Everyone talks about Purpose these days. Why so and what do we mean by it? Dr Steve Peters* offers a great summary “Without a sense of purpose, the Human lacks direction and meaning of life”. Although this is against the context of a powerful mind management model, the principles apply just as well for brands, businesses and their strategies.

Firstly, let’s examine briefly what happens when an organisation does not have a common sense of purpose: miss-alignment, fragmentation, silos and in extreme cases dysfunction. Let alone the losses in efficiency – and of course as a result, a compromised if not sub-zero customer experience. NatWest (RBS) run an advertisement campaign in 2010 titled ‘Helpful Banking’ – unfortunately the purpose of being helpful by opening branches on Saturdays [as promoted] was one of the marketing department only. Ultimately leading to customers turning up on Saturdays to ‘bank’ just to find themselves in front of closed doors (and yes, I speak of personal experience here).

Easily done by as ‘lack of [internal] communication’ – but I would argue it goes much deeper than that. Very small and small companies do not tend to have an issue with ‘purpose’. Why? Purpose is natural to them and often radiates out from the founder; easily transcends throughout the still small organization, its culture to suppliers, partners – and ultimately customers just ‘get it’. Passion spreads. However, for medium to larger corporations, this becomes a lot trickier – particularly in a global world. Whether it is a campaign, or embedding a vision and culture into a company, having a crystal clear understanding of ‘Purpose’ must be the starting point of everything. A purpose means being totally sharp about who you are and why you do what you do. A vision statement is not enough. You need shared and aligned purpose.

Here’s a good test: Can you articulate your purpose in five words or less?

  • Ask within your organization; your peers and colleagues, your boss: ‘what is our purpose’? If they intuitively tell you the same thing, then you have shared purpose.
  • Now go vertical. Get an external perspective and ask your customers, your business partners and suppliers ‘what do we stand for’? If you get the same answer, then you can claim aligned purpose.
  • If you get fuzzy answers or worse different answers, you should go back and think very hard on how you achieve shared and aligned purpose – only if you do have full clarity on your purpose should you go about telling the world about what you have on offer.


Sounds simple? It is – but many would do good spending more time on these fundamental underpinnings before developing the next business/unit or the next campaign.

* The Chimp Paradox, Mind Management, by Dr. Steve Peters (2011)