What's the point in purpose?

Three myths and three clues

  • Opinion
  • BrandOpus

Our latest thought-provoking debate gathered leading behavioural psychologist professor Nick Chater and industry experts from Molson Coors, WiseHead Productions and The Future Laboratory, to re-evaluate the role of brand purpose.

This was not a debate about good versus bad, purpose versus profit, moral obligations, corporate social responsibility, or righting the world’s wrongs. Instead, we explored the hallmarks of a meaningful and successful brand purpose and established what works and what doesn't.

Purpose event 1

Here are three myths (debunked) and three clues for developing a meaningful and successful brand purpose.


Brand purpose must be good for the world.

The old adage of ‘do well then do good’ is being called into question as more and more businesses recognise that profit and purpose do not have to be mutually exclusive, and find ways to deliver both.

Brand purpose must be distinctive.

Contrary to popular belief, a brand’s purpose itself doesn’t need to be distinctive. However the way it’s activated absolutely should be, if you want your purpose to build equity for your brand.

Brand purpose should be rooted in a social cause.

A purpose does not have to be socially or ethically motivated, but it does need to be authentic for the brand. And set a clear direction of travel that extends beyond the provision of a product or service.

Purpose 3


Brand purpose should be compelling.

To inspire action a purpose needs to be galvanizing, and for that the meaning must be relatable and magnetic to your audience.

Brand purpose should be authentic.

No matter how relevant the sentiment is, if a purpose is not aligned with your brand’s core meaning and values it will lack authenticity and credibility. That’ll create confusion and disenchantment as people start to question what license your brand has to stand for that cause.

Brand purpose should be delivered with conviction.

Standing for something means just that, come what may. A purpose should never be diluted or compromised and must endure the passage of time. How the purpose is expressed into the world can evolve though, in order to stay relevant.

A test for a good purpose is the clarity to which you can say yes or no to something. Maybe is a problem.

Purpose 2

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