Forget the brand purpose – we need courage!

Purpose is the buzzword of the hour. Businesses no longer need to work as innovatively, effectively and profitably as possible. Everyone now wants to do something of social relevance, take responsibility, shine with strong meaningful promises inside and outside. The much quoted role models? Patagonia, Tesla, Starbucks – you name it.

The problem is that unlike the international shooting stars mentioned above, the implementation of a purpose does not bring the hoped-for more relevance to most companies. Instead, in search of the way back to old strength, many brands are more like the two major German people’s parties, which have lost their sense for the zeitgeist and the people out there. What’s wrong?

One for all does not pull anymore

More and more established companies are trying to give their brands new strength through a strong purpose. The number one aspirations are the young target groups, which are increasingly difficult to achieve and to retain in the increasingly fragmented competitive environment.

The fact that the purpose promises often arouse as much enthusiasm among the younger users as the programs of the people’s parties, does not surprise on closer inspection. Because most Purposes are …


… without vision and without emotion. Who does not take the people emotionally, is alone there in the end. “Sustainable,” “for a better future,” or “a country where we live well and happily,” are not purposeful promises that sweep people away. This does not stand out from the crowd. You do not even really stand out from your own CSR measures.

… tactical nature. Management is often not about filling a long-term strategy with life, but “doing something with purpose” as well. In doubt, to consolidate your own position in the company.

… far from the market reality. In times of microtargeting by microinfluencers in niche media, you burn up a lot of time and resources if you want to reach a general social public with classic means that simply does not exist anymore.

Purpose must be more than mere lip service. A true purpose is a goal that can never be fully achieved. “Purpose-Driveness” is a long-term project – nothing that you do for a year. Who really wants to pull Purpose needs above all courage. Or also: corporate courage!

More about: “Companies can not avoid having an attitude”

Corporate Courage – Purpose on Speed

Corporate Courage is the lived commitment of a brand to its social, environmental and political dimensions. Without courage Purpose is worthless.

Anyone who wants to know how Courage works can, for once, take an example of politics. Here are the three set screws by which courage helps a Purpose to real relevance:

Courage for the monothematic. Successful parties occupy a topic and play it with all consequence – see Alliance 90 / The Greens or AfD. The Brand Purposes alias programs of these parties provide a surface for friction. They polarize with some radical views and measures. That’s what makes them so appealing to their electorate. They are strong in uniting a certain part of the people behind them. That they bail the other part is part of the business.

Courage to visions. An approximation here, a compromise there – the time of the minimum consensus is over. Now it’s about drawing a captivating, identity-creating vision for your own followers. Just as Emmanuel Macron did with his call for a European army. Or Angela Merkel with her “We create the” Devise in the refugee crisis. These examples show that those who believe their vision first need a long breath.

Courage for scope. Who wants influence, must give control. Successful parties open up to the bottom-up principle. They create belonging by forming a philosophical frame of mind, but also by giving space to individual initiatives from civil society. A success story in this area is the Species Conservation referendum “Save the bees,” which the Bavarian state parliament in July under the leadership of the CSU has brought into law.

Doing is like wanting – only blatantly

Brand Purpose is rightly on everyone’s lips. More than ever before, companies have an influence on social developments. It therefore only makes sense for people to want companies to take responsibility for the future of this society. To do that, they must act according to their purpose.

Brands that want to make a real contribution to a more liveable world with their Purpose, must go the rocky road. They must have the courage to consciously alienate some of the people and live their purpose in the headwind. For only brands that dare to co-design the world with their own vision of their own vision will have real relevance in people’s lives in the future.

Luca Meister is strategy & innovation consultant at the strategy agency diffferent and expert for Purposefindung, Innovation Enablement and Human-Centered Design. He also deals with the political and social role of brands.

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