The Power of Purpose for Employer Brands

WRITTEN BY: Jörgen Sundberg

The power of purpose can make all the difference in attracting and retaining top talent. Companies like Apple, Google and Airbnb know this very well. In today’s episode, we’ll find out how to uncover and articulate a purpose that could improve your employer brand.

This week we sit down with Markus Kramer. He advises Boards, Executives and Operational Teams on all aspects of strategic positioning, growth and brand management. The brands Markus has worked with include Harley-Davidson, Aston Martin, Luxury Goods, Financial Services Firms, Technology brands, NOGs, startups and many more.

Markus is Visiting Professor in Strategic Brand Management at Cass Business School London and holds degrees from the University of California, Oxford, MIT and speaks regularly at select conferences and business schools around the world.

Have a listen to the interview below, keep reading for a summary and be sure to subscribe to the Employer Branding Podcast

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Why is purpose important in branding and why now?

In a nutshell, purpose is the next competitive frontier to engage in. If we look back over history, from army leadership to Henry Ford’s leadership in the industrial revolution, a lot of our purpose was centered on our leadership. Over time though, this has tipped over from leadership to strategy. With the increasing complexity that we face now, mainly driven by technology, we’ve realized that leadership and strategy aren’t enough. So that’s where purpose comes in. Understanding what purpose really is, how we articulate it and how we can benefit from as organizations and individuals. Purpose is really what makes the difference. Over the last 5 years, we have observed purpose and we’re only starting to see the value of purpose coming into the world’s biggest companies.

What are the key benefits of knowing your purpose?

  1. Clarity of Purpose. There’s enough evidence now, that having clarity of purpose yields tangible benefits for your business, in terms of longevity, loyalty and more!
  2. Differentiation. It helps to differentiate your company, as having clarity of a core purpose is no longer a benefit to your employees only but also integrates with your consumers as well.
  3. True loyalty. People don’t just work for money. People also switch between companies less if they care about what you do, what your values are and what your purpose is.

Can you talk us through your GPS framework?

On a simple level, purpose is sometimes hard to articulate. If you ask an organization ‘why are you here?’, they really struggle. The framework I’ve developed starts with:

  1. Vision: The ideal place where we would like to be.
  2. Goals: What you would like to achieve this year.
  3. Challenge: What do you need to overcome to fulfill your vision and goals?
  4. Perception: Once you have those in place, you need to understand the different perceptions of your organization. And from these, you can develop genuine insights.
  5. Strategy: Once you have these insights, and you understand your overall vision and the goals and challenges within that, you can develop a strategy.

A purpose should be sharp. It should be short, maybe 5 word or less. People should be able to understand and articulate why they are at the company within their own context.

Who owns the purpose?

To answer this you need to understand how your business works. If you have a hierarchically structured business, the purpose should come from the top. But ultimately, purpose is carried by everyone. But it needs to stop at the top so that you can embed it into such a large organization effectively. If you work in a startup, which is decentralized in its nature, the purpose doesn’t need to be owned by the CEO. It can start with anyone. From an employer branding perspective, I love it when marketers and HR connect to building a very integrated view of what your purpose should be.

What are some good examples of good purpose statements?

So to start. It should be 5 words or less, it should resonate with what you do, it should be contextualized and people need to understand the deeper values of the brand.

Here are some good examples:

  • Google: ‘Organizing the world’s information’
  • Airbnb: ‘To belong’
  • Apple: ‘Humanize technology’

What about our purpose statement; Make the world of work a better place?

A good purpose statement always starts with an active verb. I think yours is good because:

  • It makes me believe
  • It has an ambitious mission and vision
  • It makes me feel like I can contribute to something bigger

What are the main mistakes you see people make?

  • Confusing your purpose with a strapline. Executives find it hard to differentiate between a strapline and a purpose statement.
  • Making the purpose too tangible. It’s not about what you do, but why you do it.

Can you measure purpose?

Yes. I use 5 metrics:

  1. NPS: External satisfaction and loyalty.
  2. Customer acquisition ratio: Critical as an indicator of continued business growth.
  3. Market share: Benchmarking what we do against other competition.
  4. EBIT: Measuring your profit from your purpose statement.
  5. PRM: Purpose review metric. Measuring shared purpose within an organization.

Connect with Markus on LinkedIn and check out his book The Guiding Purpose Strategy.


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