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A Reason for Being

Wayne McMaster

11 January 2013

Purpose is the deepest or highest expression of a brand, drawing on the ‘why’ to determine the reason for being in the world. The importance of building a brand on a purpose, not simply a promise, isn't just to help consumers understand what the brand stands for but, perhaps more critical, to help employees, or associates, as they are called, understand why "we are here." To uncover brand purpose, ask yourself: Where does your company’s passion lie? What are your greatest strengths, and what do you have to offer? What need do you see in the world that you are ideally placed to address? Why are you here?


We certainly see purpose-driven branding as a growing trend following the last few years. A company in the home interest market that looks at its brand and asks not simply what promise does it make, but what purpose does it serve, to its customers, and brings this purpose to life through every customer experience will be the company most likely to beat its competition. When an employee can answer the question "Why am I here?" in a positively motivating way, everyone benefits.

Whereas a brand’s positioning focuses on what it does, both rationally and emotionally for its audience, a brand’s purpose is a reflection of the positive impact that it wants to have on society as a whole.

Strategic Brand Pyramid

When we place this in the Strategic Brand Pyramid, we see it importantly above mission and vision. That’s because even when the mission isn’t going well and the vision seems like a mirage, a strong purpose will keep people coming back to work day after day. The mission and vision support the purpose.

Notice in the pyramid that mission and vision are on the same level. Marty Neumeier describes them like unidentical twins that reveal the 'how' and the 'what' of future success. He says "Most CEOs get this wrong, using mission and vision interchangeably."

The pyramid represents the 'what', to which the 'how' of strategy is applied. Typically, the strategy – the art of thinking before doing addresses the goals below the mission/vision, and at a higher level, the mission and vision themselves. The purpose is adequately addressed by the bottom two levels, so all you have to do is make sure that they support the purpose.

We credit the original Strategic Pyramid to Marty Neumeier at Liquid Agency.

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