“Purpose is not a mere tagline or marketing campaign; it is a company’s fundamental reason for being—what it does every day to create value for its stakeholders,” –Larry Fink
As we leave behind one of the more challenging years in our recent history, the unprecedented pandemic has caused noticeable shifts in mindset, attitude, and action from people and brands. As people and consumers evaluate their lifestyles and prioritize what really matters to them, they are also looking at brands and deciding which ones they want to keep a relationship with and more importantly, which ones to cut ties with. In today’s environment, the success of a brand comes down to one thing: its brand purpose. And the key to bringing purpose to life in a way that resonates with consumers is empathy and authenticity. When brands put greater good ahead of profits, customers see that and want to be part of it.
It all starts with you. Purpose has to come from an innate value that is within you. You don’t get into purpose, you come from purpose. Only then can you tap in the authentic truth of a brand, which ultimately reflects its purpose.
Now, there are some brands that have gotten it right, that have amplified their brand purpose during the crisis. However, these are brands that come from purpose, with leaders aligned with that purpose. That comes through in actions that are not reactive or contrived, but instead come from a place of authenticity. And that makes all the difference for their consumers.
For those people and brands still standing at the intersection—seeking higher purpose, but wondering which way to go—here are some steps that I’ve learned over time that have helped me better align my authentic core truth with what I do for a living.
1. Give yourself permission to evolve.
As Oprah once said, “The whole point of being alive is to evolve into the complete person you were intended to be.” If we’re not evolving, we’re stagnant and comfortable. And whether we realize it or not, being stuck is not good for the heart and mind. It takes its toll. Yes, stepping out of your comfort zone is uncomfortable. But overcoming it is the only way forward, personally and professionally. Give yourself permission to evolve and watch how much better you feel for doing so. The universe will open up possibilities you can’t even imagine and lead you to more creative thinking.
Sooner or later, we find the path of purpose when our heart is ready and up for the journey.
2. Start with your own core truth.
Whether you are a person or brand, everything has a core truth—a reason for being. In order to create anything that is purpose-driven, you have to be in touch with your own purpose. If not, people will see right through it and dismiss it for what it is—a marketing ploy. When you understand who you are as a person or brand, people will resonate with your messaging because they know it’s coming from a genuine place. And as we all know, you can’t fake real. So start with your core truth, create a blueprint and build from there. Avoid the trends and never waver from your truth. Be your own unique purpose warrior.
3. Keep your motivation front and center.
When you look at the convention of any business, it’s about selling products and services to people. Commerce is the lifeblood of every organization. But as we all know, we are living in a different world today where people can not only see—but feel—where the motivation is coming from. The great shift towards purpose for any industry is when the true motivation for creating something is to help people and their communities, and not just to win awards or accolades.
You don’t give to get; instead, you give because it comes from the most authentic place there is: your heart. And when you do that, good will be recognized and the impact you make in the world is the reward.
4. “Cast” from your values.
Use this as an opportunity to get level. Now that you have a clear idea of your core values, take inventory of the things in your life that don’t serve your greater good and cast accordingly. This applies to everything. From friends, people you date, the employees you hire or the company you work for. Stay away from negative people and toxic work environments. It’s not good for your sanity or your heart. Look for an agency that shares the same values as you do. Look for brand partners that respect and admire your values. Soon, you’ll be doing what you love with people you love and never look at your work as work, but rather an extension of your purpose. Because when you get the casting right, everything falls into place.
5. Go from the “me” to the “we.”
This is a vital shift in mentality that will make all the difference in the world—from employee morale, self-confidence and camaraderie to overall company success. Success everyone will feel a part of. Because of this, they will all be committed to the greater good of the company. It’s about unity, creating a feeling that you are all in this together. Whether you are a 10-person agency or a multimillion-dollar brand, there’s nothing more powerful than a tribe that is aligned for the greater whole, as opposed to each being out for himself.
6. Live the truth of your company from the inside out.
Culture is not a box that you check. It’s not hosting Bagel Fridays and a get-together once a week—these days on Zoom. Those are indeed nice to have. But it’s way bigger than that. Culture is an unwavering commitment to live the truth of your brand or agency and inspire everyone who touches it, to be a part of it. It starts with your core truth and you can activate it with a series of ongoing initiatives that provide opportunities for your people to experience that culture every day, whether they’re at the office or working remotely. They’re living it in everything they do. There’s a sense of shared values, a clear vision and authentic purpose that is genuinely demonstrated from the action within the walls of the company to the messaging and products you put out in the world. This is inside-out marketing. It’s one of the keys to authentic purpose. When you truly embrace this, the world will know—and your customers will see it come through.
7. Embrace purpose as a way of life.
Let’s face it: we are all human. We may not have made the best choices in business and life, but that’s how we grow. Sooner or later, we find the path of purpose when our heart is ready and up for the journey. But know that authentic purpose is not a job that you leave at the office. It’s something that becomes a part of you and your everyday life. It’s truly living with empathy and compassion. And there are many ways to bring that to life. Create your own nonprofit. Get involved in a community initiative that aligns with your values. Start a dog rescue center. Pay it forward on every level that you can. True purpose will flow from you and the impact will be felt by all – your company, your community, your family and, last but not least, you.
8. Watch your bottom line flourish.
Purpose is good for everything, including business. Last year, Larry Fink, the CEO of BlackRock, one of the world’s largest investment firms, talked about the intersection of purpose and profit. “Purpose is not a mere tagline or marketing campaign; it is a company’s fundamental reason for being—what it does every day to create value for its stakeholders,” he said. “Purpose is not the sole pursuit of profits but the animating force for achieving them.” He couldn’t be more accurate. When you truly embrace and live the truth of your brand, and lead with authentic care and purpose, you’ll reap the benefits that extend far beyond the standards of success. When your work or community initiatives are inspiring, and aligned with brand purpose, it will resonate on a deep level with your communities, gain consumer loyalty, stand out from your competitors—and ultimately positively impact your bottom line. Organically.
Change is constant, as we know and are experiencing all too well. And right now, there’s never been a better time to bring purpose into the lives and brands that have been longing for change.
It’s not going to happen overnight. Building and inspiring purpose takes time. But if your heart is aligned with your reason for doing it, you’ll never look at your watch ever again and wonder what time you can leave the office to go home.
Purpose will be your home. And no walls can define how successful you can make it.
So, whether you’re a person pondering your next step, a chief marketing officer longing for shared values—or just a business leader looking to inspire, just know, it all starts with you.
If you’re wondering whether it’s too late to step into higher purpose, it’s not. The truth is, there’s no better time to start than now.