Why Your “Why” Needs to Look Good

Written by

Jeff Harter Brand Activation Expert | Red Cullers Group Creative Director | Ed Rivero Associate Creative Director |

May 25, 2022 · 5-minute read

Why your “why” needs to look good:

How purpose branding helps retain and attract the best people

What is Purpose:

Purpose is your timeless why. It’s why your company exists and why it matters to the world. It’s a big deal. And if you’re articulating your company’s Purpose for the first time you have one shot to get it right. One opportunity to excavate it, articulate it, and bring it to life. It’s vital you find the right voice, strike the right tone, and inspire the right feeling. Why? Because the amount of care and effort you put into your Purpose rollout will signal to your employees how much effort you expect them to put into living the Purpose.

First, Brand the Line:

Let’s say you have a Purpose line. Reading it should give you goosebumps as you imagine all of the inspiration, alignment, and direction it’s going to give your organization. But now what? How do you show everyone how excited you are? You could subject those eloquent words to Arial or any default font that devours its sense of individuality. Or you could brand your Purpose so it doesn’t just sound like it belongs only to you, it looks the part too.

Then work on the inspiration, the relationship, and the extension:

When you leave your purpose undesigned and unbranded, it shows employees that you don’t consider it worth the effort you’d give an Instagram post. And they notice. When asked “what are the greatest barriers to acting on your organizational purpose?” the second biggest problem, with 33% of employees citing it as an issue was, “Lack of conviction in communication from leadership” (Source 1). What could say less conviction than the default font?

Over the last 25 years, we’ve learned at BrightHouse how branding Purpose can amplify its impact. We’ve also learned that to do it successfully hinges on getting three important ingredients right – the inspiration, the relationship, and the extension.

The Inspiration:

Employees notice when a message is well-articulated and well-designed. Gallup data shows that only 13% of employees strongly agree that the leadership of their organization communicates effectively internally. That’s not an encouraging number, but Gallup’s number one solution for fixing the communication problem according to their research is articulating why your organization exists so can inspire employees (Source 2).

We agree. A well-crafted and authentic Purpose line must inspire people. And branding Purpose can help motivate even more people, in different ways, and over extended periods of time. Branding Purpose allows you to tell more of the story which creates more opportunities to inspire. When you use only the words of Purpose to inspire, you’re leaving out many potential sensory experiences that can energize the emotions. You’re also leaving your visual learners out.

The Relationship:

That’s the inspiration. But how do you get the relationship right? Purpose branding is related to the company brand, but it must also be different. Though it borrows color palettes, fonts, and imagery from the brand it needs to set itself apart. It cannot appear as another internal company communication. Purpose is magic, not a memo. Branding your reason for being is an art. It must be authentic and true to the brand while also refreshing it.

The Extension:

Finally, Purpose is an extension, a bridge that creates new interactions and connections between your organization and the world. We know that employees who find meaning in their work stick around longer, creating huge savings for their organizations (see fig 1).

Fig 1: average employee retention in purposeful firms is 7.4 months longer, saving managers $5.5 million a year in turnover costs.

By branding your Purpose you’ll find new vehicles and media to share ethotic stories, sound bites, headlines, and news both internally and externally. You’ll create a lasting connection over time with longer lasting employees. And those employees will become your first ambassadors, increasing your ability to attract talent with your Purpose branding. Branding gives your Purpose more Purpose as it carries out its duty of impacting the world. It helps people understand what you’re doing faster and connect it to previous good work you’ve done so that you get credit for it. And you want to get credit.

Why? Because it is vitally important for employees to feel like the company they work for is creating an impact. 62% of millennials indicate that it’s important “for me to be known for making a positive difference in the world.” (source 3). And part of that is how their brand is known in the world. Employees want to feel proud telling their family and friends about their work. In fact, for a long time we’ve said one of our greatest metrics for Purpose branding is how many people show their family our Purpose work. And they do, they play the film, they read the narrative, they proudly point to an article about impact, because they want their family to know more than just what they do, they want them to understand why they do it, and why it’s so important.

Purpose is supposed to rally your organization. And you should never go to a rally without a sign. An intentional Purpose brand will signal to your employees and your customers that you have something important to say. It reinforces your commitment to let Purpose drive your decisions and lead you into the future. I think we can all agree that’s too big a job for Arial.


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