Closing the Purpose Gap

July 24, 2020


Is your business experiencing the ‘Purpose Gap’? This week, I’m exploring the space between what a brand says is their purpose and what a brand does to take action around their purpose. I’m also delving into some of the most common reasons for a Purpose Gap.

I shared results recently from two different studies about the value of purpose. Both acknowledged the gap between defining your purpose and using purpose to deliver meaningful impact. Overwhelmingly, people expect brands to act upon their brand purpose. Yet most believe only a fraction are actually doing it.

  • 82% of employees surveyed reported that it is important for a company to have a defined purpose statement. Only 42% believed their organization’s purpose statement drives impact. (McKinsey, 2019)
  • 94% of consumers believe companies should have a strong purpose; only 34% believe most companies actually do. (Zeno Group, 2020)

Turning Purpose Into Action

There are a few different reasons why some companies might be struggling to activate their purpose.

It takes time. Brand purpose is not a short term strategy nor does it happen quickly. It takes time to clarify your purpose, build trust and garner support. Building alignment requires consistency and a willingness to identify what is aligned and change what isn’t.

It requires ongoing executive attention. To create meaningful action, the leaders in your organization must champion, prioritize and demonstrate your purpose. Your brand purpose should originate at the top and be viewed holistically by those with the ability to affect cross-functional change.

It slices through an organization. To be effective, your purpose needs to reach across your organization in a meaningful way. Employees need to embrace the brand’s purpose and use it to direct how they show up to work, make decisions, serve customers and treat each other. Your purpose should also influence how you run the business and serve as a single point of connection across business units.

It thrives on authenticity. A genuine desire to pursue brand purpose is the key to impact. Authenticity reigns supreme in this work. The success of brands, like Chobani, KIND, Warby Parker, Patagonia and Greyston Bakery, reflect the commitment of their leaders to a better way of doing business. These leaders are passionate about using their businesses to improve the lives/world around them.

The purpose gap exists in part because brand purpose is still new to many companies. It takes time to gain clarity, build credibility and align your business around your purpose.

I also believe that while every business should know their purpose, not every business is a purposeful business. Be sure to keep following the blog as I expand on this idea in my next post.




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Karen Bailey is a brand purpose consultant and specializes in helping companies define their purpose and align their business around it. In 2017, she launched the blog, Purpose Greater Than Profit, to start a meaningful conversation about the increasingly important role of brand purpose, purposeful leadership and a better way of doing business.


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