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Culture and purpose combined with brand

When purpose is truly embedded through an organisation, it sets the tone for the culture. Branding captures that flavour.


Don’t confuse your brand with your branding. Your organisation’s *brand* is much more than a visual and written representation of your business.

Brand is how you bring business to life through your people. In a previous article, I talked about culture. Culture and brand are two sides of the same coin, and that coin makes your organisation unique.

Your brand captures who you are, what you stand for, what you stand against. Your branding codifies and communicates that.

Thanks to the radical transparency made possible by a connected world, your business is a glass box. And that means now the ‘brand’ is everything they see.

Every person. Every process. Every value.

Everything that happens, ever.

There’s a single word that sums up what a person sees when they look deep inside your business: they see your culture."

David Mattin, Global Head of Trends & Insights @trendwatching

How purpose and culture show up in branding

When purpose is truly embedded through an organisation, it sets the tone for the culture. Branding captures that flavour.

Organisations can identify and measure their culture with a tool from CultureTalk that provides insight through Archetypes:

Archetypes are not meant to put people, or whole organisations, in simplified boxes. Rather, they provide a story-based framework that can be used to identify, clarify, and communicate the personality, drivers, and motivating factors of an organisation.

Archetypes provide a human framework for diving deeply into the organisation and uncovering how it works. They give us a common language across the organisation, through which we understand and articulate what meaningful work looks and feels like, and the unique way the organisation’s purpose will be delivered."

From 'How culture supports brand'

Before I came across Archetypes, I would ask participants of my branding workshops, “if this business was a person what would they be like?” I would try to encourage the participants to think about distinct personal attributes that accurately personified the organisation. Or I would ask, “if this business was a celebrity, who would it be?” Or even, “if this business was an animal, what animal would it be?”

Where ‘personification’ falls short is when different people have different ideas about what that person represents, or different feelings towards a particular attribute. People see a personification through their own lens, giving their own interpretation and understanding.

If you describe your organisation as being like ‘the Queen’, for example, some people might interpret those attributes as dignified, honourable, or proud. But for someone else, the Queen might conjure up images of old, unapproachable, or out of touch.

Archetypes instead provide neutral, universal descriptions, timeless and global, using common language, relatable and understood by everybody.

A brand is about meaning. And BRANDING is about the management of that meaning. Archetypes give us a rich language which we can use to describe something that's quite intangible.

Defining, and refining, your brand from the inside out

If mission and vision are led by the C-suites who set the direction of the organisation, then it’s easy to compartmentalise purpose as part of culture and values and therefore the remit of the HR department. And brand gets placed in the marketing department box.

What should be happening is that purpose becomes the guiding principle that runs through the entire business. Purpose defines everything and unites everyone.

Purpose is not the domain of the C-Suite; culture is not led by the HR department; the brand is not a marketing initiative… but that's often what I see. In this case, there will be a disjoin.

Employees won’t feel engaged, marketing messages will feel ‘off’, HR initiatives won’t land and settle. I know of a business that has a Head of Happiness – and I know someone who works for them who is far from happy!

Delegating a Head of Happiness isn’t enough. Happiness, and fulfilment from work, comes from within, the staff feeling that what they are doing is meaningful and makes an important contribution.

Is your brand authentic?

If you have to say something's authentic, then it probably means it's not.

Purpose is an organisation’s reason for being.

Culture is the set of unwritten rules everyone follows to ensure that purpose is fulfilled.

Brand encapsulates the feel of the organisation and all its relationships.

Branding should, by definition, be authentic because it’s a reflection of everything the organisation is doing. If branding is not a true reflection of what's going on internally then it's just ‘stuck on’; it's just communications; it’s gloss -- like wrapping paper and a bow, covering over something that it's not.

As brands strive for differentiation, relevance and growth, a clear purpose brought to life in compelling ways is often the difference between success and failure."

Afdhel Aziz author of ‘Good is the new cool’

Long-lasting ROI returns

I often used to ask in presentations, “what's more important to businesses, to earn trust or to grow?” And it usually got quite different responses. People have different views on that.

These days I reframe that question, as increasingly a thriving, healthy business isn’t about growth as an end in itself – if nothing else climate change and biodiversity loss won’t allow that. As we have discussed other metrics and impact are just as important.

But one thing is clear, if you set the ambition for the brand to harness trust then a thriving business will follow, because you’ll attract customers (and employees) who hold the same values.

A brand can bring people together, aligning them to support the business as part of a movement they believe in. We’re familiar with the term ‘cause marketing’ when a brand issues a call to action around a social cause. People choose, and stay loyal to, brands that support their own values, beliefs and desires. Price points change, values typically don’t.

Which is why organisations with a strong brand, that reflects a clear purpose, will enjoy returns over a longer period of time. In his book ‘The Infinite Game’ Simon Senek proposes that there are no winners and losers in business, as business is infinite. Business is *not* a game where full time is called and a winner is declared. You can choose a finite mindset or an infinite mindset. Typically, finance people measure things in quarters and financial years, but building trust is a long game, and you have to be determined, you have to consistently behave in a way that matches what you're communicating. 

The purpose of your brand is to represent your purpose."

Michael Kouly

Your organisation’s consistent, reliable, dependable drive to fulfil the organisational purpose – powered by culture, captured in brand, and reflected by branding – is what ultimately garners trust and delivers a sustainable, long-lasting thriving business.

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