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Brand, purpose and culture

Updated: May 1, 2018

brands with purpose rise to the top. But it’s not enough to have an ethos and point of view. Brands have to deliver on a stated purpose.

At a recent event hosted by the American Marketing Association (AMA) of Toronto, Interbrand engaged in a lively debate about leveraging employee engagement and purpose to retain and attract talent.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Three key observations emerged from the discussion: Purpose is nowIncreasingly, people want to work for companies that share the same values they do. And to understand WHY we do what we do, not just what we do. TED speaker Simon Sinek advocates strongly for this in his TED Talk, “Start with Why.” A purpose is an enduring and succinct statement that explains WHY an organization exists, beyond making a profit. It represents what an organization stands for, how it is different, and how people can expect it to act, both today and in the future. It is intended to serve the long-term, supporting the growth of the business and the experiences created for both employees and customers. The role of purpose becomes more evident when we look at the data. According to new Gallup research, only 29 percent of millennials are engaged in their jobs, and only 27 percent believe in their companies’ values. In fact, the majority of millennials don’t understand their organizations’ purpose—only one in three agree that the purpose of their organization makes them feel important. Yet, 88 percent of millennials would stay at their jobs more than five years if they were satisfied with the company’s sense of purpose. Engage to performEmployee engagement is important because highly engaged people drive innovation and creativity, not to mention superior customer experiences. Gallup research shows that only 13 percent of employees are highly engaged globally. Building strong cultures is not just the responsibility of Human Resources (HR) anymore—it’s a shared accountability that starts at the top. Once the sole domain of HR practitioners, the practice of employee engagement has evolved to become a strategic priority. Traditionally, employee engagement is defined as the process of building an emotional connection with your employees in order to create discretionary effort (e.g. creativity, innovation) that drives enhanced business performance. Today, in the context of the war for talent and the rise of purpose-driven organizations, along with expectations of transparency and authenticity, engaging employees is mission-critical. A business without highly engaged employees may not exist in the future, so understanding your purpose can be the difference between success and failure. Marketing and HR join forcesDefining an organization’s purpose should be the top priority for marketers and HR practitioners alike. With the emergence of talent as THE top issue for business leaders, culture and engagement have virtually exploded to become top issues companies around the world. This is even more urgent when you consider that many mature organizations are competing with businesses like Tesla, which has built purpose into its business from the ground up. There has never been a better opportunity for HR and Marketing to become the best of friends. For HR leaders, purpose may manifest in your employee value proposition. For marketers, it may be embedded in your brand positioning. The terminology is less important that understanding how it comes to life across the organization—across the experiences, products and services, communications, and behavior you want to create. Now, more than ever before, organizations must focus on purpose, brand, and culture to retain and engage highly skilled talent and put intentional processes in place to sustain momentum over the long term. Purpose can serve as a north star to set the future vision for a business in motion, driving change from within and shaping the experiences that an organization creates for customers and stakeholders. This is the start of a journey to future-proof a business.


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