Businesses have been leaning into purpose-driven strategies for years, but recent events have tested them as never before. Whether responding to the worldwide pandemic, new ways of working, racial protests or political polarization, we’ve seen that companies with a purpose centered on shared human values rather than business goals are the ones more capable of acting swiftly and effectively. Purpose doesn’t just help these businesses decide what to do, it guides them in the best ways to do it.
This purpose is the North Star that steers actions and decision-making on a day-to-day basis. And it guides all elements of the company’s DNA, including its brands, strategy and employee value proposition.
And those without a well-articulated and actionable purpose? They’re struggling. When companies shout out hollow words on social media, customers abandon them, and brands lose their relevance. When we surveyed consumers in April, 58 percent said that in order to earn or keep their trust, it was very-to-extremely important for a brand to offer a relevant set of beliefs and values. By June, this number had jumped to 69 percent.
Prophet developed a diagnostic to assess how durable your company’s purpose is across four key dimensions (authentic, inspiring, shared, actionable). The custom analysis produces results that let you know where you may have a weak spot and where you might take your purpose next.
Our diagnostic will help you make brand purpose more powerful and tell you what to do if your company’s purpose isn’t…
It’s likely your mission isn’t ambitious enough or has been defined too narrowly. Brands like Disney, NPR and Spotify are endlessly uplifting because their purpose speaks to shared human values; they know how their products and services make a difference in the world and in people’s lives. But even companies with a fairly pragmatic purpose can be more aspirational.
To be more inspiring:
- Look for cultural symbols and rituals among stakeholder groups
- Find signature stories that are so compelling they make people question, reflect and want to share them with others
When companies connect their purpose to the way they earn money, it makes perfect sense. Google, for instance, exists to “organize the world’s information,” which clicks with anyone who’s ever used a search engine. But when an oil and gas company misses the mark completely by saying its focus is protecting the environment, or a soft-drink brand claims to be committed to health, there’s an immediate disconnect.
To be more authentic:
- Realign the business model, or find a purpose that fits
- Isolate the organization’s unique assets to solve a challenge, not easily copied by a competitor
The right purpose feels true and important with every audience–employees, customers and communities. It must be understood and pervasive, felt by every stakeholder. And it contributes to the overall betterment of society. For Patagonia, nothing matters more than fiercely protecting the environment. At Nike, the commitment to racial injustice, which connects so deeply with its customers and athlete spokespeople, is more believable. If your company’s purpose doesn’t feel urgent to each group you’re targeting, it’s likely the wrong ambition.
To find a genuinely shared purpose:
- Sharpen listening skills. What are customers and employees really saying?
- Explore the intersections of our stakeholder groups, finding new ways to ask, “What shared human value is most relevant?”
Of the four traits, this is the last mile. If your organization can’t deliver on its purpose–no matter how inspiring or authentic–everything else is pointless. Purpose needs to be enabled by leaders: Their actions and decisions serves as the role-model to the entire organization.
Recent months have shown what happens when purpose is just an empty promise. Those include companies parroting “We’re in this together” messages, only to be called out for endangering employees, or jumping on “Black Lives Matters” platforms, even while actively discriminating against employees and customers.
To bring purpose-driven strategies to life:
- Find new ways to measure and improve employee behaviors. Everyone who works for the company should understand the purpose, and how they help it show up in the world
- Implement and audit performance metrics throughout stakeholder groups
- Take action in-market that brings the purpose to life
Take our diagnostic today to see how your purpose is and isn’t working for your brand today.