The impact of the power of purpose

Lynn Manternach/Tree Full of Owls

Why does your business exist? If it’s just to make money, you’re in trouble.

That’s according to unprecedented empirical research by global research agency Millward Brown and Jim Stengel, former global marketing officer of Procter & Gamble.

It’s all about the impact of the power of purpose. Those who focus their business on improving people’s lives have a growth rate triple that of competitors and outperform the market by a huge margin. They dominate their categories, create new categories and maximize profit in the long term, according to Mr. Stengel.

His research tracked the connection between financial performance and customer engagement, loyalty and advocacy. The brands identified as The Stengel 50 by Millward Brown Optimor have outperformed the S&P 500 by a factor of four over the past decade. They are united by one common factor: they understand their purpose and they operate in harmony with their ideals.

So what’s your organization’s purpose? Why do you make the products you make or offer the services you offer? What is the higher order benefit you provide?

Your purpose is critical to your organization’s brand. Your purpose clarifies what you and your people stand for and believe. Employees who believe in the brand’s higher purpose will give that extra effort needed to make good things happen. Without a higher purpose it’s just a job. People who are just doing a job have to find their own motivations for doing the job well. A big part of the reason companies that focus on a higher purpose are successful is because of the way the purpose focuses and motivates employees and leadership.

Consumers experience your brand through the collective intent of the people behind it. Your purpose aligns employees and the organization to better serve its customers, which ultimately strengthens the brand connection with consumers. Your organization’s purpose is what connects the core beliefs of the people inside your organization with the fundamental human values of the people they serve.

How do you make a brand meaningful? According to Umair Haque, director of the Havas Media Labs and Harvard Business Review blogger, you need to focus on outcomes, not outputs. “Did this brand make you fitter, wiser, smarter, closer? Did it improve your personal outcomes? Did it improve your community outcomes? Did it pollute the environment? We’re trying to get beyond ‘Did this company make a slightly better product?’ to the more resonant, meaningful question: ‘Did this brand actually impact your life in a tangible, lasting and positive way?’”

For example, let’s look at one of the world’s most valuable brands – Apple. Apple’s brand is not about the latest and trendiest consumer gadgets. Apple’s brand ideal empowers people to express themselves. Harley-Davidson does more than encourage people to buy classic-looking motorbikes. Its brand ideal fuels the passion of freedom and encourages consumers to express their individuality.

Brands that have adjusted their thinking to focus on why they are in business rather than what they are in business for experience stronger financial growth and increased equity value. These businesses are not thinking about what products or services they need to ensure consumer loyalty. Instead, they are focused on why the brand exists in the first place, and the positive impact they can make on the world.

Purpose makes brands meaningful to consumers. It makes it easier for brands to connect with consumers because it gives consumers a reason to connect with brands.

Your organization’s higher purpose is your brand, if you can effectively integrate it into your organization. When you have a clear and compelling brand ideal that connects with universal human instincts, hopes and values, you have something people actually care about. It allows your organization to communicate its beliefs and messages internally to employees and externally to customers. It makes your organization the place that like-minded people want to work. It drives productivity, ideas, enthusiasm and ultimately, profit.

That’s the impact of the power of purpose.

Lynn Manternach is brand arsonist and president at MindFire Communications Inc. ( in Cedar Rapids and the Quad Cities. Contact her at