White Paper:
The Power of Purpose

At a recent public shareholder meeting, a CEO proclaimed “If you want me to make decisions that have a clear ROI then you should get out of the stock, just to be plain and simple.” That same CEO had earlier, in another meeting, declared that his company was dedicated to “advancing humanity.” He claimed his frame for decision making was moral: “We do things because they’re just right.”[1]

Interesting. The ranting’s of a tree hugging CEO in charge of some tiny natural-goods and hemp producer? Nope. In fact, the proclamations of none other than Tim Cook of Apple, CEO of the most valuable company in the world.

And while he may be unique, he’s not alone. Think Chipotle. Or Whole Foods. Or Patagonia. All are brands that possess very clearly-defined and adhered-to brand purposes (none of which say anything about making lots of money) while also continuously generating extraordinary financial results.

How can this be? Well, all we need to do is look at the changing consumer in this country to see what these brands are clearly tapping into.

Pwc and Kantar Retail, in their study “Retailing 2020: Winning in a polarized world,” [2] paint a clear picture of this new consumer or shopper. Essentially, the recent recession has changed the way people perceive value and has resulted in the emergence of the “new premium.” Basically, these are products that people are willing to pay more for because they meet their needs more specifically. Nothing new there. What is different is the researchers’ discovery that shoppers will pay that premium for very specific products and services that “reflect their values” including making decisions based upon “a broader sense of social responsibility.”

So, what’s your purpose? What’s your ambition beyond making money? What’s your contribution?

At Slingshot, these kinds of questions kick off our conversations with clients when we start to consider their brand. In fact, it occupies the coveted position of “True North” on our brand model, The Brand Compass.


The “WHY,” located at that “True North” position, answers that Purpose and serves to establish the logic and tone of the brand. Basically all the other elements of the brand compass model (HOW, WHAT, etc.) reflect back on the WHY, culminating with the BRAND PIVOT: a short phrase or word that captures the essence of the brand platform.

So, as you think about the future of your brand and how to best position it for success in a changing world with changing customers, start off by asking: What’s our Purpose?


[1] Generation Flux’s Secret Weapon, Fast Company, Robert Safian, Dec. 5, 2014

[2] Retailing 2020: Winning in a polarized world, pwc and Kantar Retail, 2012

Posted Tue, Dec 16, 2014 by David Cole in White Papers