Brand Purpose: Should You REALLY Start With Why?

Kaine Levy
April 1, 2024
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Brand purpose became all the rage in 2009 with Simon Sinek's famous Ted Talk and book called 'Start With Why'. Ever since, it has changed the way leadership teams operate around the world.

When used correctly, brand purpose can help your company communicate its 'why' and, in doing so, build better relationships with employees, customers, and investors.

By the end of this post, you will know exactly what brand purpose is, why it's important, and how you can integrate it into your brand strategy for commercial gain.


What Is Brand Purpose?

Brand purpose is the reason why your company exists beyond profit and why anyone should care about it. I know, it all sounds a little existential and it can be sometimes. However, in a crowded marketplace, a great brand purpose can help you communicate the unique value you bring to customers and society.

But wait, isn't the whole point of a company to generate profit? Well, yes... but that's not a very appealing value proposition to customers is it?

We all like a good origin story. Brand purpose helps you to capture your company's origin story in one clear statement that people can rally behind.


Where Did Brand Purpose Come From?

As I said earlier, the idea of brand purpose came from Simon Sinek's Ted Talk and book, 'Start With Why'. In it, Sinek uncovers the true power of purpose within both personal and corporate environments. The general principle is that people don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it.

In the past, brands had always used a mission statement to communicate the journey they were on. The problem with this, however, is that 99% of the time these mission statements would be selfish and inward-focused. I mean, how many times have you read something like this: "Our mission is to be the best in X industry, bringing true innovation and..." blah blah blah. Nobody cares.

People care about a human story. They want to know why a business was founded. Perhaps it was due to a need seen by the founder, a struggling family member, a turning point in a career. A purpose could be anything and that's what makes yours unique.

πŸ’‘ Key Takeaway:
β€œPeople don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” - Simon Sinek


The Confusion Between Purpose, Mission, and Vision

Purpose, vision, and mission are constantly confused and I find it really irritating.

Not only will you find differentiating advice all over the internet, you'll also find big brands getting this wrong all the time, too.

Let me clear things up as simply as possible for you.

  • Vision: The long-term, ambitious goal for your brand if you were to achieve everything you set out to do. Dream big and paint a picture of what that looks like.
  • Mission: The commitments you make week-in week-out to make to make your vision a reality. This brings things back down to earth and shows how you will achieve the vision.
  • Purpose: The reason why your organisation exists beyond making money. It could be an origin story and/or an impact you feel you need to make in the world.

Vision is what, mission is how, purpose is why.


The ROI of Brand Purpose

Now you understand what brand purpose is, let's determine its commercial ROI.

To do this, we need to look at the stakeholders it affects:


1. Leadership Team

Everything trickles down from the top. A leadership team that believes in the 'why' of the business sticks around and makes better decisions.

2. Employees

Instead of simply paying employees a salary, you give them a purpose with a paycheck. Everyone likes to do meaningful work, and customers that believe in your purpose are happier, work harder, and contribute towards a better company culture.

3. Customers

Customers love stories. Not only that, they're tired of choosing from the thousands of options out there. If you've already developed a solid positioning strategy, then a brand purpose gives them yet another reason to choose your brand over a competitor.

4. Investors

The most overlooked stakeholder in this list. If you're an avid watcher of Dragon's Den, you'll know that investors don't just buy into businesses or ideas, they buy into entrepreneurs. An entrepreneur with a 'why' signals to an investor that their money is in safe hands. Why? Because, in business, you often have to wait a few years before you see the fruits of your labour. A deeper purpose will propel an enrepreneur through the hard times when money doesn't.

Daniel Priestley talks about the power of brand purpose from an investor's perspective on The Diary of a CEO podcast with Steven Bartlett.

5. Society & Planet

For those of you that have a more social or environmental purpose, the planet and society at large can benefit from it. Not only does it feel good to contribute, if that's something you're passionate about, it also comes with all sorts of incentives, awards, and grants.


This image from a 2019 Forbes article shows more areas brand purpose can create commercial impact.

The ROI of Purpose - Copyright Conspiracy of Love 2019
The ROI of brand purpose via Forbes


How to Create a Brand Purpose

There are two schools of thought here. There are those who say you need a big, existential purpose or you don't have a strong brand. And there are those who say the idea of purpose is wishy-washy and doesn't add any commercial value.

Both are wrong.

From working with brands for over a decade, I can tell you there are huge differences in success between those that have a strong purpose and those that don't. However, 'strong' doesn't mean you need a purpose that's changing the world as we know it.

A strong brand purpose is one that is powerful and authentic to the founder. That is the biggest priority. A founder with powerful purpose is a founder that won't quit, and a founder that won't quit is likely to build an incredible brand.

If your purpose is primarily social or environmental, and that's genuine to you, great. More power to ya! But, if not, don't worry about it. Just think back to why you started your company, why you chose this path over everything else you could have done, and that's your 'why'.


Brand Purpose Examples

Here are some examples from recognisable brands to help you discover your own purpose:


Halo Top

Halo Top is a low-calorie, low-sugar, and high-protein ice cream that doesn't compromise on taste. This is a great example of brand purpose for three reasons:

  1. They clearly communicate why they started the business
  2. They show their unique brand personality
  3. They simultaneouslyhighlight what they do differently and better than competitors
Halo Top brand purpose via Halo Top



Starbucks is one of those examples where they use the word 'mission' instead of 'purpose'. However, they are one of few brands whose mission and purpose double up so I suppose we can let them off.

Their coffee is far from a great product in my opinion. However, they have a clear purpose that has been executed so well, you just can't knock 'em.

Starbucks is a great place to hang out. They have great customer service (in most cases) and make the customer feel special by addressing them by name.

Starbucks brand purpose via Starbucks



A brand purpose list wouldn't be complete without Patagonia. Patagonia does fit the criteria of "change the world" so if that's something you're into, this one's for you.

I mean, billionaire owner, Yvon Chouinard, literally gave the business away in 2022 to an environmental trust and all profits to fighting the climate crisis.

This is a founder with a meaningful purpose that he saw through.

Patagonia brand purpose via Patagonia Hong Kong


How To Find More Brand Purpose Examples

As a reminder, many brands confuse vision, mission, and purpose. In searching for 'brand purpose examples' you'll often find mission statements instead.

In order to find the true purpose behind a brand, try searching for their origin story or founder story. This often yields far greater results and gives you what you're looking for.


How to Implement Brand Purpose in 3 Easy Steps

You have everything you need to know about brand purpose. You just need to implement it into your own business.

Here's how in three easy steps:

  1. As a founder, reflect on what is genuinely important to you and your leadership team. Think back to why you started your company and why you've chosen this path over anything else.
  2. Consider the impact your brand purpose will have on employees, customers, investors, and society. Measure KPIs of your purpose for each one so you can add a tangible figure to its commercial return.
  3. Communicate your purpose clearly and consistently across all brand touchpoints. Use every opportunity to share your story and engage others.



Brand purpose isn't just a marketing tactic or a formality; it's a core element of your brand strategy that can guide you through business challenges and towards sustainable growth.

By embracing a purpose that is authentic to the founder, you can build a brand that not only stands the test of time but also makes a meaningful impact in the world.

Join our tribe of entrepreneurs to learn how to find gaps in the market and build a brand.

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