What is your purpose statement?

To forget one’s purpose is the commonest form of stupidity ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

A series of questions that wafted past me at an evening-out of over-priced everything, prompted me to scribble this post.  All too often we forget our purpose, just as we do our brands’. In fact I am sure we have never written a purpose statement for ourselves or made it a rite of passage for our employees. WHY A PURPOSE STATEMENT? Let me drift a bit to a behaviour that we all exhibit at different times in our lives. Like when we look at ourselves in the mirror or then simply introspect and ask a series of existential questions! And when we find some or no answers and seem happy or then defer it to another of those evenings that beg us to seek our purpose! Our reason to be!

It’s not very different for a brand. And crafting that purpose or course correcting with ‘it’ rather than with other elements of the mix, is crucial for happy brands.

So what is this purpose statement supposed to do?

Simply put, be an inspiration to enable the brands’ consumers grow. Grow as individuals from within. Grow out of an insecurity. Grow from ugly ducklings to swans. Grow by overcoming threats…Grow by finally contributing.

That’s what brands with purpose do. And this ‘purpose’ shouldn’t root itself in product attributes or a reason-to-believe (R.T.B). These are merely processes to achieve the purpose. But often when a brand is soul searching, the questions research is expected to answer don’t even pose a query on the ‘purpose’. They are more about measuring changed brand perceptions or equity it has garnered or imagery enhanced v/s competition or relevance of benefits etc.

What about adding on the essence of the purpose or meaning that is derived from the brand?

If there’s no response or there’s just a playback of benefits, chances are the brand won’t find a home. Often couched in data, it takes precious time before brand custodians find the real reason for despair. And more often, the quality of advertising or product portfolio or poor retail visibility etc is blamed. Maybe it’s just that the prospective buyers never got the purpose of the brands’ existence in their lives. And it’s not about benefits as defined in strategy blueprints, but about life changing truths. The Inner Truth about the brands’ reason to exist.

Body Shop did it so well several years ago. Alleviating guilt of the indulgence loving, conscience-questioning woman. Bringing her into the fold by making her feel pure of heart & live comfortably with herself. Conceived not as an after thought But as a company philosophy.

So where does one begin?

Definitely not in mindless analysis of the market or shares or category codes. All of this is important & needs to be done, but to find ways to reach the purpose AND not define it. Just look for an inspirational space the brand can occupy. That’s it. As simple as that. Let it be something gut wrenching, explosive, heartwarming, exhilarating, passion rousing….something tremendously releasing maybe.

I believe for starters, that the tonality must change from a pure transactional language that says ‘Brand positioning’, to ‘My purpose is…’. And the purpose must be something substantial. Not just getting male admiration from using a cream or making someone rich enough to buy a bigger house…but rooted in a feeling that truly elevates the prospective buyer. Of course one can’t comment on whether this purpose needs to be altruistic or self fulfilling. But it needs to stir. Else be it the brand or an individual, the chances of being ephemeral is very high.

In my trip to Paris last month I was lucky to be invited to a quaint & boisterous place called CHEZ JANOU. I can’t forget the evening. Not just for the ambiance or laughter or amazing food & company, but for the portion of dessert that came to our table. The menu had the usual details, but what I didn’t expect was the way they chose to serve it. A humongous bowl of chocolate mousse was placed for salivation  (for just 3 people who’d ordered it) and we were simply asked to scoop what we wanted, before it moved on. What was CHEZ JANOU’S purpose? Maybe UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCES.

Achieved through an amazing decor, country-esque service, happy and friendly hosts, small size of the bistro, arrangement of the tables, lighting, outstanding cuisine and the indulgent bowl. Maybe the owners simply came from the heart before they applied their mind.

It’s no wonder then, that someone like Helen Keller could see her real purpose & the meaning of her life with such clarity. She came from her inner truth. Even without the embellishment of sight.

True happiness… is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose ~ Helen Keller

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5 Comments

  1. Very well written!!

    Life begins with a purpose, the purpose to be. In this quest for being, we create an identity. An identity, that’s unique, that’s us. Those who leave footprints in the sand & imprints on the mind are those, who add a new facet to the prism of their being, every day. It becomes a purpose. The purpose is not to compete or stand apart, the purpose is to evolve & contribute. But in doing so, they do stand apart and go far beyond competition.

    In the evolutionary stages, an identity that does not confirm to a benchmark is usually mocked & ridiculed. That is the test of your purpose to be true to yourself. If confirmation, acceptance & competition be the driving force – you may go just so far. But if self-evolution & self-improvement be the cornerstones of your existence – you will be known, you will be remembered.

    That was Human Resources, but I’m sure it would be the same with Brands.

    • freshbrew team |

      Thanks much. I quite like the allusion to HR and I agree totally that both the internal & external face of the company/brand needs to speak one language. It is so critical today given that many employees often waft through their jobs without any ownership or passion…..Defining a corporate’s purpose & helping the employee do the same could go a long way in achieving common goals.

  2. Very provocative and pertinent. Its articulate in defining the only way to grow today. I think Zuckerberg possibly had ‘making millions’ as his purpose. Dont worry about the research blokes. The generalists are dying.

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