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What you’re getting wrong about your brand purpose

The idea of embracing a brand purpose has gained much momentum over the past couple of years. Organizations of all types are starting to see the real results. Results not only measured by gains in social impact, but also boosts in everything from customer acquisition and retention to recruiting and team member productivity. What we’re seeing is that purpose and profit are proving to be mutually catalytic — helping to fuel the growth of each other.

All of this has led to companies rushing to bring the power of purpose forward in what they do. That’s good news. Expanding the number of purpose-driven efforts holds great potential for bringing meaningful change. Unfortunately, there is still much misunderstanding of how a purpose — or Big Audacious Meaning — gets activated in an organization. Here are 3 common areas where there is still a good amount of misconception about adopting a purpose.

CSR programs are good and noble endeavors. They can lead to all kinds of worthwhile efforts like having your team members volunteer for Habitat For Humanity, hosting a food drive, and more. But a purpose should go way beyond a CSR program. It should help you define the profound positive impact you have on lives, communities, and even the world. And not just in your charitable efforts. It should have an impact across the entire business. Across the entire organization. It should inform your CSR program. But it shouldn’t stop there.

Organizations will go through all kinds of gyrations to produce a statement of their mission — from workshops to leadership retreats. In the end, most are remarkably forgettable. Full of vague language that saps any meaning and passion. This would explain why most team members couldn’t tell you their organization’s mission if you asked. Mission statements are important. They describe how the company will accomplish the vision. But mission statements are inward-facing. They are us talking about us. A purpose statement is outward-facing. It is about those that we are hoping to serve and make a difference for. That is what makes them powerful. People like to feel that the work that they are doing is making a difference in our world. Your purpose statement expresses that. Passionately. That’s what makes it memorable. And irresistible.

Your purpose is in your DNA. It is not something that you invent. It is something that you clarify. The challenge is to understand what is at the core of your organization. What was it that drove its founding? Maybe it went through a major reorganization at some point. What drove that? I have worked with a number of organizations. The purpose comes easier for some than others. But I have yet to work with an organization that could not clarify a purpose after going through the process. The point is, it can’t be faked or manufactured. It has to be discovered and clarified.

Clarifying a brand purpose presents an exciting opportunity for any organization. Understanding what it is and what it is not is the first step. To learn more, check out Big Audacious Meaning — Unleashing Your Purpose Driven Story.

Dan is an expert brand strategist and author of the forthcoming book Big Audacious Meaning — Unleashing Your Purpose-Driven Story. He is a founder at Will & Grail — a brand innovation company, helping organizations find their unique, undeniable and unshakable sense of purpose and create innovative experiences that bring it to life.

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Dan is an expert brand strategist and author of the book Big Audacious Meaning — Unleashing Your Purpose-Driven Story. He is a founder at Will & Grail.

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