In last week’s Content Kitchen we promised we’d be getting right into the heart of branding with a three-part blog – so we’re really excited to be teaming up with branding expert Jän Ostendorf from Purpose Branding who will be our guest blogger for these posts. In last week’s video Guy mentioned three elements that are key parts of the branding process:

  1. Purpose – what you stand for
  2. Copy – what you say
  3. Design – how you look

In this post Jän explains why Purpose, the first of these elements, is so important.

Purpose transcends mission

Everyone says you need a vision and mission statement for your business. I believe you need a purpose statement first and here’s the reason why: Purpose transcends a company’s vision or mission. It’s the reason behind the vision. What are you hoping to achieve? What would you do even if you didn’t get paid for it?

For the owner, founder, leader of a company or inventor of a product, it’s their driving force. The purpose is what excites them about being in business or developing a product or service. Looking deeper, it’s your approach to solving problems or interacting with the world. If people are innovators, they’ll originate ideas in almost everything they do. You’ll see it in the small things like, for example, helping their children learn maths after school by teaching different methods from the traditional curriculum.

A good example of purpose transcending a company’s vision or mission would be Elon Musk, the owner of SpaceX, Tesla, Solar City, and Hyperloop. He is an innovator. His vision and mission are different for each endeavour. His purpose is the same: innovate on large issues that are facing our society. I know Elon is a one-in-a-million example and most people will not own more than one business in their lifetime—and even fewer of us will own multiple businesses at the same time. But most business owners are confronted with different opportunities that stem from the one business. Also, there can be many parts, activities or departments to one business. That purpose will impact how each is addressed and run.

Let’s take a small business as an illustration. My wife’s yoga studio, Kai Yoga Studio, is a good example of how purpose transcends mission. She started out with a passion for learning more about alternative medicine while homeschooling our children. This passion led her to become a reflexologist. She’s a teacher at heart, someone who loves to learn and discover. Since she has opened her studio, she has migrated from teaching Hatha (more Iyengar style) Yoga to Ashtanga Yoga.

Fit for purpose

As a yoga studio owner in the United States, she is tempted—like most I’m sure—to sell products and to teach every kind of yoga that is popular. Because she’s a learner, she doesn’t teach yoga like a workout or exercise class. It has led her to offer a teacher training but not the typical McYoga 6-month or 4-week intensive. Her school is set up like a college where you can take courses when they are offered, and take up to two years to complete your 200-level training at your own pace. Any student, not just those wanting to be teachers, can take a course as pass-fail. All the courses for teachers are done as part of a mentorship programme—highly personal and tailored to how and who you want to teach.

Her purpose dictates her personal practice, how she teaches, what form of yoga she teaches, what kind of teacher training she does—just as much as what she doesn’t do or pursue. Because she’s in her late 40s and a reflexologist (and a lover of all things physiology, anatomy and body systems-related), she attracts older people who want to do yoga but have physical limitations, so they need understanding and instruction on how to modify poses. A lot of her students are nurses or in the medical community and they come to her classes because she can speak to them in their language.

Purpose before vision and mission

purpose diagram

Once you understand your purpose, you can develop a vision statement. The vision statement is a lofty ideal to aspire to. Kai Yoga Studio’s vision statement is to ‘Change Lives.’ The mission statement is to impact and transform lives through yoga education and practice. The mission is the what and how of the vision statement. Because you have identified your purpose first, you have tapped into the human side of the business and can make the business less about ‘the what’ and more about ‘the why.’

In the business world, the people who have said businesses are for profit generation have started to understand that businesses provide something on a deeper level. In a book called Good to Great, the author Jim Collins writes, “Companies need to exist for a higher purpose than mere profit generation to transcend the category of merely good.” I’ve done a lot of research and study on why this is and have come to the conclusion that it’s simply because it’s based on the way we learn and the way our brain works.

Use meaning to communicate your purpose

We learn by connecting meaning to objects. If you put an iPhone in a child’s hand that has never held one before, they will do one of two things. They will put it in their mouth or throw it down. It has no meaning to them. Once something has an associated meaning, it has value. A concentration camp survivor and world-renowned Neurologist and Psychiatrist, Viktor E. Frankl, observed that, “Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning.” He saw this in operation while living (I use that term loosely) in the camps. He saw that those who believed they were not born to die in the camps, didn’t. They survived by believing they existed for something greater. Their life had meaning beyond their current situation.

This desire to find meaning is innately human. We look for meaning in every aspect of life. It’s how we navigate through our environment. This extends to the use of signs, symbols, and language. A company’s brand should use all these tools to communicate their identity and purpose (which will be discussed in later posts).

Attract those who believe what you believe

When building a business—building a brand—starting on a foundation of purpose allows you to communicate with meaning and build value. The clearer the communication, the more accurate the expectations people will have before interacting with your company. The more accurate their expectations are, the better experience they will have. If you communicate with meaning from the centre of purpose, you will attract those that believe what you believe. You will start growing your tribe—your loyal followers that see your business for something more than providing a product or service.

Do you want to find your purpose? Take our Quiz to find out what areas of your business brand and identity we can help with. Then book a free consultation to find out more.


About the author

Jän Ostendof  runs a branding consultancy called Purpose Branding where he helps small privately-held business owners clarify their message, both verbally and visually, bringing the power of branding to small businesses.

He lives just outside Dayton, Ohio with his wife Sonja and two children — just a block away from their yoga studio where he practices Ashtanga daily.