Posted by Mona Amodeo, Ph.D. ● June 21, 2018

Why Ignoring Brand Purpose Will Stunt Brand Growth & Profit

What makes brands successful today? While it’s difficult to point to any one thing that spells the difference between success and failure, there’s one trend that no brand can afford to ignore. We’re talking about aligning your brand with a strong purpose.

Consumers today, especially Millennials, want to support brands whose values they identify with. That means they’re more likely to spend their money when they know they’re giving it to a company that has a meaningful purpose.

What is brand purpose? Why does it matter – and why should you be thinking about it? At idgroup we work closely with our clients to help them build their brand from the inside out – and that includes identifying (and living by) a brand purpose.

What is Brand Purpose?

Brand purpose is the reason for a brand’s existence. By that, we don’t mean your origin story, at least not unless your story includes a brand purpose that guides you in your day-to-day business operations.

To understand what brand purpose is and how it works, it may be helpful to look at an example. Patagonia is a company that has a strong brand purpose. It’s led them to use some unconventional marketing techniques. They work because the brand’s purpose is deeply felt and well-known. You might even say it’s in their DNA.

A specific example of how Patagonia embodies a brand purpose is their decision to switch from using conventional cotton to organic cotton. They made the change after learning that formaldehyde from the cotton stored at one of their facilities was making workers sick. Organic cotton is more expensive than conventional cotton but continuing to use cotton that contained a harmful chemical didn’t align with the brand’s purpose.

Patagonia also donates 1% of its profits to grassroots organizations every year. They say on their website that they don’t consider the donation to be philanthropy. Rather, they say that it’s “part of our effort to balance (however imperfectly) the impact we have on natural systems.”

Why Does Brand Purpose Matter?

Why should you care about brand purpose? The answer is a surprisingly simple one: giving your brand a purpose can have a direct, positive impact on your profits.

An article in Forbes revealed that 75% of Millennials said that it was fairly or very important that the brands they support give back to society in some way. Brands can’t afford to ignore brand purpose because it’s important to Millennials.

In 2017, Millennials accounted for a whopping $200 billion in spending. As of this year, 2018, they will have more buying power than any other generation. Catering to Millennials makes sense, especially when you consider that the generations coming up behind them have many of the same values.

Giving your brand a purpose – and allowing that purpose to inform the way you do business – is essential if you want to grow. Research shows that even brands with a baked-in purpose can suffer if they don’t educate Millennials about their purpose.

A case in point is Newman’s Own, a company that famously gives its profits to charity. Newman’s Own is rated seventh among Baby Boomers but only 81stwith Millennials. Part of that divide may be to Millennials being less aware of Paul Newman and his legacy than Baby Boomers are. However, there’s no denying that for the company to survive, they must engage Millennials and make them aware of the purpose behind the brand.

 In other words, brand purpose is something that you can’t afford to ignore because it matters to consumers – and in particular, to Millennials, who have more spending power right now than any other generation.

Ray-Anderson-Purpose-QuotePhoto Credit: Beyond Sizzle: The Next Evolution of Branding

How to Identify Your Brand’s Purpose

You need a purpose. You know that now, but what should you do if your brand doesn’t have a baked-in purpose the way Patagonia does? The good news is that there are things you can do to identify a purpose that aligns with your brand’s products and customers.

Patagonia has chosen saving the environment as its purpose, something that makes sense for a company that sells outdoor gear and clothing. To be effective, your purpose should be similarly tied to what you do. Remember, the key here is aligning your brand’s purpose with your existing brand. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when you can build on what you already have.

Another example of a brand that’s chosen a purpose that makes sense is the beer manufacturer Heineken. They launched their “Moderate Drinkers Wanted” campaign to educate the public about the dangers of binge drinking and other dangerous behavior related to alcohol consumption. Their purpose sends a message that they understand they have a social responsibility and take it seriously.

To determine your brand’s purpose, you may want to begin with responsibility. Here are some questions to ask:

  • What resources are we using – and what can we do to protect them?

  • What are our products used for? Do we have a responsibility to our customers to educate them about risks?

  • What social causes align with our brand? (For example, a company that makes children’s clothing might choose to manufacture in the United States and at the same time, raise awareness about child labor issues around the world.)

The key is to choose a purpose that speaks directly to your brand, your products, and your customers. If you do that, you’ll have the “baked-in” purpose you need.

How to Manifest Your Brand’s Purpose

Now, let’s talk about some of the do’s and don’ts of integrating your purpose with the way you do business, starting with the things you should do:

  1. Start by aligning your purpose with the way you do business. Your purpose must be more than a marketing campaign – it should inform everything you do. Your vision should drive your purpose.

  2. Set realistic goals for your organization and create a timeline to meet them. Change won’t happen overnight, but you can ensure that you’re moving in the right direction as you implement the changes that are needed.

  3. Engage leaders and employees at every level. It won’t do you any good if your low-level employees are expected to embody your purpose and leadership ignores it.

  4. When you have news to share that’s related to your purpose, share it. You’ll need to make sure that your audience knows what’s happening.

Here are a few things to avoidas you work to align your brand and purpose:

  1. Engage your employees and key influencers to spread the word about your brand purpose. Top-down communication won’t get the job done. Engaging your employees will reduce turnover (especially among Millennials) and ensure that every employee is also an ambassador for your brand.

  2. Choose a purpose that is value or not measurable. It’s essential to have a purpose that’s clearly defined – one where you can point to the impact you’ve had.

  3. Assume that you can take a “one and done” approach to your purpose. Remember, you want something that will be linked to your brand for the long haul. That won’t happen if you make a big splash and then ignore your purpose.

  4. Take a shallow approach to your purpose. Your purpose must inform the way you do business. Marketing campaigns are the icing on the cake – what you do on a daily basis is the cake itself, and that’s what consumers will focus on.

The key takeaway here is that your brand’s purpose must be grounded in a sincere desire to make the world a better place. If you attempt a shallow approach or don’t align your purpose with your brand in a meaningful way, consumers will be able to tell.

From Sizzle to Substance

It’s a time-honored axiom of advertising that companies must “sell the sizzle, not the steak.” Perhaps the biggest change we’ve seen in recent years is that consumers are shopping for steak.

Another way of looking at it is that the steak has become the sizzle. When Patagonia decided to embrace what Ad Week referred to as an “anti-growth” approach to marketing by educating consumers about the environmental impact of their products, their sales grew 27%.

Their approach wouldn’t have worked if their purpose wasn’t baked in to their brand. A company that made a splashy donation to an environmental cause while continuing to use dangerous manufacturing processes and chemicals wouldn’t have been able to get away with it. Your purpose must be genuine to be effective.

Branding with a purpose is one of the topics covered by idgroup’s founder, Mona Amodeo, covers in her new book, Beyond Sizzle: The Next Evolution of Branding. It’s a book designed for forward-thinking entrepreneurs who want to leave the world a better place than they found it.


Millennials are choosing to use their formidable spending power on brands with a clearly-defined purpose. Your organization can benefit from choosing a purpose that aligns with your products and using it to drive the way you do business.

To learn more about how idgroup can help you hone your brand, please click here.


Topics: Branding