy isn’t possible. Higher purpose provides a frame of reference, allowing your principles and values to actuate measurable outcomes. Once your company’s WHY is understood, you can start working on HOW you’ll turn purpose into actionable steps to make the world a little bit better because your company exists.
With this in mind, below are four ways to help leaders and CEOs develop, institutionalize, and actuate their organization’s higher purpose:
- Uncover your beliefs;
- Engage brand believers;
- Articulate a clear brand value proposition (BVP);
- Incorporate higher purpose into everything you say and do.
1. Uncover Your Beliefs
The first step requires you to dig deep to reveal your business philosophy, principles, and beliefs.
What problem are you solving in the world? Why does your company exist? These are great questions to start you off but widen the net further.
Don’t just think of stakeholders directly influenced or impacted by your company. Consider those indirectly affected, too — governments, social institutions, communities, and your suppliers’ stakeholders. Then go further. Consider your company’s impact on the economy’s collective mentality and approach to meaningful development. And, if you’re serious about building an impactful business, assess your company’s ability to sustain a harmonious coexistence of societal development with all other forms of life.
Once you understand the importance of these interdependencies, how value is created, and the role of brand, you’ll be better positioned than most to develop more precise objectives, longer-term goals, and sustainable and measurable business outcomes.
2. Engage Brand Believers
Once you’ve committed to building a brand with purpose, it’s time to test your thinking with your closest stakeholders, your employees.
Your company’s future success depends on having your team on board with your plan, an opportunity to contribute, and ultimately agreeing with your direction. Buy-in should be ongoing; as things change (and they will), continue to seek input from those affected by or invested in your decisions.
Collectively, work out whom you are trying to reach with your brand. What are their wants and needs? What values do they hold dear? Answering these questions with your team will help develop a more robust identity system. One that can resonate with people across all touch-points.
You’ll need to be specific about whom you want to reach and what you want them to do (e.g., buy your product, invest in your company, support your cause). So, to help determine your audience, try using segmentation to identify potential targets, markets, and opportunities to resolve their everyday tensions.
3. Articulate A Clear Brand Value Proposition (or BVP)
What do you want to say? What is the main point you want to communicate? Keep it simple — you want people to understand what you do quickly and easily. Think about what sets you apart from the competition and what makes you unique. Validate your thinking further and use earlier insight to challenge your philosophy and improve your business model.
A brand value proposition inspires creativity and messaging, which should be authentic and always reflect your values and beliefs. If you’re trying to put forth a message that isn’t genuine, people will see right through it. So, be honest about what your company stands for, and let that guide the development of your policies, practices, products, experiences, and marketing materials.
Consistency is also vital when it comes to brand value creation. If intention and reality don’t match up, you’ll confuse people and damage any chance of establishing credibility.
4. Incorporate A Higher Purpose Into Everything You Say And Do
With the context behind your higher purpose and its role in building lasting brand strength and equity better understood, it’s time to start putting it into action!
This means incorporating your higher purpose, principles, and philosophy into every aspect of your business — from strategic decision-making to day-to-day operations. Let your purpose guide everything you do so that every decision aligns with your ultimate goal of making the world a better place BECAUSE your company exists.
Finally, continuously use your purpose to evaluate how well your brand strategy and identity work and make adjustments as needed. Do you see the results you want? If not, what needs to change? Regular evaluation will help ensure that your brand remains relevant, agile and responsive.
Unity Builds A Better Brand!
It’s not enough to be profitable — you also need to ensure that your brand positively impacts the world.
Higher purpose and carefully executed brand strategies guide the world’s most celebrated and impactful leaders and their brands. Thankfully, aligning brand strategy with your desire to make a positive impact reality is now possible. By following the tips outlined above, you can create a brand that does good in the world while achieving highly profitable commercial success.
As a CEO, it’s ultimately up to you to ensure your company lives and breathes its WHY daily! Embedding a higher purpose will make working at your company more fulfilling for everyone involved, attract like-minded individuals — employees, customers, suppliers, and investors — and help create passionate Brand Believers who will spread the word about how fantastic your company is to work with.
A higher purpose unifies your mission and vision and gives meaning and direction to everyone involved in the business. People are more likely to go above and beyond to make things happen when they are passionate about something. So, take time to uncover why your company exists, and let it be a part of everything you say AND do.
Dan Dimmock is a senior brand leader with over 20 years of experience in strategy, management, and sustainability. Based in the Middle East, he is managing partner of Firstwater (The Blake Project UAE), and works at the board level advising on brand transformation, identity, and impact.
Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Growth and Brand Education