A good purpose statement is at the heart of every strong brand.

Purpose gets right to the heart of why you do what you do as a business. It speaks to profound reasons why employees and customers want to be associated with your brand.

That’s why defining your company’s purpose in a clear, concise purpose statement is key to creating a more impactful brand.

But what is a purpose statement? Why is it important? And how is a purpose statement different from a mission statement?

If you’re looking for answers to questions, or want to learn how to write a purpose statement for your company, this post has everything you need.

We’ll unpack a purpose statement definition, look at purpose statement examples in the world’s most successful brands, and show you how to define a powerful purpose statement for your own brand.

CONTENTS

What is a Purpose Statement?

A purpose statement is a short sentence that describes the reason a company exists beyond making money.

Your purpose is the answer to the most fundamental question you face as organization: “Why?”

Why does your business exist? What drives you to get out of bed in the morning to go to work? Why do you work long hours or make sacrifices to keep your business moving forward?

Purpose is the primary driver that motivates your team, especially during difficult or challenging times. But purpose is equally important for customers, as well. Research shows that today’s customers want to buy from and associate themselves with purpose-driven brands.

Also known as a core purpose, business purpose, or company purpose, a purpose statement is an essential component of the brand compass, a strategic messaging system that also includes vision, mission, and values.

The Difference Between a Purpose Statement and a Mission Statement

A woman checking out at the counter at Walgreens alongside Walgreens purpose statement
While we’re on the topic, an important part of any purpose statement definition should be the difference between a purpose statement and a mission statement. While the terms are often confused or used interchangeably, there are important differences between the two.

So, what’s the difference between a purpose statement and a mission statement?

The answer is fairly straightforward. Where a purpose statement describes the simple, profound idea behind why an organization exists, a mission statement is a more detailed account. Your mission statement outlines what you plan to do as an organization, how you plan to achieve it, and whom you’re doing it for.

You can think of your purpose statement as describing the emotional or philosophical motivation behind your business, while your mission statement is a strategic roadmap for your business’s success.

The Benefits of a Strong Purpose Statement

A group of inspired, happy employees works around a conference table
For today’s businesses, purpose is no longer a “nice to have.” It’s the cost of entry for any successful company in a world where employees and customers expect more from the brands in their lives.

Organizational purpose isn’t just for environmentally or socially conscious brands, either. A well-crafted purpose statement that powerfully communicates your organization’s raison d’être is one of the best ways to connect with those you serve on a more profound, human level.

As we’ll see below, connections like these are a powerful way to boost brand loyalty among customers and employees alike. Let’s take a closer look some of the most immediate benefits of a strong purpose statement.

Attract & Retain Top Talent

Today’s employees are looking for more than competitive salaries and attractive benefits packages. The best talent out there wants to work for purpose-driven companies. This makes purpose an indispensable component to effective employer branding.

This fact has been borne out by multiple studies of late. Take the findings from Porter Novelli’s Purpose Perception Study, which surveyed 1,200 adults ranging in age from 18 to 69.

The study found that:

  • 78% of employees are more likely to want to work a purpose-driven company
  • 72% are more likely to be loyal to that company
  • 72% are more likely to forgive that company if it makes a misstep

Not only does clearly defining and communicating your company purpose put your business in a more competitive position in the labor market, it also ensures that the employees you do hire will stick around longer. Reduced turnover means more cohesive company culture and better brand alignment. It also means the investments you make in your workforce will have larger, longer-term dividends.

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Improve Productivity

The benefits of a clearly articulated purpose don’t end with attracting talent and building culture. Business purpose is a powerful driver when it comes to employee productivity.

The simple truth is that inspired employees are more productive employees. As we’ve already seen, purpose gives your team motivation that goes beyond a paycheck and a benefits package. It gives them a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

When workers have a purposeful reason for putting in long hours that goes beyond mere financial compensation, they are more likely to see personal sacrifices as worth it. A more cohesive company culture filled with more motivated employees naturally leads to a more inspired, more productive team.

Inspire Your Customers

Where employees want to work for purpose-driven brands, customers want to buy from them. We see evidence of this fact borne out in study after study.

Porter Novelli found that purpose matters in important ways to vast majorities of consumers:

  • 66% of customers consider a company’s purpose when making purchase decisions
  • 78% are more likely to remember a company with a strong purpose

In today’s marketplace, it’s simply no longer good enough to compete on the basis of cost or quality alone. Today’s customers expect more from the businesses they engage with. They want to align themselves with brands that share their values. That starts with purpose.

Brands with a clearly defined, authentic sense of purpose will always have an edge in our increasingly socially conscious consumer landscape.

Meaningfully Differentiate Yourself from the Competition

Speaking of competition, your core purpose is one of the most profound ways to set your brand apart from similar brands in your industry.

Not only are customers more likely to recognize, remember, and engage with a purpose-driven brand, they’re also more likely to purchase it over the competition. In fact, 71% of customers say they would purchase from a purpose-driven company over the alternative when cost and quality are equal.

The fact is, if you haven’t clearly defined your purpose statement, you can’t very well build a purpose-driven brand. And if you haven’t built a purpose-driven brand, you’re missing out on a fundamental opportunity to create meaningful competitive differentiation, connect with customers, and gain market share.

The numbers don’t lie. Both internally and externally, business purpose is an essential ingredient of business growth.

5 Qualities of a Strong Purpose Statement

A diagram outlining the 5 qualities of a strong purpose statement including authentic, profound, inspiring, concise, and clear
The only way to ensure you get the most out of your organizational purpose is to effectively communicate it. But as with all brand messaging, not all purpose statements are created equal.

So, what separates a strong purpose statement from a less effective one? There are five qualities that every good business purpose statement should have.

A strong purpose statement is:

Authentic

Purpose starts first and foremost with authenticity. The two ideas are inextricably linked. So, what does it mean for a company purpose to be authentic?

An authentic purpose statement is one that is borne from an honest accounting of who you are as an organization, where you started, and where you’re headed. It is a genuine sentiment that reflects your true character and values and that’s aligned with your brand positioning.

An authentic purpose is ultimately also a human idea. It isn’t about your own business’s growth but about the change you hope to affect in the world. Which is a good segue to our next essential quality of every strong purpose statement.

Profound

A strong corporate purpose isn’t just honest and genuine, it’s also deep and meaningful. Your purpose should mean something—both to those within your organization and to those you serve.

A profound purpose is an idea that makes people think. It should convince both your customers and your employees that you stand for something beyond quarterly reports and balance sheet figures.

Many brands find profound purpose in environmental and/or social impact, but not every purpose has to be centered on an ESG-oriented value proposition. A profound purpose can be as simple as making the world a happier, safer, or more enriching place.

Inspiring

The best purpose statements aren’t just authentic and profound, they are also inspiring. Your purpose, remember, is the reason you do what you do as an organization. It is by its very definition a motivational idea.

Describing that motivation in a way that inspires people to act is the best way to get the most mileage out of your purpose statement—and build brand equity in the process. Your purpose statement should inspire your employees to find deeper meaning in the work they do, giving them the impetus they need to push through challenging times.

Your business purpose statement should also inspire your customers. Not just to buy your products and services (although, as we’ve seen, that’s one of the most tangible benefits of a well-crafted purpose), but also to associate themselves with your brand. Customers inspired by purpose will always be your best brand advocates.

Concise

A quick Google search will turn up business purpose examples of all shapes and sizes. This includes long, run-on sentences that unpack not just why a company does what it does, but also what, how, and for whom. As is the case with nearly all writing, however, the best of the bunch are the shortest ones.

A purpose statement should be as concise as possible for two reasons. One, your organizational purpose is the answer to one question and one question only: why? Second, the shorter the statement, the more powerful it becomes.

You’ll see this firsthand in the purpose statement examples we’ve collected below. While we limited our list to the best purpose statements we could find, you’ll see that even among these highlights, the shortest and simplest statements outshine the others.

Take Netflix’s “To entertain the world” or Kroger’s “To feed the human spirit.” Both leave little room for doubt when it comes to the profound reasons why these companies exist—and do so in as few words as possible.

Clear

The final quality of a strong purpose statement is clarity. After all, your corporate purpose can be as authentic and concise as possible, but if it’s vague or ambiguous it won’t be very meaningful or inspiring to those who hear it.

A clearly stated core purpose is one that isn’t too abstract or philosophical. It doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to plainly answering the question “why?”

We’ll explore more about how to craft a clear, concise purpose statement in our next section, but suffice it to say that when it comes to communicating the singular reason your business exists, clarity is kind.

Think of the five essential qualities above as the ultimate criteria for the final draft of your purpose statement. But one of the keys to writing a strong purpose statement is not to worry too much about checking all of the boxes when you first get started.

Let’s take a closer look at what the process looks like when you’re ready to write your company purpose statement.

How to Write a Purpose Statement

A team works in front of a whiteboard on writing a purpose statement
By this point, you’ve gotten a sense of why a strong purpose statement is so important to your business. You’ve also seen some of the most important characteristics that the best purpose statement examples share.

So how do you write a business purpose statement of your own? We’ve boiled it down to three simple steps that are sure to result in an effective and impactful statement.

1. Identify Your Purpose

The first step in the process is brainstorming and ideation. This is the “no bad ideas” phase, where the goal isn’t to worry about conciseness or clarity, but rather to come up with a handful of ideas to choose from.

Put together a small team of your most creative minds in front of a whiteboard and start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Why do we exist as an organization?
  • Why do we do what we do as a business (beyond making money or increasing shareholder value)?
  • What positive change are we looking to affect in the world?
  • Why do we get out of bed in the morning to go to work (beyond a paycheck)?
  • What is it that drives us to put in extra effort or push through challenging times?
  • Why do we work long hours or put up with the occasional unruly customer or make any of the sacrifices we do to keep our business moving forward?

Once you have a handful of ideas, try to identify a single idea or theme that is behind them all. The goal is to get to the heart of why you do what you do.

Pro tip: if you think you’ve put your finger on it, ask “why?” again. Is it to better your community? To make people happy? To make the world a safer place? You’re looking for a central, profound idea behind everything you do.

Imagine yourself as the precocious, insatiably curious kid, who keeps asking why until you get to the heart of the matter.

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2. Articulate Your Purpose

Once you think you’ve hit on the idea that is at the root of why you do what you do, the next step is to craft it into a purpose statement.

Now, because purpose statements are essentially answers to the question “why?” most of them take a similar format.

So, “Why do you do X?”

“We do X to Y”

Or, more simply:

“To Y.”

Purpose statements that start with an infinite verb like this are by nature actively oriented. And actively oriented statements will always be more inspiring and motivational than passively oriented statements.

Try following a similar format with your purpose statement. In the sentence, “We do X to Y,” what are your X and Y?

Maybe you “sell electric vehicles to keep people moving.” Or maybe you “design cutting-edge apps to navigate the world.” Or perhaps you “produce fertilizer to make the world a greener place.”

Whatever your answer might be, whittle it down to just the Y:

To keep people moving.

To navigate the world.

To make the world a greener place.

Remember, when it comes to purpose statements, the shorter the better. Try to boil it down to a single idea and aim for no more than 6 or 7 words. Don’t worry about the “what” or “how.” The goal is not a statement that says “To do X because of Z so that Y.” You’re just looking for “To Y.”

3. Communicate Your Purpose

The final step of any good purpose statement is to use it as inspiration throughout your business. As we’ve already seen, purpose should be at the very heart of everything you do as an organization.

From your business model to your branding to your marketing and beyond—all of it makes more sense and is more impactful when you start with “why.”

Internally, your purpose statement should be an integral part of brand compass messaging that your entire team is familiar with. It should be documented in your brand guidelines and be used as a cornerstone of internal communications.

Externally, your organizational purpose should be the starting point for your brand story. As we’ll see in out next section, the world’s most compelling brands are those with purpose-driven brand experiences.

Customers instinctually gravitate towards brands with an authentic sense of purpose that shines through in everything from their brand messaging to their brand design.

31 Purpose Statement Examples

A man smiles and listens to earphones alongside AT&T's purpose statement
The best way to see the power of purpose in action is to look at a collection of the purpose statement examples from the world’s top brands.

Purpose has become increasingly more important to Fortune 500 brands like those listed here. Let’s take a look at how these brands have articulated their purpose statements—and leveraged them to build more meaningful connections with those they serve.

AT&T’s Purpose: “To connect people to greater possibility – with expertise, simplicity, and inspiration.”

BlackRock’s Purpose: “To help more and more people experience financial well-being.”

Coca-Cola’s Purpose: “Refresh the world. Make a difference.”

CVS’s Purpose: “Bringing our heart to every moment of your health.”

Intel’s Purpose: “To create world-changing technology that improves the life of every person on the planet.”

Kohl’s Purpose: “To inspire and empower families to lead fulfilled lives.”

Kroger’s Purpose: “To feed the human spirit.”

MetLife’s Purpose: “To help our customers navigate life’s twists and turns.”

Ralph Lauren’s Purpose: “To inspire the dream of a better life through authenticity and timeless style.”

Target’s Purpose: “To help all families discover the joy of everyday life.”

Verizon’s Purpose: “To give people the ability to do more.”

Walgreens’ Purpose: “More joyful lives through better health.”

Walmart’s Purpose: “To help people save money so they can live better.”

REI’s Purpose: “To awaken a life-long love of the outdoors.”

Amazon’s Purpose: “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company.”

Netflix’s Purpose: “To entertain the world”

Disney’s Purpose: “To entertain, inform and inspire people around the globe through the power of unparalleled storytelling.”

Google’s Purpose: “To organize the world’s information”

Zappos’s Purpose: “To deliver WOW.”

Red Bull’s Purpose: “To give wings to people and ideas”

Lyft’s Purpose: “To improve people’s lives with the world’s best transportation.”

Adidas’s Purpose: “Through sport, we have the power to change lives.”

Apple’s Purpose: “To empower creative exploration and self-expression.”

Chobani’s Purpose: “To make better food for more people.”

IKEA’s Purpose: “To create a better everyday life for the many people.”

Lego’s Purpose: “To inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow.”

SAP’s Purpose: “To help the world run better and improve people’s lives.”

Microsoft’s Purpose: “To empower every person and organization on this planet to achieve more.”

Airbnb’s Purpose: “To help people to belong anywhere.”

Tesla’s Purpose: “To accelerate the planet’s transition to sustainable energy.”

Patagonia’s Purpose: “To save our home planet.”

The Takeaway

A powerful purpose statement is one of the best ways to foster brand loyalty and build brand equity. By identifying your organization’s reason for existing beyond making money and articulating a clear, concise, and authentic statement that communicates that reason, you can set the stage for creating deeper connections with customers and employees alike.

Take inspiration from the growing list of Fortune 500 brands, whose business purpose examples are listed above. Few things are more powerful than purpose when it comes to creating a profound brand experience that speaks to audiences on a deeply human level.

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A prolific blogger, speaker, and columnist, Brian has two decades of experience in design and branding. He’s written for publications including Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc. Magazine, Fast Company, HuffPost, and Brand Quarterly.