Effectiveness ladder of purpose-led branding in life and business

11 Jan,2023



By Sanjeev Kotnala


Sanjeev KotnalaFinally, last Sunday, I visited my dear friend and mentor Vermajee at his Mumbai residence. Last week, he returned from one of the ashrams in Uttarakhand after completing a meditation course that started on December 25, 2022 and ended on January 4, 2023. He was feeling fresh but was not opposed to some drinks in the evening, and the mood was sombre and purpose-led.

Lintas sent me to a short four-day yoga meditation at Lion’s den Lonavala in the mid-1990s. By Day 3, I was talking to rocks and flowers and ready to leave. I poked Vermajee by telling him that maybe he was now enlightened with a purpose in life and that he had a direction.


Simplifying Purpose.

Vermajee spoke. You watch cricket, and you would have watched a purposeful Australian cricket team trying to win against a South African who suddenly realised they had a purpose too. Maybe they were inspired by the suddenly purpose-led Pakistan cricket team on the last day of the test match with New Zealand. The goal of every team is the same. To win and not to lose- to engage their fans. The intent may be stronger if the test series championship is at stake. The strategies and the format may differ, but the purpose remains the same.




Purpose In Life.

Similarly, we all have the same purpose in life. To live by Dharma and keep improving with time by natural evolution or individualistic drive. To repay our debts. The ultimate purpose is Salvation- Mokasha– Nirvana. It is as simple as that. It’s what every enlightened person and preacher has been saying. Do good. Do live and let live. To not only be seen as a good Smartian, a person with Dharma, honesty, love and care, and to behave like one. And being a better person than you were yesterday is the simplest way. Don’t you always send wishes to friends, ‘May your today be better than your tomorrow’. You just need to tweak it a bit. Say, ‘May you be better than what you were yesterday’, and the wishes will not only have a better meaning but a great direction- however, many may not understand and appreciate this change.


Probing Purpose-Led Business.

I knew Vermajee was oversimplifying the whole discussion, and it was time to throw a bait and get the maximum out of it.

I poked further. That would mean that every purpose-led business, brand, and service must have the same purpose. Then what is there with all these purpose-led design and communication purpose-led brands?

Vermajee smiled, and that smile said that he had been thinking about the subject. He countered, why should it be different for the business.?


Purpose And Business.

Vermajee continued, and I started soaking in the Gyan.

The business purpose is growth. Brand purpose is to create better services and products at a lower and lower cost. What they change for you is the individual company’s outlook. And the purpose of it is to create preference. To evolve with time and adapt to the changing needs, demands, desires, aspirations, and expectations- thus giving the experience that is better than expected. Simple, that is the business purpose.

There is nothing much to it. Consultants, agencies and researchers are trying to find a purpose for their brand, company, product or service. It is a business purpose, their business purpose. People who don’t understand, explore and realise their life’s purpose are telling the company what its purpose should and could be.


You Don’t Force A Purpose.

You start with a purpose, and there is nothing wrong with it. There is even nothing wrong if the purpose gets tweaked with time as it reflects the flexibility and agility of the company. But you don’t create a purpose. However, you may discover a purpose. It is simple: you may have a purpose or don’t. And it is fine if you understand the overall macro purpose of business.

I have told you the business purpose from a consumer point of view. There is another purpose, which is creating wealth for the stakeholders. Remember, most will replace stakeholders with shareholders, but that is a myopic view. Stakeholders are a broader ecosystem, including Government, business associates, the category, and the consumers. The wealth could be intrinsically monetary and could be emotional.


Purpose-Led, Purpose Less, Without Purpose And Faking A Purpose.

Well, it’s the best situation if you have a purpose that defines and directs your decision. And that you are always true to it. It is more demanding than discovering the purpose. But not having a unique purpose for your company, brand and service is not wrong. Purpose does not make a company better or superior unless the company understands the growth, wealth and preference creation purpose of business. Like in life, many of us may not have a defined purpose, but we don’t lead a purposeless life. They are two different things. Such people may be more healthy, emotionally wealthy, and happy.

The problem is when one fakes the purpose. When one forces a purpose or tries to define everything around a purpose. Where purpose is a mask and not a reality. Or when a purpose is a tool for perception creation. There may not be much wrong, but a fake purpose does not last. All fake purposes are campaign able and time-bound. They are a drag on the company after some time. One gets constrained and controlled by them, and getting out of it becomes tougher and more challenging with time. Because such a purpose does not align with the purpose of business, I shared it with you.

Many brand or company purposes sold by consultants and agencies, like gender neutrality, wokeism, inner beauty, equality, and saving the world, based and sustenance-led green purposes, are just a mask. They are bound to fail as they are fake and not aligned with the real business purpose of growth, constant improvement and being future-ready.


Without Purpose A Safer Bet For Brand And Companies

With a twinkle in his eyes and a self-satisfying smile playing on his lipsVermajee could read the dilemma I was facing. He clarified for my benefit.

It is better to be without a purpose than to fake a purpose. Faking a purpose is adharma in business. Doing anything for your benefit, manufacturing a purpose, and doing anything not aligned with the business’s long-term purpose is adharma.


Archetype Masking

Vermajee continued. I am not saying that the company should not try to explore or discover the purpose. But before adopting it, they must adapt to it across their internal landscape. Understand how the same person wears different masks while interacting with various stakeholders and how that is confusing and detrimental to a uniquely defined image.



Vermajee looked at me and continued to sum up the discussion.

You should understand it is like the archetype-based purpose discovery workshop you do. Or the multiple archetype masking discovery you do for the organisations to align everything towards the same objective, knowing fully well that the objective is a mid-milestone and sometimes masquerades as a purpose.

Everyone is happy as they discover something collectively which seems to work. But, I will iterate and say it is better to be without a defined purpose than to fake or force a purpose. And defining the purpose is a responsibility of Senior management- How to do that, you understand.


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