Why does a business need a ‘purpose’?

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3 min read

Conscious consumers are driving the demand for purpose-driven businesses.

Looking back to the 2000’s, businesses wanted to appear big, global, powerful. Size equaled trust, and trust equaled customers. 
Then in the 2010’s they started to realise that consumers didn’t want global. They wanted to connect with businesses who felt local, personable. Brands that were a reflection of who they were (or at least who they wanted to be)

Simon Sinek summarised this as “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. 

Finding our identity 

Social media and e-commerce continue to provide access to a level of connection and choice we’ve never seen before. This abundance of choice is allowing us to find our tribes. To discover the people/groups/brands we want to spend our time/money with. 

We’re forging our own stances on political, cultural and environmental movements. We’re discovering what we care about. 

And for the first time in history, we’re being encouraged to celebrate our individuality. Whether that’s a true-crime-loving, boardgame-playing, sitar-strumming cat lover. Or a tarot-card-reading, cold-water-dipping, bee-keeping wood whittler.

The age of us fitting neatly into persona groups is over. Non-conformity is here to stay, and yet most brands are still trying to please everyone. 

Green Lightbox placed on a table that reads "What could a better tomorrow look like?"

Consumers are demanding more 

Globally, millions of new businesses start trading each year, and so purchasing decisions are driven less by ease or necessity, and more by desire. 

Consumers are more considered when deciding who they give their money to. They’re happier than ever to switch loyalties. And their expectations of what a brand should be, have changed. They are 6 times more likely to purchase from, protect, and champion purpose-driven businesses. 

The brands that are capitalising aren’t trying to be all things to all people. They’ve honed their identity, they’re attracting their tribe and they have an underlying purpose which helps inform their day-to-day decisions. 

A ‘purpose’ is why a business exists, beyond profit.

It’s what drives a business forward, beyond selling more stuff.

It’s the reason your employees feel engaged and motivated.

It’s the reason your customers choose you and remain loyal.

It’s alignment across the board. It’s a North Star, a rallying cry. 

Purpose creates connection. It’s a deeper reason to exist. 

Finding your purpose

‘Purpose’ is teetering on the edge of becoming another business buzzword. So it’s right we talk about what it is, and what it isn’t. Let me paint a picture… 

It’s 6am, and Steve is in an airport about to depart for Tenerife. After a pint of Madri and a Full English, Steve meanders over to W.H.Smith for a European adapter, and a book. 

Fast-forward two weeks and Steve’s been on a glass-bottomed boat, thumbed the first four chapters, and now thinks he’s Swindon’s answer to Eckhart Tolle. Come Monday morning he’s trying to use purpose as a silver bullet to cure his attrition rates, and increase his bottom line.  

Following the success of Sinek, Robbins, Frankl, Chopra et al, we’re approaching over-use. Where ‘purpose’ and ‘marketing gimmick’ are becoming increasingly muddled. 

(No, your purpose is not to reduce ocean plastics) 

Authenticity is key

There’s a good chance your business already has a deeper purpose. Sometimes it just needs a little unearthing. Sometimes it takes an outsider to see what’s under your nose. 

Start by thinking small. You’re probably not going to save the Whales, or the Rainforest. Purpose isn’t a giant cardboard cheque once a year. 

Focus on bringing a realistic purpose to life, through regular initiatives and a sustainable impact. 

Most importantly, root your purpose in something you really give a sh*t about. 


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