Going Beyond “Purpose” to Build Brighter Brands and Better Businesses

Going Beyond “Purpose” to Build Brighter Brands and Better Businesses

A free webinar on July 10th at 10am PST

Webinar overview

The “brand purpose” bandwagon has become awfully crowded. And as more and more brands seek to capitalize on the opportunity to cast themselves in a more authentic and meaningful light, the language of “brand purpose” has become weak, watered down, and increasingly meaningless.

Marketing purpose is easy. Embedding purpose is hard work. And while purpose can be a powerful tool, simply capturing your “why” in the form of a tagline or mission statement isn’t the finish line; it’s a starting point.  Tyler Wagner, VP Client Strategy at thinkPARALLAX

As brand leaders, we have a responsibility to push beyond a simple purpose statement and show – not just tell – our stakeholders that our commitment to purpose is more than just a tagline. We call this process, of pushing beyond a simple purpose statement to more meaningfully embed purpose within an organization, getting to The Bright Side of the Brand.

This informative webinar will broaden your view of brand purpose and provide attendees with practical strategies to embed and communicate purpose from the inside out. Learn the value of brand culture, storytelling and leadership to connect with diverse stakeholders and create multilevel impact. We will highlight key leaders, case studies and practical strategies for more effectively leveraging the bright side of your brand.

What you will learn

  • Gain practical strategies to embed and communicate purpose within your organization from the inside out.
  • Understand the value of brand culture, storytelling, and leadership to connect with diverse stakeholders and create multilevel impact.
  • Discover how to effectively leverage the Bright Side of the Brand through examples from key leaders and case studies.
  • Learn how to avoid “purpose-washing” and how to proactively combat it.

The Outdoor Office: Integrating the Benefits of Nature into Our Workplaces

The Outdoor Office: Integrating the Benefits of Nature into Our Workplaces

The environmental sustainability community has approached a true “green” building standard through their LEED Certification program, nudging the construction industry in the direction of sustainable design. Although this is clearly a step in the right direction, what about human standards? Employers are well aware that striving to help manage, promote, and improve employees’ health and wellness carries a wide array of benefits, such as reduced health care costs and absenteeism, as well as greater efficiency and an overall increase in employee happiness.

There are currently a few certifications and programs that are geared towards worker well-being, including the WELL  and Fitwell certifications, which both set standards for optimizing buildings to support worker health. While these are geared towards desk jobs, companies like Levis have spent years developing global workplace standards not just for their workforce, but also to help define suitable working conditions throughout their entire operations and supply chain. In the end, it becomes evident that happy, healthy workers want to be there, work there, and stay there.

Over the last several hundred years, we’ve shifted from an agrarian to an industrialized society, but now we might be shifting back in the other direction. Cubicle farms are becoming a thing of the past while standing desks, walking meetings, fitness programs, and free healthy snacks are increasingly becoming the norm. This is especially common with innovative, early adopter businesses where millennial employees demand health and wellness perks, as well as with forward-thinking CEOs who understand the benefits as opposed to holding employees captive in their “farms”.

In the past, people working outside on an actual farm were only concerned about putting food on the table while they unknowingly reaped the benefits of being in nature – minus the hard labor and beating sun. It is almost comical that it has taken so much time and research for us to discover that flexible work environments and being outside have a multitude of health benefits, like reduced stress, improved memory, better concentration, and even stronger immunity. So how do you incorporate this into your workspace? You can take the approach of bringing the outdoors inside your office; studies show that plants and natural elements increase productivity and well-being. Another option is to take employees physically outside, not forgetting that access to green spaces might be the most important wellness factor of all.

Given the multitude of benefits that stem from getting outside, we encourage our employees to take walks or even surf breaks throughout the day, returning to the office refueled. That’s why we found it important that when we host our first ever conference, we connect people to the outdoors and host it in Zion National Park. Our conference, InsightOutside, is a three-day retreat for Senior Executives looking to better integrate purpose into their organization. We will have innovative speakers, peer workshops, and engaging fireside chats – all while soaking in the benefits of a beautiful, outside setting. Request your ticket here while they’re still available.

While we are making an attempt to change the paradigm on what a conference can look and feel like, hopefully, some of the benefits of the great outdoors will give folks a new perspective on employee well-being while they are collaborating to develop solutions to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges.

The Bright Side of the Brand

The Bright Side of the Brand

An Introduction to the Bright Side of the Brand: Going beyond “purpose” to build brighter brands and better businesses

The “brand purpose” bandwagon has become awfully crowded. And as more and more brands seek to capitalize on the opportunity to cast themselves in a more authentic, meaningful light, the language of “brand purpose” has become weak, watered down, and increasingly meaningless.

Marketing purpose is easy. Embedding purpose is hard work. And while a number of pioneers and purists remain committed to embedding purpose at the organizational level, the temptation to cut corners, and to exploit purpose for marketing “quick wins”, rather than to embed it in more meaningful, transformative ways, has become too great to resist. The phenomenon of “purpose-washing” is real.

This is bad for a number of reasons. For one, as more shallow and meaningless “purpose” messages flood the market, the more difficult it becomes for audiences to differentiate authentic purpose from marketing fluff.

While one of the benefits of sharing your purpose-oriented outlook with the world is to create deeper, more authentic connections with audiences, the misuse of purpose actually has the opposite effect – it increases skepticism and fuels mistrust between audiences and brands. The market isn’t consistently holding purpose-washers accountable for their abuses yet, but the hashtag #purposewashing is already active on social media. It can only be a matter of time before broader audiences start organizing against the worst offenders, or tuning out all together.  

The fact that the language of purpose is being abused doesn’t mean the concept of purpose is completely powerless. What it does mean, is that if we want to harness purpose to foster greater differentiation, greater engagement, and more authentic connections, we have to work a bit harder to stay ahead of the curve. We have to push beyond a simple purpose statement and show – not just tell – our stakeholders that we’re genuine in our commitment to purpose.

We call this process, of pushing beyond a simple purpose statement to more meaningfully embed purpose within an organization, getting to The Bright Side of the Brand.

The Bright Side of the Brand is a special place reserved for brands that aren’t afraid to do the hard work to ensure that their purpose is more than just words on a page or a campaign tagline. Brighter Brands know who they are, and what they stand for; they understand that they’re a part of a larger community, and their actions demonstrate an interest in the well-being of society-at-large.

They have vibrant cultures, tell inspiring stories, and take bold action. As a result, they shine more brightly.

For simplicity, we’ve divided the most common attributes of Brighter Brands into three sub-categories: Bright Culture, Bright Storytelling, and Bright Leadership.

Brands with Bright Cultures know who they are, what they believe, and they’re not afraid to stand up in support of those things. We call this having a clear Brand Standpoint.

The core elements of their brand – their mission, values, and purpose – are clear and consistent, and they have a coherent plan for pursuing their vision that allows everyone to see how their work connects to the bigger picture – regardless of their role. As a result, they’re able to attract, retain, and engage top talent, and drive positive impact on the overall brand from the inside out.  

Bright Storytellers view things through a particular lens, and paint a clear picture of the world – including their role in it – in a way that inspires and empowers others to take part. We call this having a compelling Brand Worldview.

Bright Storytellers deepen bonds between brand and audience, and create a sense of community by helping to connect the past, the present, and the future. As a result, they enjoy greater differentiation, broader reach, and more authentic connections with their stakeholders.

Bright Leaders raise the bar and inspire others to follow. They take bold action before customers, competitors, or regulators compel them, and they’re recognized by their peers and the broader community for being invested in, and contributing to, something greater than themselves.

Bright leaders enjoy more earned media attention and attract followers and fans organically by going beyond storytelling, and consistently translating their vision into action.

In many ways, getting to the Bright Side of the Brand is about putting purpose to work. Afterall, when leveraged properly, purpose can be a powerful tool – a means to a number of desirable ends.

But finding your “why” isn’t the finish line. It’s the starting point.

To that end, we hope that the concept of Brighter Brands can serve as a tool for those in a position to influence brand strategy and communications – CEOs and executive teams; brand, marketing, communications, and HR leaders; or anyone with an interest in the role that brands play in our lives, and the world-at-large to:

  • Decipher how and why some brands shine brighter than others
  • Identify patterns and techniques that we can apply on our own
  • Transform the role that brands play in our lives, and the world
  • Accelerate a shift to a world where brands are catalysts for meaningful change

Ultimately, we believe this simple concept can serve as a roadmap to help business leaders get to the Bright Side of the Brand, sharpening their focus on the three key elements of culture, storytelling, and leadership.

We’ll be exploring this topic further at Sustainable Brands ‘18 in Vancouver next week, and at our upcoming InsightOutside retreat at Zion National Park in October. We hope you can join us!

In the meantime, be on the lookout for upcoming articles and webinars on the topic, coming soon.

The benefits of a signature citizenship initiative

The benefits of a signature citizenship initiative

A national organization within the financial sector recently approached thinkPARALLAX for strategic consultation on the development of a signature citizenship program. The company already has a strong foundation in place, with 34% of employees volunteering, so leadership realizes the opportunity to grow the program to engage stakeholders and strengthen their brand, recruiting, and national presence.

Our conversations with the organization got us thinking: what are the benefits of implementing a signature initiative and how can it be optimized for maximum impact?

A signature program differs from a standard one-off volunteer or social impact campaign because it is strategically aligned with an organization’s business objectives. The program goes beyond traditional grant-making to leverage business assets, broaden reach, build impactful connections, and ultimately accelerate a brand’s mission. Signature initiatives are often branded, creating a genuine and cohesive goal for employees, investors, and customers to rally behind. When developed correctly, signature citizenship initiatives can improve retention, enhance customer loyalty, and amplify brand presence, all while addressing larger issues and contributing to the organization’s triple bottom line.

Here are some things to think about as you develop a signature program:

Business alignment

Think of ways you can leverage your organization’s existing resources and infrastructure to address a critical issue relevant to your industry. McDonalds’ Serve a Meal program addresses hunger in the community while leveraging the business’ core offering of food service. The world’s largest packaging and paper company, International Paper, recently launched their Box Out Hunger initiative, where employees send food to people in need, packaged in the company’s corrugated boxes.

Build bridges

Use your signature initiative as an opportunity to collaborate with organizations that support your short and long-term business objectives, such as NGOs, think tanks, or B Corporations. Through their Making More Health program, German-based pharmaceutical manufacturer Boehringer Ingelheim works closely with local partners to promote better health within their communities.

Utilize workforce talents

Look for ways to tap into your employees’ skill sets to achieve the mission and goals of your partner organizations. Leading technology firm Qualcomm uses this logic with their Qcares program, inviting employees to mentor students on STEM-based projects. General Mills’ Good Works program connects marketing and consumer insights professionals with pro bono projects through nonprofit organizations.

Engage employees

When your organization’s signature initiative is something employees genuinely care about, your retention rate will soar. 83% of Deloitte employees say that pro bono work has made a positive impact on job satisfaction and 60 percent reported “significant gains in job-relevant skills”.

Involve key stakeholders

Signature initiatives allow organizations the opportunity to build meaningful connections with stakeholders beyond the employee base. Choose a cause that resonates with your stakeholders and make it easy and enticing for them to get involved. REI partners with a nonprofit to provide its members opportunities to travel around the world to part take in environmental protection, habitat restoration, trail maintenance, and other outdoor volunteer initiatives that directly relate to the retailer’s business.

As a final caveat, while we always encourage our clients to align social impact initiatives with their business objectives, you shouldn’t always shy away from a cause or movement because it seems ‘external’ to your business plan. Truly strategic businesses understand the interconnectivity of all issues — human rights abuses on supply chains, the global water crisis, and climate change, to name a few. Embrace the private sector’s responsibility to #TakeAStand on critical issues and look to do so by pursuing initiatives that align with and are unique to your business. The result is a stronger connection to your community, employees, and customers.

Earth to Starbucks: Racial bias is bigger than you

Earth to Starbucks: Racial bias is bigger than you

In response to the recent news that a Starbucks manager called 911 leading to the arrest of two black men in a Philadelphia location, Starbucks announced that they will be closing 8,000 US stores to conduct racial-bias training for their employees.

I have watched, with fascination, their response as it has unfolded over the past week. We’ll dive into that shortly, but I think a bit of context up front is helpful.

Starbucks is engaged, in a serious way, on a number of big issues. They pledged to hire 240,000 new employees by 2021, including specific targets for veterans and refugee populations; they offer qualifying employees full tuition coverage for every year of college up to a bachelor’s degree through an innovative partnership with Arizona State University; and, they recently committed $10 million to back their pledge to make 100% of their cups fully compostable and recyclable by 2021, through their NextGen Cup Challenge.

Clearly, the company is a leader on many important topics in corporate responsibility. And yet, their response to-date, on the big, important issue of racial bias, doesn’t feel like the authentic attempt of a leader to address a serious issue. It feels like damage control.

To be fair, it was an unplanned event, rather than an intentional choice, that has forced Starbucks to focus on the topic of racial bias.  But the company has dabbled in the topic of racial inclusion in the past, most notably in its much derided and short-lived #racetogether campaign. And, it’s also worth mentioning that the first of the company’s four stated core values is “creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome.” It’s safe to say this is an issue they’ve thought about before.

So, what do Starbucks actions over the past week say about the progress they’ve made on that issue, the importance of their core values, and the way they view their responsibility as leaders?

To recap, Starbucks fired the offending employee, offered an apology, invited the affected individuals for an official sit down with the CEO, and decided to close 8,000 stores for a day’s worth of employee racial sensitivity training.

All of which is admirable, and (in my judgment) appropriately serious in tone. And the cost, in the form of sales forfeited in those 8,000 stores, is not insignificant.

In an official statement from the company, CEO Kevin Johnson wrote “regretfully, our practices and training led to a bad outcome,” indicating that Starbucks believes the event in question was not just the act of an outlier whose behavior was counter to their stated values, rather it was – at least in part – a failure of policy and process.

It would be reasonable to conclude then that the company’s core values are aspirational in nature. That is, they represent who Starbucks wants to be, not who they are today.

If that’s, in fact, the case, then credit to Starbucks, and to Mr. Johnson for, acknowledging their culpability, and for taking the opportunity for what sounds like some much-needed introspection. Who knows, maybe they can turn lemons into Lemonade Refreshers™?

But as admirable as closing stores for anti-bias training might be, the response as a whole feels overly navel-gazey, not to mention defensive.

Earth to Starbucks: the issue of racial bias is bigger than you. So, kudos on the scheduled sensitivity training, and bonus points for dousing the flames of a potential social media-fueled boycott, but let’s get serious. How much are you actually going to move the needle on such a difficult issue during one afternoon of workshops? The fact that they’re proposing to do so is at best laughable, and at worst, trivializes a very non-trivial issue.

So, some unsolicited advice for Starbucks: Take the blinders off and think bigger. You’re a leader, act like one! If racial bias, diversity and inclusion, and “creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome” are issues that you truly care about, leverage your influence to drive a larger (and frankly much needed) conversation forward. Think beyond your own walls about the influence you have in the broader community, of which you are a big, visible part!

If your anti-bias training materials are worth shutting down for a day – why not share them? Livecast the sessions to the public, and invite your industry peers and competitors to join in. Challenge others to take an equally critical look at their own employee training practices. A defensive posture is understandable in a lot of ways. But leadership demands more than an apology and a promise to do better.

If Starbucks fancies itself a leader they should think beyond damage control and recognize the opportunity afforded to them as leaders: to raise the bar. And, in the process, to challenge the community-at-large to a higher standard.

According to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, a growing number of brands and corporate leaders are doing just that. By acting on their values, and embracing the opportunity to lead, CVS Health has enjoyed a steady drumbeat of positive attention, most recently around their commitment to create new standards for post-production alterations of beauty images.

Even more recently, Dick’s Sporting Goods made headlines, along with Walmart, when they announced they would be raising – voluntarily – the minimum age for gun buyers to 21. Dick’s CEO Edward Stack, summed it up perfectly for the New York Times: “We’re going to take a stand and step up and tell people our view and, hopefully, bring people along into the conversation.”

That’s the kind of response I would expect from a leader.

How purpose unlocks disruptive innovation

How purpose unlocks disruptive innovation

In today’s era of rapid innovation, companies of all sizes must constantly evolve in order to remain competitive. Disruptive innovation can happen to any industry at any time, so staying ahead of the curve is no longer a differentiator, but a necessity. In the past, disruptive startups were able to overtake incumbent companies by developing trend-defying products and services — just think of the impact Airbnb had on the hotel industry. But today, as consumers become increasingly demanding of products and services that focus on the greater good, businesses have a new opportunity to disrupt markets through purpose-driven innovation.

Companies that embed purpose at their core have a naturally disruptive mindset. They challenge the status quo and use business as a platform to solve problems that are important to people. They ask questions like:

  • Why are we in business?
  • Why do we do things differently than our competitors?
  • What do our customers really care about?
  • How can our work create meaningful change from a social, environmental, or economic standpoint?

Most importantly, purpose aligns an organization under a single aspirational goal – the point on the horizon guiding every business decision. Achieving this goal often relies on innovation, so it pushes companies to experiment with better ingredients, more forward-thinking technologies, and untapped niche offerings that can ultimately drive disruption. It’s not just about the final product; in a time where addressing issues such as human rights and animal abuse is still a disruptive way of thinking, consumers are increasingly interested in how brands are using their entire business model and value chain to positively impact the world.

Here are a few examples to demonstrate how leading with purpose can unlock more innovative, resilient, future-fit, and successful brands:


When talking about big disruptive brands, it’s impossible not to mention Tesla. For more than 10 years, the car manufacturer’s purpose has remained consistently clear. Their mission is “to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport by bringing compelling mass market electric cars to market as soon as possible.” Because this objective is straightforward and practical, employees and consumers with shared values are quick to become strong ambassadors for the brand. While bringing electric cars to the mass market is an audacious goal, it has driven Tesla’s disruptive innovation and established their business as the leader in alternative energy vehicles.

Warby Parker

According to an episode of the How I Built This podcast, the co-founders of Warby Parker started the company with a clear mission in mind: “We believe that everyone has the right to see”. This underlying purpose is what inspired the eyewear company to become the first that sold affordable eyewear online, for less than half the retail price. To further fulfill their purpose, they also give a free pair to those in need for every pair purchased. While their professors at The Wharton School said the model would never work, Warby Parker disrupted the eyewear marketplace and has since become a company valued at over $1 billion.

S’well Bottles

A small but impactful company that has disrupted the reusable water bottle marketplace is S’well. In 2010, former accountant Sarah Kauss started the company with the lofty purpose of ridding the world of plastic water bottles. She did this by creating an innovative new market category: fashion-forward reusable water bottles that function like a fashion brand, designed to keep drinks hot for up to 12 hours or cold for up to 24 hours. The company partners with organizations such as UNICEF, (RED) and many other charities committed to solving the global clean water crisis. With purpose at their core, S’well has become the fastest growing woman-owned company in the United States.

As a brand consultancy, we’re at the crossroads of purpose and disruption and decided to create our own “unconference”, InsightOutside. After attending the same sustainability/purpose conferences for the past several years, we felt they had become stale and we were seeking something more than lackluster panels, name tags, and stagnant hotel air conditioning. Our ideas for the retreat are around combining hands-on workshops, unconventional speakers, adventure, and small groups of like-minded business leaders to have real conversations at the campfire, not forced 15-minute networking coffee breaks. We have a clear purpose and are hoping this is a disruption in the conference world that will create real innovation and new ways of thinking.

When starting your next project or venture, keep two things in mind: 1) have a clear purpose and 2) solve a problem. You might just be the next big disruptor, innovating with purpose.



A Retreat On Purpose

After attending countless sustainability and marketing conferences over the past several years, we feel that they’ve become quite stale. We’ve come to the conclusion that the problem with these conferences is that they are just that, conferences — the same speakers saying the same things, the long days of sitting and listening, and the awkward small talk. So, we’ve decided to host our very own “un-conference”.

InsightOutside is not a conference. This means no fluorescent-lit rooms, forced networking sessions, name tags, or anything else we’ve come to dislike about a typical conference. Instead, InsightOutside embodies personal and professional development, daily adventure, collaborative learning, and a communal atmosphere. Each day we will engage our bodies in outdoor activities, workshop practical communication challenges, and share insights.

InsightOutside is a three-day, two-night retreat in majestic Zion National Park for professionals to venture outside of their comfort zone, share their authentic self and insights, and participate in genuine collaboration in a quest to learn how to better diffuse purpose into their organization. For three days, you will have the unique opportunity to collaborate with like-minded individuals, learn from top brands, listen to trailblazers, and explore all the natural beauty that Zion has to offer – leaving you with fresh perspectives and tools for maximizing your company’s impact. Sometimes you just need to get out of the office, hit the refresh button, and reconnect with purpose.

Marketer’s adoption of brand purpose

Marketer’s adoption of brand purpose

Last week, I traveled to Dana Point, California to attend the ANA Brand Masters conference, a 3-day event focused on marketing and advertising, with many sessions led by CMOs for national and multinational brands. This year’s theme was “Highly Effective Brands that Drive Results”, with a focus on driving sales and maximizing return on investment. As the CEO of a brand consultancy that specializes in purpose, I typically attend sustainability and social impact conferences such as Sustainable Brands and Green Biz. As such, I was expecting to hear a different story told by marketers who prioritize profitability, not purpose.

However, I was surprised that a recurring theme of the conference fell in my own wheelhouse: brand purpose. My colleague and I were almost shocked to hear how much purpose was integrated into the overarching marketing strategies of these major brands. Vineet Mehra, the CMO of Ancestry.com, demonstrated how brand purpose acts as a guiding north star for both the company’s internal culture as well as their external campaigns. Twitter also spoke extensively on purpose’s paramount role within their culture, and how other organizations can benefit by integrating purpose to attract and retain an exceptional workforce.

Even State Street Global Advisors, the third largest asset manager in the world, focused their entire presentation on women’s empowerment, demanding that more women serve on the Board of Directors for the companies in which they invest — not just for gender equality, but also because their research indicates that businesses deliver stronger financial results when women hold senior positions. The company even commissioned The Fearless Girl, a statue in New York’s financial district that represents their advocacy for women in executive management. The $250k investment garnered an unbelievable amount of positive press for the company — the equivalent of $38 million worth of earned media. While it was certainly a risk to take a stand, CMO Stephen Tisdalle emphasized the importance of aligning their business strategy and marketing with a cause they support, even if it’s one that you wouldn’t immediately associate with one of the largest financial investment firms in the world.

Beyond these sessions, conversing with business leaders, consultants, and agencies about brand purpose throughout the conference reassured my belief that business is headed in a positive direction. Discussions of purpose and impact have permeated beyond the sustainability niche and into the broader marketing world.

3 Approaches to building customer trust through transparency

3 Approaches to building customer trust through transparency

In February, KFC in the United Kingdom had a bit of an issue — they ran out of chicken. While the irony is almost comical, fried chicken lovers in Britain were outraged, and the internal stress KFC must have experienced was definitely not a laughing matter. What did KFC do? They owned up to it. They ran ads and built a site that admitted they FCK’d up. They were honest about why and how it happened. While I’m sure the family that was looking to bring home a $20 extra crispy bucket for dinner was disappointed, the relatable messaging and transparency made it easier to forgive.

KFC did the right thing to publicly acknowledge their mistakes, but the best approach would have been full transparency from the onset of the organization, highlighting the wins and the losses throughout the life of the business. Social media has created a new baseline level of transparency that consumers expect from businesses. Because the inner workings of a business can and will become public knowledge at some point, proactive strategic planning and consistent communication are imperative. The key to developing brand loyalty is building trust.

So, how are brands proactively building trust through transparency?

1. Operational transparency

Because platforms like Glassdoor allow for unprecedented access to the inner workings of a company, businesses need to consciously be proactive with transparency around what it’s like to work there, ideally developing a strong employer brand. With a reputation for its top-notch workplace and engaged workforce, the online retailer Zappos created a program called Zappos Insights to publicly share their corporate culture. The program offers tours, trainings, speakerships, camps, and curriculum, with the purpose of helping other businesses develop a culture employees love. The marketing and sales platform Hubspot published their Culture Code, a slide deck that gives the world public access to their financials, board meetings and management meeting decks, strategy topics, and other information related to the company’s vision. The deck was originally created as an internal document but was then brought public in the spirit of transparency. Being transparent about your company culture will not only attract and retain top talent but will also make your business one that consumers respect.

2. Product Transparency

Today, consumers are demanding transparency about the products they purchase. They don’t just want to know the ingredients, they want detailed information about every stage of the product lifecycle – sourcing, manufacturing, shipping, and so forth. The skincare company Beautycounter created their Never List to highlight 1,500 questionable chemicals you will never find in their products, while their competitor Tata Harper has the Open Lab and Traceability programs to provide consumers with specific information on where and when their products were made. While Chicken of Sea probably does not come to mind as a brand that provides transparency, they do have their Trace program to inform customers where that can of tuna (or chicken?) came from. Consumers want to know because transparency is associated with trustworthiness.

3. Cost Transparency

A few years ago, thinkPARALLAX changed the way we present our pricing structure to potential clients. Our pricing is and has always been based on the individual team members working on the project, their hourly rate, insight from past similar projects, and a time estimate for each stage. When presenting pricing to potential clients, we provide complete transparency down to the minute as to what we believe the project will take. This allows us to have an honest conversation about what we believe the job will entail and why the costs are what they are per deliverable. Transparency is the best way to start a relationship — no hidden costs or intentions, just clarity from the beginning. A company that gets this right on the product side is the clothing retailer Everlane, who lists the cost of materials, hardware, labor, transportation, and production for each item, and even publishes photos of the workers who make the clothing. Customers know exactly where their pants came from and the cost it took to produce them. This gives them a trustworthy understanding of the product’s true value.

Keep the mysteries to the game of Clue. Operational, product, and cost transparency are the just the beginning stages of building trust with your customers, and you will find that it alters the communications approach to become more dynamic and personal. As a result, the human, emotional, and authentic brand comes to life with transparency. Isn’t that what we all want to be a part of?

5 Reasons why purpose matters to employees

5 Reasons why purpose matters to employees

We talk a lot about corporate values these days (think Uber, CVS and DICK’S Sporting Goods), and the need to know what an employer stands for. When our employer’s values are clearly stated and actively embraced by leaders, managers, and all employees, we feel more closely aligned with our employer —  culture can thrive.

Another key element of a thriving company culture is purpose. If we think of values as guardrails for how we make decisions, act, and react, then purpose functions more as a north star, as one overarching, ultimate goal that guides the company.

But what is purpose in this context and why does it matter to your employees? How can it help instill a greater sense of fulfillment and inspire employees to be more productive and deliver a higher quality of work?

In my mind, purpose for a company is defined as the reason for being beyond profit. Or to cite EY, it’s the organization’s single, underlying objective that unifies all stakeholders. Purpose should embody the company’s ultimate role in the broader economic, societal, and environmental context for 100 or more years. A clear purpose goes beyond products or services and instead describes what impact or change the company can make in the largest context possible. Some examples of good purpose statements are:

  • Merck: “Our purpose is to preserve and improve human life.”
  • Southwest Airlines: “We connect people to what’s important in their lives.”
  • Zappos: “Our purpose is to inspire the world by showing it’s possible to simultaneously deliver happiness to customers, employees, community, vendors and shareholders in a long-term sustainable way.”

Clearly defining and articulating purpose can truly propel a company forward. Purpose helps set long-term business strategy, creates a bigger competitive advantage and differentiation in the marketplace, inspires innovation, increases brand trust and loyalty, and ultimately, helps the company stand the test of time. EY and Harvard Business Review co-authored a research project which revealed that 58% of companies that are truly purpose-driven report 10% growth or more over the past three years, versus 42% of companies that don’t have a fully-embedded purpose reporting a lack or even decline of growth in the same period.

Purpose also has the power to positively impact employees. In order for that to happen, purpose needs to be relevant, aspirational, and actively embedded in the whole company. If that’s the case, a multitude of benefits materialize for employees.

1. Smart goals connected to purpose increase productivity

First, and maybe most obvious, is that purpose can help set a north star not only for the company as a whole, but also for departments, groups, and teams. Informed by the big aspirational north star, setting smaller, more tangible, and achievable goals can help subsets within the company grasp how their work matters to the bigger picture. When teams and individual contributors understand how their roles specifically fit into the team’s goals — and especially the company’s long-term vision — they feel more fulfilled. A purpose-driven employee and team will positively impact results and increase productivity levels. Research by Bain & Company concludes that if a satisfied employee’s productivity level is 100%, an engaged employee’s level is 144%, but the productivity level of an employee that is truly inspired by the purpose of their employer is a whopping 225%.

2. Purpose improves retention rates

When employees know how they fit into the bigger picture and how the work matters to the company, they tend to genuinely enjoy their work. As a result, retention rates soar, which helps the bottom line. Employees are two times more likely to stay with a company when they feel connected to the overarching purpose. For millennials, that number is even higher; when they have a strong connection to their employer’s purpose, they’re five times more likely to stay.

3. Purpose enhances recruitment

A clearly defined purpose eases the process of recruiting top talent. Just like knowing a future employer’s values, talent likes to know what the higher goal is for the company and determine if their personal values align with that north star. According to a research project by Rutgers University, two-thirds of students prioritize the potential to positively contribute to society and make the world a better place when searching for work. When a company’s purpose resonates with them, they will be eager to work there and are much more likely to quickly adapt to the new work environment, feel fulfilled in their role, and stay with the organization long-term.

4. Purpose increases employee pride and engagement

Without purpose, employees often lack pride in their work resulting in low levels of engagement. The daily grind of the job can take its toll, especially when leadership tends to focus on short-term, top-line growth and quick gains for shareholders. t But rooting all strategy, plans, and actions in that higher goal — the purpose — inspires employees to know what they’re  ‘doing it for’. When employees know what they’re working towards, engagement booms.

5. Purpose-driven employees become brand ambassadors

When employees are proud of what they do and love the company where they work, they naturally become authentic brand promoters. Not only do they spread the love within their team and company, but they also share that pride in their communities and with customers. Purpose-driven employees help propel external marketing efforts in an authentic and meaningful way. Think of Southwest Airlines and how each employee is the brand; they make it clear that they truly care to connect customers to the people that matter in their lives.

So how does purpose come to life? It starts with leaders clearly defining the organization’s purpose and embedding it in all aspects of business strategy and daily operations. Communicators and managers also must articulate the purpose, empowering every stakeholder to truly embrace and live by it. Just like your values and key brand messages, purpose needs to be consistently communicated across all levels, from simple reminders in the break room to compelling stories about how purpose elevates the company to success. If you make your purpose meaningful and genuine, you will naturally attract the right employees who are excited to champion your business, which will ultimately enhance your culture and bottom line.