Picture: 123RF/rawpixel
Picture: 123RF/rawpixel

The secret to modern business success is having and living a brand purpose. Or so the fallacy goes. The reality, however, is that customers care little about your “purpose”.

Yes, they might feel a closer affinity to your brand if it resonates with them, but that comes from their experience of your brand and belief that they are getting value.

Answering “why” an organisation exists, or “why” people in the business do what they do is at the centre of discovering personal and professional purpose. This is a concept that motivational speaker and organisational consultant Simon Sinek has elevated to popular culture over the past decade.

So it’s not surprising that many companies today proclaim to have a purpose that drives their strategy and operations. But I believe that few have a clear understanding of how to execute this.

Having a purpose-led business certainly sounds sexy, but very few mature businesses manage to do that. And they’re all the poorer for it, because it’s a tremendously powerful concept when grasped fully and executed effectively.

When a brand is aligned internally around a single purpose, this translates into a consistent, recognisable experience for its customers. And that is what creates affinity and loyalty.

Twenty or 30 years ago, this focus was defined by corporate vision and mission statements. All too often, these statements generated little traction and could only be found hanging in the reception area and published in the annual report.

For this reason, a brand purpose that defines “why” your staff show up at work every day is far more powerful and unifying.

This context is crucial if you are to develop a successful internal culture around a common purpose.

This is especially true in the B2B space where it’s far easier to experience the shared values that drive the behaviour of a supplier’s staff. Retaining customers becomes effortless if the behaviours they experience daily reinforce their decision to partner with a particular supplier.

The same principles apply in consumer-facing businesses, especially for retailers that emphasise value over price.

Woolworths is a great example of this. Customers know they’re paying a premium, but the entire experience and knowledge that the process from farm to shelf is centred on delivering the best-quality products far outweigh price.

The big take-out

While customers don’t care about a brand’s purpose, they will notice those brands that don’t have a purpose through unsatisfying brand experiences. 

Such a consistent experience would not have been possible if the business did not have a strong internal culture and purpose. And that culture would not have been possible if Woolworths had not identified its purpose and the type of employees it needs to attract who share those values.

While I believe the majority of mature businesses struggle with defining and entrenching their purpose, they can’t afford to do so for much longer.

Apart from the risk of losing customers to newer, younger and more in-tune competitors, their biggest risk lies in not attracting the right skills. Considering that the employees of the future will be younger and more likely to want to work for an organisation with similar values, a clear purpose becomes paramount.

Without developing their “purpose”, employers will struggle to remain competitive. A customer or external party may not instinctively know what a brand’s purpose is, but its absence will be apparent in an unsatisfying brand experience.

Brendon Bairstow-Klopper is a director at customer experience company nlighten