Core Purpose: Defining the “Why”

The world of business is changing. As consumers move towards a more socially conscious frame of mind, it is becoming clear that purpose-driven brands are changing the way the world does business. Purpose helps organizations to define their reason for existing, the problem they wish to solve, and the larger role they want to play in the world. 

Core purpose answers the “why” of what an organization sets out to do. It communicates what that company would continue achieving even if the activities of the business were to entirely change tomorrow. So, if there was a better way to fulfill that purpose through different means, then they would do that, but their core purpose would never change.

How Core Purpose makes a difference

When a company has an authentic and well-communicated purpose, they see benefits that others do not. In addition to higher market gains, faster growth, and greater workforce and customer satisfaction, there are numerous ways in which Core Purpose can benefit business (Stengel, n.d.).

  • Purpose-driven brands are more successful in acquiring and retaining customers, as more and more consumers choose to buy things that make them feel good about themselves (Hassell, n.d.)
  • People would rather do business with brands they trust, according to 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Special  53% say brand trust is second only to price. Having a purpose that fosters trust is a key factor for initiating brand loyalty and long-term amicability. 
  • Purpose-driven companies are more appealing to employees, who orient themselves towards companies that share their values. According to a survey by the New York Times, employees who derive meaning from work are three times more likely to stay at their organization. 
  • Purpose helps to reinforce a brand narrative while promoting legacy and longevity. According to Headstream, 55% of people consider buying from a brand if they love their brand story. 
  • On a more emotional level, purpose gives reason for customers to build a relationship with a brand based on shared values that can be reflected in a larger purpose. (WARC, 2017). To learn more about brand values and how to establish them, click here.
  • When rooted in authenticity, purpose can create a widely-held reputation and community for a brand. For example, Patagonia’s purpose of being “in business to save our home planet” attracts as many environmentalists as it does outerwear fans. 

Defining a meaningful purpose

At Skyrocket, we use our core purpose, “to channel creative energy into world impact” to guide our processes and business decisions. Our purpose comes from our desire to create meaningful work and is imbued with the understanding that in some ways we are an energy company — we are here to convert time, resources, and human potential into a meaningful change we want to create “out there”. Knowing this also helps us attract the right kind of people to work with us as partners or employees. 

How to do the work

So how is core purpose defined? Something so intangible may seem daunting to pinpoint, but really, it is just a matter of doing the work.

1. Asking the right questions

It’s important to start by digging to the depths of an organization to form an understanding of its reason for existing. This can be done during discovery sessions or just dedicated meeting times. It is also important to ask the right kinds of questions during these times, ones that speak the ‘why’ of the organization. Some examples of these types of questions include: “where did the business idea come from?”, “why did you choose to undertake this endeavour?”, and “what does success look like in this organization?”.

2.  Extracting the key information

After concluding the questioning session, highlight the key information that informs purpose like the brand’s origin story, success factors, and who they aim to serve. Next, summarize this information and use those elements to inform a core purpose statement. The purpose statement should accurately reflect the elements from the discovery highlights while reflecting a higher level of refinement and strategy. This ensures that the strategic goals of the organization are addressed while staying true to its story. Once the purpose statement is finalized, it can become part of the overall brand strategy and provide direction for the entire organization. 

3. What to avoid

Oftentimes, brands already have established purpose statements that may or may not accurately represent who they are. In the questioning sessions, it will likely become clear if that statement needs to be adjusted to reflect a more accurate truth. There are many times when brands will base their purpose statement on who they want to be or who they think their customers want them to be. Brands may solely think of purpose as a way to advertise. This can be avoided by focusing on the core truths and making them shine through.

Building brands to last

Building a successful brand that can make an impact is more than just fun colours and a fancy logo. It takes work and strategy to be able to put together cohesive intangible components that can make or break a brand’s success. A strong core purpose is one of those components as it sets the foundation for organizations to feel confident in their decisions and direction. Not only do we see purpose-driven brands outperforming the competition on the bottom line, but they also attract and retain valuable human resources, thereby reinforcing a positive work culture. In other words, putting in the work to define core purpose is one of the best investments of time and energy an organization can make.

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