Why Have a Purpose Beyond Profit?

beyond profit

Why have a purpose beyond profit business strategy?

Developing a purpose beyond profit business strategy has been gaining momentum in the business world, with both positive and negative attention.

For decades, enterprises have had “mission statements”, “vision statements”, and  “values”. Check almost any corporate website and you’ll find these “drivers” of the business buried deep down and many clicks away from the surface.

Despite having taken on these important steps to say what their business is all about, there’s often a big difference between what they intend, and the effect they have. The fact is, these tools of business have rarely gained much traction outside of the C-suite.

Defining Purpose

A “purpose” is a more powerful and effective tool because it engages in a way that matters to a wide range of people across an organization. It is not dry, administrative, and full of corporate jargon. It doesn’t set a goal that feels irrelevant outside the C-suite. Rather it is an idea that touches upon a quest for meaning and purpose that  is universal in appeal, while at the same time relevant to the business.

People connect to a purpose. Within the purpose they see room for themselves to do something meaningful with their work lives. They feel closer to, more aligned with, and willing to help the business.

A good purpose can radically alter the customer experience as well, as the brand gradually starts to live to its purpose and make life better in meaningful ways. As such, products evolve to embody greater meaning, the changing attitudes and character of the staff leads to more meaningful service, and every experience with the brand more clearly separates what it does from its competitors.

Think of purpose as a “North Star” for your organization, not as a marketing message. Let it help shape, guide, and align the attitudes, beliefs, and behavior of your people. Let the energy that new spirit generates create a beacon that attracts new customers, job recruits, partners, and others to your brand.

Why look beyond profit?

The most powerful purpose statements look beyond profit. This means they talk only of the good the brand seeks to create without stating the obvious goal of every business: profit. It is within the context of profit making that goodness makes a difference. People always remember the profit orientation of a meaningful brand, but it is the meaning the brand conveys that leads people to appreciate and prefer that brand.

While it may seem counter-intuitive to not include the profit motive – after all what will shareholders think? – the benefits are clear. Having a purpose is not about forgetting about profits, it’s about changing how you think about the positive outcomes that happen when you make profits.

How does one define a purpose beyond profit?

Strong purpose statements flow from the emotional impact that is generated by the prime meaningful outcomes the brand produces through its products, policies, procedures, and behaviors. The ideal purpose operates on a level that makes it possible for even the most disparate people to see the relevance of the brand to their lives.

The outcomes to which the purpose points are the positive impacts that are made by the brand across the personal, social, or environmental realms. Positive impacts are those that add to the individual or collective well-being.

Everyone affected by the brand should feel that the purpose is personal relevant and emotionally important, that it embodies an ideal they share, and that they want to part of fulfilling that promise, whatever their role.

As such, the language of a good purpose is anything but corporate-speak. Jargon gives way to simple, honest, and memorable words and phrases. The voice is positive, uplifting, and purposeful.

A brand purpose is not a tagline

A purpose is not written to fit the style of a slogan or tagline; it contains all the thoughts it needs to engage and inspire people. A new brand purpose may well inspire a new tagline (as well an overall communication style) for your firm. Though we caution you to be realistic about how much a tagline can achieve with respect to creating a meaningful difference. Remember, real change won’t come from what you say in advertising and marketing, but from the way your brand makes people feel based in their every encounter with it.

Download and read our Purpose Beyond Profit white paper.

Emotive Brand is a brand strategy firm.


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