Values-driven Branding: Not Your Mother's CSR

Uncategorized Feb 23, 2017

By Sandie Eggers

What does the auction house Christie’s and the shoe company Tom’s Shoes have in common? They are both “values-driven” or, more broadly, “purpose-driven” brands.

Companies like these have gone past the “Corporate Social Responsibility” mindset of past years, when it was enough for a company to contribute annually to a worthy cause. Instead, “purpose-driven” companies have baked "purpose-driven branding" into their very business models.

In her article, The Purpose-driven Brand for the website Target Marketing, Jeanette McMurtry discovered that Christie’s raised $58 million fo 300 charities in 2014 through its model of helping the seller of art contribute to a charitable cause, By being a “purpose-driven brand,” Tom’s Shoes grew from $9 million to $21 million in revenue in three years.

To better understand why this is so, we’ll dive more deeply into this “purpose-driven” concept. 

Stands up and stands out

The internet has greatly disrupted modern life, for the better. As part of this disruption, consumers now have hundreds, if not thousands, of choices for the same good or service.

KV Sridhar, founder and chief creative officer of the newly-launched, Mumbai-based creative agency, Hyper Collective, was quoted in the Economic Times, saying: "How else do you distinguish yourself in an age of formula and commoditisation? It's by value systems: your purpose of existence must find a place in society."

Over the years, there has been plenty of other data to demonstrate this is true, such as that documented by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their book Built to Last; the work done by John P. Kotter and James L. Heskett’s as shared in their book Corporate Culture and Performance.

No longer purpose or profit, now purpose and profit

The “purpose versus profit” debate is a false dichotomy. It is both. According to the 2012 Edleman Good Purpose Study, 76% of global respondents say it is “OK” for brands to support good causes and to make money at the same time. This is up 33% since the 2008 study.


“The misconception that brands could solely operate for profit or for purpose is now defunct;” writes Stacy Anderson, lead strategist of the purpose-driven brand consultancy We First. “These are no longer mutually exclusive motivations, but a new brand structure. The future of profit is indeed purpose.”

Consumers define their purpose in the world by aligning with congruent brands

In that same Edelman study noted above:  

  • 53% of global respondents say that when quality and price are equal, social purpose ranks as the most important factor when selecting a brand. This figure is up 26% from the 2008 Edelman Good Purpose Study.
  • 87% of global consumers believe that business needs to place at least equal weight on society’s interests as on business’ interests,

Christie's Chief CSR Officer, William L. "Toby" Usnik, notes that consumers of all ages are seeking to buying relationships with brands that align with their values. This is especially true of Millennials, who, as a group, seek greater meaning in all that they do. 

Purpose is not patina; it is primary

Another way that the internet and, especially, social media, have disrupted commerce is that consumers are now demanding even greater levels of transparency and authenticity. If consumers even get a whiff of opacity or inauthenticity, they’re instantly gone. Often they also share those thoughts with everyone in their social media circles. To be a purpose-driven brand, therefore, means that “purpose” is the brand’s DNA.


“Brands must reorient their perspective on corporate purpose to “be a mission with a company, not a company with a mission”, according to Anderson.

Extracting your core values is foundational to establishing a purpose-driven brand

As an entrepreneur, your personal core values are your business values. After all, you started your business because of your personal values, outlook, and passion.

These values are essential to establishing your purpose-driven brand. They are your guideposts, foundation and drivers in bringing your purpose-driven brand to life. These core values are fundamental to ensuring your authenticity as a purpose-driven brand, as they help direct and shape your business’ purpose.

 If you liked what I wrote above, I invite you to join my email list. Not only will you get helpful content to build your purpose-driven brand and be the first to learn of new offerings, but you’ll also get a free tip sheet: “7 Tips for a Values-driven Brand”. Go here to get started.






50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.