Why culture and purpose need to be a part of your brand strategy

Dec 14, 2022
Brand Marketing

There’s a core set of ‘ingredients’ that go into just about every brand strategy; think defined objectives, audience personas, tone of voice, key messages… You get the idea. But as our marketing landscape continues to evolve, more and more businesses are going a step further; bringing organisational culture and purpose into their brand strategy ‘recipe’. 

The fact is, marketers can no longer afford to ignore these critical pieces of the puzzle. Telling a great story isn’t enough. We’ve all witnessed a shift in the landscape as consumer demand for authentic brand storytelling grows ever higher. When values become actions, consumers notice. It’s why businesses need to ‘walk the walk’ with purpose-led initiatives, consciously tailored culture, and synergy throughout the organisation. Build that social proof into your brand strategy and your message becomes much more meaningful.

Defining your brand purpose matters; here’s why

Now, brace for some corporate jargon. Perhaps grab some coffee and we’ll try to keep the dry stuff to a minimum. Let’s start with the basics. What does brand purpose mean anyway? Also, why is it important?

In short: it’s the reason your brand exists. Whatever you do, never say your brand purpose is ‘to make money’; every company needs to turn a profit, but you must have some other motivator. Raphael Bemporad, a founding partner of BBMG, refers to it as your ‘north star’ or ‘noble purpose’. Ask yourself: how does your brand improve people’s lives? The answer to that is your brand purpose. For example, Crayola seeks to ‘unleash the originality in every child’ and that defined purpose statement signals a path for their values to flow through to their products, messaging, community engagement, and other areas of the business.

Crayola brand essence statement: "We believe in unleashing the originality in every child"
Crayola brand essence statement

It’s easy to get brand purpose mixed up with brand values, mission, and vision, as they all blend into the same meaningless jargon. But here’s the translation: your values, mission, and vision should actually sit underneath and be influenced by your overall purpose. Your vision is where you want to take the company, your mission is the plan for getting there, and your values are the rules you work by — but they are all focused on yourself, the thing your customers don’t care about. How often have you heard ‘stop talking about yourself!’ regarding marketing? (*hint, it should be a lot.)

But your brand purpose is outward-focused, explaining the difference you will make to the world and letting customers know how your brand serves them. The thing is, once you’ve defined this, you’ve got to act on it and authentically implement the idea throughout every layer of the company. That’s where it connects with strategy and culture.

Connecting culture to purpose and strategy

‘The grind’ seems like a dying idea, disappearing along with the 9-5 and inflexible, office-based work. Or at least, it’s disappearing in forward-thinking companies. Companies that value employee mental health and want to create space for innovation and creativity to flourish. And with this new movement, comes the connection of workplace culture to a company’s purpose and strategy.

Instead of developing strategies based on the bottom line and writing a purpose straight from a clichéd manual, there’s now an expectation that they are connected to your company culture. And ideally, that’s a supportive, flexible, and well-formed culture, which will create an environment where employees can work to the best of their ability and uplift the company. A poisonous culture can do the opposite.

Promotional image for ‘Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber’
Promotional image for ‘Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber’

Take Uber. Everyone knows that something went wrong there — there’s even a recent TV show called ‘Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber’ which follows CEO Travis Kalanick’s downfall in 2017. Simply put, Uber had a ‘bro culture’ which turned out to be mostly sexual harassment, discrimination, and bullying. Their culture didn’t reflect the modern, forward-thinking image of the company, and was in sharp contrast to their apparent values — so they got called on it. Uber may have survived, but it’s in a very different form and many people continue to choose other ride-sharing apps in the wake of the incident.

Developing a workplace culture starts with your core values, the principles which describe the desired mindset of everyone at your company. Every decision you make has to be influenced by those values and then the effect will flow down through the rest of the team. For instance, if you want a brand that’s ‘innovative’, you should cultivate an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing ideas and are encouraged to take risks and break the mould. When your company culture is aligned with your brand strategy like this, then employees are more likely to flourish — and work towards delivering on your brand purpose.

The benefits of intertwining brand strategy, purpose, and culture

Attracting people who align with your values

There’s immense value in making someone think ‘Wow, this brand gets me.’ This goes for both customers and potential employees. Attracting the right audience — people who live by the values your brand champions — is much easier when your company’s culture and purpose are expressions of its brand. 

Purpose-led brand merchandising in a Lush Cosmetics store, aligned with their ethics-driven culture
Purpose-led visual merchandising in a Lush Cosmetics store, aligned with their ethics-driven culture

Strengthening loyalty with existing customers

Casual buyers convert into repeat customers when they see your brand as more than what it sells. A purpose-led brand strategy helps you reach your audience on an emotional level, positioning your product as a part of their lifestyle and encouraging loyalty to flourish. Just look at the visual merchandising example above from Lush Cosmetics (no relation to us, although they have impeccable taste in brand naming); platforming with purpose allows them to share their values with their customers before they’ve even set foot into the store.

Gaining a compass for brand decision-making 

As your business looks to the future, your interconnected culture and purpose can help provide consistent direction for brand decisions moving forward. From talent scouting to product development and campaign messages, knowing what you stand for means you will have a meaningful anchor to build it all around. 

Unifying brand experience across its operations

Think about your brand’s ad campaigns, phone greetings, physical presence, stakeholder communications, governance, practices, and employee experience. Is every area promoting a cohesive message? Or are there some that need improvement? When every avenue speaks in unison, your message becomes crystal clear; and with your culture, purpose, and brand strategy intertwined, that harmony is effortless.

Consider your brand’s purpose and culture as pieces of its DNA. A brand strategy that works in harmony with that DNA is the key to telling a deeper story; one naturally saturated with authenticity. Only then can you cultivate the right audience. Those are the customers and employees who reflect your brand’s worldview; the best ambassadors your brand could ask for. 

When an effective culture, purpose, and brand strategy work in harmony, they are made stronger than the sum of their parts. If your brand would benefit from a values-driven key messaging session, a brand strategy workshop, or a culture transformation, reach out to the Lush team.