is increasingly hip
and increasingly done wrong.

Not because Purpose Branding itself is wrong. But because it’s wrong to assign „purpose branding“ on every brand. Just like it was wrong to do so with „sustainability“ a few years ago. Purpose branding only works in a man-made and man-centric company. For all the others, it’s just an image facade. And that in turn is already there. It is called image branding.
But what is the difference?

Different Types and Scenarios
of Purpose Branding

Understanding the long-term interplay of Brand, Strategy and People to create a Purpose-Message.

Purpose Message as Result of all Elements

If Image-Branding is about being great,
Purpose-Branding is about being better.

If Image-Branding is about attitudes, Purpose-Branding is about convictions.
If Image-Branding is about emotional USP's, Purpose-Branding is about mindful USP's.

Purpose-Branding is the best possible value-driven approach to brand building.

Unlike in „Image-Brand-Building“ the intangible aspects (values, beliefs,…) are not created „on top“ to functional elements. They are created „at the foundation“ of everything a company does. Purpose-Branding not only creates „meaning“ – it creates „higher meaning“.

The „hype“ around this idea began to take off with Simon Sinek Golden Circle. However: it has been present since brand exist. Not as a methodology but as a fact. The Golden Circle itself is not suitable as a brand-positioning-modell but it is used as a base layer to build a lot of positioning modells. 

Purpose branding is always about the interplay of brand (company), strategy, people and message. Purpose branding captures all these elements and exists only in the connection of these elements. In other words:

Purpose, which only exists in communication, is rubbish.

purpuse champion



  • This is ideal world: internal and external activities are based on purpose. AND
  • Communication delivers truly. AND
  • the companies "purpose universe" meets a market.

#1 Best Case - The Purpose Champion

I myself do not know of any case where everything works perfectly together. But there are some cases that come very close to the ideal. As a rule, these are companies that are still quite small and topics such as culture and brand are personal concerns of the founder.

The next examples show how "Purpose Branding" turns into Image Branding.

Sometimes it is due to simple practical mistakes. More often, however, the cause of malfunctions is the fundamental absence of purpose.


We call it bad-case, because very often you can see a little bit of a rude intention. As a rule, you want to make the customer believe something to make the brand more attractive than it is in reality.



  • "Purpose" is only used as a marketing instrument (nice sounding messages).
  • typically used in companies who have no purpose at all but want to appeal to modern consumers.



  • "Purpose" is used as a brand building and marketing instrument (just better sounding messages).
  • Products may fullfill "purpose" demands but sourcing and production are not there (yet).
  • The company itself may have started a transition (good case) or tries to get into the purpose world the cheaper way (bad case)


#4 Noob-WASHING​

  • Production know-how is missing.
  • Sometimes the product range is just not there yet.
  • Happens when transition from Non-Purpose to Purpose-Brand starts.

This is to the ones who try - but fail.

It takes practice. In a discipline that brand managers are not used to. Mistakes are the order of the day. But mistakes you recognize make you better.



  • Everything is perfect but communication does not deliver.
  • Happens more often than you know as some "good companies" simply don't have a decent communication budget. (Thats why you don't know.)
  • Typically the owners invest all the money on superior product standards. And no resources are left to communicate.



  • Everything is perfect but communication fails.
  • Sometimes the brand is "afraid" of its own strength
  • Sometimes communication department is not able to "nail" the message and activites - based on the companies purpose. They go for "standard marketing" instead. (Happens regularly if company hire people from "non-purpose" companies".)
  • Best case within this "weak case": consumers find the way themselves.



  • Everything the company does is coherent - but consumers are not interested.
  • This is one of the easiest and toughest situations at the same time.
  • You have to truly unterstand the reason:
    • maybe the product does not meet market requirements (even if people love you and your brand)?
    • maybe there is a competitor who is smarter than you (product and/or communication)?
    • maybe time is not right?
  • You only can solve it right if you analyse it right.


We call it bad-case, because very often you can see a little bit of a rude intention. As a rule, you want to make the customer believe something to make the brand more attractive than it is in reality.


And it is not purpose branding.



  • Nothing is really right.
  • Internal world is not clear, external world suffers, communication does not really help and consumers stay away.
  • Find the "easiest" spot and continue from there. Your are facing tough times anyway.
  • Never give up because purpose is with you. (reco: internal world should be best choice to start with. If money is tight: focus on external world and communication)

want to practice Purpose branding yourself?

Get a deep dive.

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