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David Mills
By David Mills on August 09, 2018

A Hollow Core, or a brand Story of Purpose

Authenticity is now a core concern of growing companies. Millennials and consumers want to see true integrity and are pushing for real experiences. They want long-term relationships with organizations that bring meaning to their lives rather than simply a paycheck or something delivered in a box. This goes beyond commodities—they want to be connected to organizations with a purpose that anchors the very center of their story.

Substance at the Core

When you peel back the layers of your organization’s brand (brands include everything people know and experience about you), the core cannot be simply a stale mission statement that rings hollow, it cannot be rotten, and it it should not be a secret. Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz and Story Brand) calls this organization one that is haunted by a “narrative void,” that hollows out everything about the brand both internally with disengage employees and externally in advertising and marketing.

There was a day when purpose was more personal and a mission statement was enough. Deeper purpose was something to be observed in a worship setting or via a quiet donation to a cause people cared about. But what used to be a private matter has now become something to be celebrated and shared. Something that was once discussed privately has become a sought after, public connection point for both employees and consumers.

“Bring Your Purpose to Work Day” is Now Every Day

Organizations built around a story of purpose are now something that customers expect, and employees desire. Stakeholders will do business elsewhere if they don’t find meaning that aligns with their own stories. Employees who are engaged by an organization's purpose can become key assets, and customers will pay more for a product that fuels a cause they care about.

marketing does not equal visibility

Creating an Enticing, Powerful Story

What’s underneath your products, services, and business strategy? Beneath the WHAT of your organization is the HOW (your values) that comes from culture and purpose (Simon Sinek, “Start with Why”). Authenticity means that they all line up from the core to the outer layers of the brand.

The WHAT and the HOW need to emanate from the core out and affect all decision making and day-to-day work. Therefore, the now largest generation (millennials) isn't content with only inspecting the facade of the business—rather, they want to see integrity in the whole business down to the core.

Your story as a business, cannot be “spin,” rather it must be authentic. Patagonia said this well, “you can’t reverse into purpose with marketing.” Purpose has to live at the very center of your business story. If it does, and it is real, then it will draw people. Purpose-driven stories gather people around the organizations that live them.

The expectation that our businesses are built around purposeful stories is like someone took a pairing knife to our brands and cut a cross section to see if the fruit was any good.

Brands that are simply a hollow shell without real values driven by their internal culture and purpose are set aside in a different part of our lives. They are commodities that we shop for and choose based only upon convenience and price.

No one really expects the discount gas station to have a planet redeeming purpose. But no brand that wants sticking power with customers and employees wants to be put into the box of commodities and shopped for price like dish soap on an Amazon recurring delivery.

marketing does not equal visibility

The best route to real distinctiveness and loyalty is with a story built around real purpose.

If your business purpose isn’t at the core of your culture, values, and strategy, then it won’t shape your services and products either. Is it too much to ask that our organizations are built from the purpose out? It may be a challenge, but the ones who are asking for this are our employees and customers.

Purpose Pays

When purpose is deeply ingrained in your company, then it will result in better performance at multiple levels. Research indicates that being purpose driven gets two times better returns than the companies who don’t have an authentic core purpose to achieve.

To give you an idea about how significant the change is, in January of 2018, many of the largest companies in the world received a letter from one of the largest investments houses (Blackrock), informing them that if they didn’t discover and get committed to a socially redeeming purpose, they would not longer receive investment funds for their business.

But purpose isn’t just for the largest companies, it is for small and medium-sized businesses too. As companies that are much closer to our roots, we can rediscover and invigorate our purpose much more quickly than a lumbering giant that has multiple divisions across the globe. And that is how the process begins—with discovery.

marketing does not equal visibility


Story Collaborative believes that the most powerful marketing is reserved for those who are committed to discovering and building on a story rooted in purpose. You can’t back into purpose with marketing, but marketing powered by purpose has no equal.

Published by David Mills August 9, 2018
David Mills