The Power of Purpose


It seems like a few lifetimes ago when I worked in the nonprofit sector running programs for at-risk youth. Even though it felt purposeful and rewarding, long hours, ridiculous amounts of coffee, and more than occasional heartbreak were but par for the course.

On the days when it got really tough, my mentor and friend, Jo Ann Allen, always managed to have a few sparkling words of wisdom to ground me, one of which that has really stuck with me all these years: Purity of Purpose. Just three little words but that mean so much and continue to frame how I go about my work because when you can stay focused on your “Why” you tap into your inner wellspring of inspiration and motivation.

Turns out Purity of Purpose (PoP) is one of the most critical starting places in branding – more so than your mission, vision, values or promise. It’s not enough to want to make an uber-cool tennis shoe (especially if you want to sell to Millennials). Consumers want to know what you stand for and whether they should support you with their hard earned dollars.

If you can articulate what you stand for, you can pull those people toward you. If know what you’re doing and why, it’s easy to stay focused. If you don’t, you risk meandering around in the ethers until something happens to you. Knowing and believing in your PoP allows you to be proactive. Not having it means the best you can do is react to environmental or market forces beyond your control. Quite simply, PoP is the internal GPS that guides all brand development.

Though the process of really boiling it down can be daunting, it’s always worth the effort. It also happens to be one of my favorite processes to work through with clients.

If you know your purpose, you know why you’re in it. If you truly know your marketplace, you understand your space, challenges and opportunities. When you fearlessly explore market perception, you gain insight into how you’re seen by others and identify where you might need to switch gears.

By refining your vision and mission, you can get clear about how you do what you do and why, which creates the space to develop the new roadmap for where you need to go and the action plan for how you’re going to get there.

By embracing your evolving identity, you resist staying stuck and actively have a hand in dreaming up your future.

At the heart of “Purity of Purpose” is courage: the courage to review, re-imagine and recommit to the values that brought you to your work in the first place. PoP allows you to see opportunity over roadblocks, strengths rather than weaknesses.

And perhaps most importantly, purpose helps you steer a course towards a horizon line of your own choosing.