Q: Is copywriting necessary when expressing the purpose of a company or brand?
To answer this question, we need to consider the use cases of the purpose statement. Here are three typical use cases. (These cases are not mutually exclusive. A brand/company may use a purpose for all three use cases.)
Case 1: Communicate the purpose to customers for external branding.
Case 2: Communicate the purpose to employees for motivating them.
Case 3: Use the purpose as a guide for decision-making (i.e. for a project or product inside a company).
The fundamental job of a purpose statement is to clearly answer why a brand exists. However, a purpose can have other jobs.
Cases 1 and 2
For cases 1 and 2 above, the purpose needs to trigger an emotional response. It needs to resonate with customers and inspire employees. To realize this, creativity is required and that is where copywriting comes into play.
If the purpose is solely used for the third use case, the purpose needs to be clear and explicit. This can be accomplished without creative writing.
From our experience, we have seen clients develop purpose statements for new products without professional copywriting. These purpose statements were not directly used in marketing communications. Instead, they were primarily used for aligning internal teams, frontlines, and partners to create consistency in their brand experience.
The versatility of purpose
Purpose can have different and multiple use cases. There is a corollary to this observation. Purpose is versatile and can be used in various business contexts. Here are some examples:
– company purpose
– team purpose
– brand purpose
– marketing campaign purpose
– project purpose
Within the different contexts, the key to deciding whether copywriting is needed depends on how the purpose will be used.
Do not get carried away with “sounding good.”
While we are on the topic of expressing purpose, let’s talk about a trap that is easy to fall into. The final step of articulating purpose involves word-smithing and this is where subjectivity creeps in.
This is not to say that the final decision does not require subjectivity, but it is important to step back and remember that purpose is not merely a slogan for marketing communications. If you are communicating the purpose externally, yes, it does have to sound good, but it also has to convey meaning and fulfill its function as a purpose.
As I mentioned above, the fundamental job of a purpose statement is answering the essential question: why does the brand exist? This is the essential test that purpose statements must pass. Once it clears this hurdle, we can evaluate the statement based on how we intend to harness it.
Q: Does purpose need to be unique?
Discovering and expressing purpose is a very intensive process. During this process of discovery and expressing purpose, we naturally become focused on the purpose itself. We need to be cautious of not seeing the forest for the trees. In this case, we must be mindful that the purpose itself is part of a larger brand.
Allow me to elaborate. The brand as a whole should be differentiated and unique to remain competitive in the market. Though the brand purpose itself is an essential part of the brand, it does not solely hold the job of differentiating the brand.
Let’s look at an example. Consider the purpose: enrich lives. It is abstract and in no way unique. Almost any company can instate this as their purpose. It turns out this is Apple’s purpose statement. This purpose serves as Apple’s North Star, but the brand differentiation is achieved through its products, services, and communications.
Here is a helpful metaphor. We can think of a brand as a fruit and brand purpose as its seed. For example, consider grapes and mandarins. They are clearly distinct and different fruits in appearance, texture, and taste. But if you were to look at the seeds of both fruits alone, at a glance, they do not appear drastically different.
To wrap up, before we ask the question whether a purpose is unique or not, we should ask this question first. Does the purpose statement need to carry the job of differentiating the brand?