‘Brand purpose’ does not exist.
For quite some time now, I have come across articles and publications claiming that brand purpose is crucial, important, and is the next big thing business leaders should focus on. But brand purpose doesn’t exist. (1)
Don’t get me wrong. There is now doubt that having a clear and stated purpose as an organization is more crucial than ever. It was written on the wall long before Larry Fink published its widely discussed 2019 CEO Letter (2) explaining why a clearly articulated purpose matters, and why having one enables every company to not lose sight of the long-term impact amidst short-term objectives.
And brands are even more important now than in the past, helping consumers to cut through the noise and companies to stand out, be seen, chosen, and remembered.
But – according to the American Association of Marketing a brand is “a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s goods or service as distinct from those of other sellers” (3). I define a brand simply as “everything and entity does with the intention to be recognized”. A brand is something an organization creates and manages. And elements of a brand can be protected through trademarks.
To build a strong brand, one needs a branding strategy that outlines what a brand should represent. The purpose of a brand is to ensure the entity it represents can be recognized the way it desires, through symbols, colors, and other patterns of recognition across the entire chain of experience.
An organization should have a purpose, to know why it exists, beyond making a profit; and it should have a strong brand, to be recognized the way it desires. But brand purpose – simply doesn’t exist. Your purpose is a part of your corporate- and not of your branding strategy. What should be part of both strategies – let’s keep that for another time.
For now, if branding consultants want to play in the sandbox of corporate strategy, they need to understand that a bull won’t take flight by adding a few wings to it. Or if it seems to do, it is only in the imagination of people who do not understand bulls – yet.