Companies have long defined their purpose and values, but often as merely a “check-the-box” exercise. They make for pretty words on a poster as you walk in the door, but they are not ingrained in the company’s DNA. Purpose and values are not made tangible for employees and customers, thus it would not be accurate to describe the organization as “purpose-driven.” Such companies are not only missing out on a huge opportunity, they’re also risking serious, long-lasting damage to their reputation.
Purpose, an organization’s aspirational reason for being, should become the foundation of a brand’s ethos. In a brand context, its ethos is made up of the traits, culture, goals, mission, vision and community it embodies. In marketing, ethos is the connection between a brand and its audience. In addition to building legitimacy and establishing brand authenticity, people resonate and connect with brands that live up to who they say they are – and quickly cancel those that don’t.
Consumers are keenly tuned into the values a brand espouses. Consider the example of a well-known retailer that’s all about relishing the outdoors and embracing one’s free spirit. Those values are not merely promoted to buyers of its products, they are also embedded in the workplace where employees are given the freedom to engage in activities that make them an asset to the company. On any given day, visitors to corporate headquarters may encounter wetsuits strewn across the parking lot because the surf was up and employees took advantage of the company’s surfing policy. Other times, workers may feel drawn to the mountains by reports of fresh powder and take the day off to go skiing. Some employees may not be there at all because they’re participating in the company’s environmental internship program, which provides up to two months of paid leave to those who volunteer with a grassroots environmental group anywhere in the world.
Clearly, this company has a purpose that is not only espoused in advertising but also embedded throughout the company culture. The results are remarkable, with the retailer generating impressive sales and revenue each year. This is an excellent example of how purpose helps elevate a brand. What companies can you think of that are highly value-driven and widely lauded for practicing what they preach?