Creating a higher purpose for CEOs and their future action

Brand Purpose
Brand purpose will end up as nothing other than a jumble of words without proper action. CEOs must let their actions speak when it comes to a greater purpose. Image Credit: Shutterstock

The pandemic has proven to be a tipping point for many big companies when it comes to their culture and branding. No longer is turning a profit enough for most stakeholders.

In my new book ‘Activate Brand Purpose’, my fellow author Chip Walker and I interviewed some of the top CEOs in the US who have activated purpose. It’s time for companies to lean in and drive change for stakeholders… and not just shareholders.

Higher purpose is the number one idea on the minds of top C-Suite leaders, and for good reason. Not only can it ensure all stakeholders are on the same page, and help attract and engage both customers and employees, it’s also great for the bottom-line.

Empty of vision

But C-suite leaders are facing a major problem today, one we’ve observed over and over. Companies are good at defining their higher purpose, but terrible at activating it. Far too often purpose is relegated to a plaque above the CEO’s desk, and never goes any further. Or, worse, the “purpose” is transparently used as a marketing ploy, but never acted upon in any real way.

The result? According to a McKinsey study, while 82 per cent of US C-suite leaders say purpose is important, only 42 per cent say their company’s stated purpose has had a significant impact on their organization.

This is a wake-up call for leaders who want to change employee mindsets and habits, transform company culture, and grow their businesses with more effective marketing.

We examine the many barriers to effectively activating purpose and the many ways it can go wrong. For instance, poor purpose definition, organizational naysayers, and purpose washing are culprits we frequently encounter. We help you understand how to overcome these barriers and activate purpose through “movement thinking” – the antidote to a dormant purpose.

Guard against irrelevance

There are many books out there about either the importance of purpose or how to define your higher purpose. But none focuses on the most challenging part of purpose: how to activate it inside and outside your company, and how to avoid its decay over time.

It is easier to activate purpose inside a company with a movement than with a top-down mandate. We look at what Walmart is doing, bringing ‘Live Better’ to life by re-thinking employee benefits in an innovative way and by means of a movement.

As the purpose economy gains ever greater momentum coming out of COVID-19, brand purpose can spark a company-wide cultural movement. It puts purpose at the core of strategy and activate it to for all stakeholders. It galvanizes employees, change mindsets and employee habits quickly, and activate purpose with consumers to grow sales and attract new ones. It even shows new ways to use purpose to change the way companies are valued.

By using movement thinking, you can galvanize people and they will respond, regardless of whether your purpose is lofty and socially conscious, or all business. Defining and activating a higher purpose has become one of the greatest sources of hope the business world has seen. As we look at the many issues challenging us, the time for action is now…

Scott Goodson

The writer is founder and CEO of New York based agency StrawberryFrog.