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IN PERSPECTIVE: Identifying your brand's purpose

Ollie Shepherd
12 November 2020

One of the most important elements of a brand/business success can easily be overlooked.

This element is PURPOSE. The reasons for overlooking, are often in mistaking what PURPOSE is within your brand and/or how to identify it.

Purpose is not a singular idea or statement. It is a composite of strategic markers, that when broken down, allow for a more simplified approach to defining purpose within a business.

It should inform the strategy for the long term. It should, once identified, be often in mind and at the forefront of decision making. Before breaking down the components of purpose, it’s important to define what is meant by the term.

Purpose is asking the question of Why? Why are we doing what we do? Who are we doing it for? What are the reasons? What are the outcomes desired to achieve?

Time in the game can also allow our experience to make assumptions, this is invaluable in the day to day, however when it comes to purpose assumptions can steer us into a cul de sac. We shouldn't let assumptions lead the business.

Answering the why isn’t as easy as it sounds and nor should it be. I would suggest if the answer has come to mind immediately it might not necessarily be the right answer.

Dissecting this can be a daunting task but there are methods of simplifying it. This isn’t of course a science and instead an interpretation on how one might achieve defining purpose.

There are, in my opinion, three defining elements to identify purpose:




Within each are two/sides of the coin; it is important to observe intrinsic (Business) and Extrinsic (end consumer).

Values can be identified as what you stand for, nutshell statements that filter down beyond a snapshot of the brand and into the behaviour of those delivering it. Good, defined values protect not only your business but the people within it. Written down, they can be seen as a code of ethics to work towards, a culture to harness and a practise in place for good client relationships.

If you were to build a purpose pyramid, this should sit firmly at the base, the foundation of what your business is built on. Lack of positive, identified, values will make it difficult to build the structure on top.

Intrinsic values are self-identified. Perhaps you want product to have the best practise production methods, or stand firmly against discrimination of all kind.

Extrinsic is what the consumer believes your values to be. This is achieved through product, communication and brand building. The best messaging in the world will be undone if a lack of good quality control tells the customer you're not bothered or don’t care; their investment in your work will be undone in a second.

Most importantly to remember here, it should reflect the internal values, or be a faux spiel to cover ill-identified internal values that will not deliver longevity.

Goals, I would suggest, sit at the top of the purpose pyramid. These can be something you want to achieve, these can be broad and loose in definition, but should not be defined by financial measures. They should also not be too numerous in quantity. Spinning 12 plates will likely see some smash, but spinning three really well will be a smoother / longer ride.

A business goal could be as simple as, “Be the go-to brand for white tees”. This doesn’t define a measure, it's just a statement, a micro mission statement perhaps that does identify an ambition.

The coin flip here is the extrinsic, the consumer’s goal isn’t for you to be the go-to brand. Their goal, (although they might not know it) is to have a go-to brand.

White tee is a useful example as (nearly) everyone has an experience here. “Washes well”, “does not shrink”, “great price per wear” – these are familiar statements when a consumer dissects their choice of tee. Thinking in this way can enhance the definition of a goal and assist in breaking down into objectives.

Objectives are the gateway to achieving goals. They do not all require a financial breakdown but omitting a financial element will not end well. At the end of the day business does not operate without sale and profits.

Objectives sit firmly in the middle of our pyramid, informed by our values and contributing to our goals and, in turn, assist purpose and strategy.

Multiple objectives are possible but each should be specific and focused. They should contribute to achieving the defined goals. Objectives should be timed and measured against metrics (the classic use of SMART targets are one approach to defining the objectives).

Be mindful also, they are a useful tool for teams and building experience. Clearly defined objectives can be owned by relevant team members. Offering full ownership, and therefore accountability, for the application and outcome of an objective can allow individuals to build up confidence and personal development.

Back to our white tee… What are the objectives to achieve the goal of being the “go to brand”? I would suggest a goal is to ‘”maintain a sales growth on white tee of x% within the next year”. The percentage growth must be realistic otherwise failure is inevitable.

If our values include being more conscious of production’s impact, we can define this in an objective. For example: “By 2022, 70% of the range will be made from recycled materials.”    Declaring 100% might be a stretch too far, so again, realistic goals are a key factor to ensure success.

With our values, goals and objectives in mind we have some tools in place to identify our purpose. The purpose of our white tee perhaps.

Why have we created WHITE TEE BRAND?

“To grow the business of WHITE TEE to be the go-to brand, create a relaxed work environment that does not discriminate, create a considered garment that has longevity and value for the consumer using the least impactful production process.”

A bit of a mouthful yes, but it identifies a strategy of growth (objective) and that goal of being the ‘’go-to’’ while affirming some value and acknowledging the brand and product.

It's likely we wouldn’t have got here without taking the purpose pyramid into consideration. Using this tool is a good technique to ensure you are maintaining the right reasons we do what we do, the right answer to the question WHY?

At SWEETSHOP Media we applied the thinking of Purpose first when approaching the campaign for ELLESSE. 

First dissecting the objectives, goals  and values of the client and using that knowledge and understanding for the campaign build.

This method of understanding leads to increased user engagement, purchasing and a success on brand cut-through across platforms. See how SWEETSHOP increased ELLESSE's social media presence +38% in the first 3 months of its campaign here


Ollie Shepherd is Head of Product and Merchandising at SWEETSHOP, the 360 agency that helps brands tell their stories.

SWEETSHOP work with brands including Ellesse, Nokia, Sony Music and Sam Branson. To view more, visit SWEETSHOPMEDIA.COM

About SWEETSHOP: More than ever for brands operating in the fashion space, it is important to identify one's own culture and place within it, then most importantly, ensure you are true to it.

Chasing trends or misappropriation of “culture” demonstrates a lack of authenticity and can only be a mask for a brand and the wrong one at that. Customers will see past it and longevity will not be a product of the input, particularly if communication and execution are delivered without real integrity.  

At SWEETSHOP we think purpose first. Why are we creating? Why are we developing? A concept, a product, an outcome? Always identify purpose first and this will answer some questions to the Culture you are striving to deliver and partake in. 

If lockdown has slowed the pace of business, this is the time to utilize as a moment of reflection both front and back house to ensure your business is delivering on the mission outcome it intended. Is it delivering the right message, not only to its customers but also its staff?  

A brand is not just a composite of what's on rails or delivered in boxes, but is a reflection of the team and value that drives its creation and purpose, a reflection of their own culture. Brands that live and breathe the values they offer the customer are the ones who will settle and find their place within culture, and a continued existence in our time. 


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