By Juliet Ziswa

*In this article I will use the words brand and business interchangeably*.

I will start with a few questions in order to give a bit of perspective:

These are pertinent questions to help unpack the purpose-led business model & conversation.  I have noted that a lot of businesses donate and support good causes during the Festive Season.  That’s really great, but my challenge to the brands and businesses is how to make ‘doing good in society’ a sustainable pillar in the brand and business strategy.    My intention in this article is to provoke, spark & inspire good conversations with Business Leaders & Marketers.  

We currently live in a world with socio-economic & environmental challenges.   Unemployment is high, health issues, power issues, economic issues, drought, pollution, you name it!  Is this something businesses and brands should worry about and meaningfully take a strategic view?   For a business to do well and succeed, the question to ask is ‘what bigger problem are we solving for as a business/brand’.   Global exposure is pushing people to increasingly want to buy & engage with brands serving the greater good of the society.  Our own children now look at the difference they can make to the world as their biggest motivation in life.  This therefore means that being a purpose led business is no longer an option. Brands that ignore purpose are becoming irrelevant.                   

Brand purpose is one of the most hotly debated business principles in the last 10+ years.    It is a topic very dear to my heart as I have been privileged enough to work with brands that were probably pioneers of a purpose led business model.  I have not encountered many African brands that have clearly articulated their #purpose even though I am pretty certain that their purposes are hidden in the vision or mission & possibly values too. 

It is very important for a brand or business to ‘call out’ its purpose internally and externally.    Writers like  Jim Stengel  have presented brand purpose/brand ideal  as a key driver of commercial success.  A brand ideal is a higher purpose of a brand or organization, which goes beyond the product or service they sell.  Jim explains it this way: “The ideal is the brand’s inspirational reason for being. It explains why the brand exists and the impact it seeks to make in the world.    The New Engine for Business Growth Millward Brown outlines the background principles for more deeper reading..

A good example that brings to life  the purpose led business model is the  2019  #Netpreneur Prize winner  Ms Temie Giwa-Tubosan  who founded LifeBank LINK.    The company believes that ‘No African should die from a shortage of essential medical products at the Hospital level’.   Now that’s a #Purpose-Led business.      

My simplistic definition of purpose-led brands is ‘how brands contribute to making the world a better place at a profit’.  

Sometimes brand purpose is mistaken for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Donations & Sponsorships, it is NOT.  CSR sometimes tends to be ‘knee jerk’ with no ‘deeper and bigger reason’ of why that particular CSR plan.  If the demonstrations of brand purpose are intermittent, consumers will perceive such initiatives, regardless of their true authenticity, as “goodwashing”, greenwashing   or “purpose washing.  This is an important point to remember as knee jerk executions can damage the brand into the future.

6 Reasons Why Brands should be #Purpose-Led

1.Purpose drives GROWTH & PROFIT – Brands with a high positive impact on people’s lives grow faster than those with a low perceived impact. Kantar’s Purpose 2020 LINK  study shows that  brands considered by consumers to have a positive impact grow at 2x the rate of other brands.

2. Purpose galvanizes Leadership Team – I can personally testify that a business purpose galvanizes the Leadership Team.   Leadership is fully unified when they have a shared intention.   It is known that high performing teams have clarity of purpose.  As Peter Drucker observed, ‘The most successful company is NOT the one with the most brains, BUT the most brains acting in concert’.

3. Purpose attracts & inspires good Talent – People like to be associated with brands perceived to be making a meaningful difference in society.  ‘Purpose makes people 3 times more likely to stay in an organization.    It also creates 75% more customer retention.  This is all because purposeful organizations value their people’ Digitalist Magazine: LINK

4. Purpose drives Brand Relevance, Engagement, Competitiveness & Distinctiveness – Purpose-driven brands are able to create more emotional & profound bonds with consumers.   They are not perceived as a standard commodity, rather, they are seen as a business serving a bigger movement towards a better world.  Purpose opens the business beyond ordinary product pitch, it forms the basis for a deeper consumer – brand relationship: a connection built on shared values.  Purpose paves the way for increased brand relevance and distinctiveness as reflected in the Lifebuoy case here

5. Purpose drives INNOVATION – Purpose opens the way to innovation that does more for the greater good of the world.   Innovation will come through not only from a product functionality perspective but will include service innovation, market execution innovation and innovation from a creative & marketing communication perspective.

6. Purpose makes the World a Better Place: With a purpose, brands become a force for good in the communities they operate in.  The society itself will go the extra mile to support purposeful brands, which makes the whole execution sustainable.  That way, businesses make the world a better place!


1.Purpose inspires Creative Agencies to develop game-changing campaigns

2.Purpose attracts the right Partners to scale up businesses.

3.Purpose Led Personal Brand:  We all ought to craft our personal purposes.  Try it & let me know how it goes. 

More Examples for your reading pleasure & conversation!  What are your views and thoughts on ‘purpose-led’ brands and businesses? 

This is an example is a #Social Enterprise with a clear purpose.

One Acre Fund Purpose LINK.  I like the way they talk about: ‘….  making more farmers more prosperous’.

This article would not be complete without mentioning my all time favourite brand which I was privileged to work on.  Lifebuoy has a purpose and Social Mission to bring safety, security and health to people through the active promotion of hand washing with soap.   This has consistently been supported across countries and has seen the brand engaging with people in the most relevant way. LINK