Finding the courage to pursue a brand purpose

Unilever is one of those companies recognized for putting a brand purpose front and center. It wasn’t easy. When the organization made the move, it alienated some investors and watched the share price drop. But the move was a smart long term play. With a purpose leading the way, bigger things could be explored. There wasn’t a sole focus on hitting the quarterly numbers. Don’t misinterpret this. Financial performance is critical. But when quarterly numbers are the sole driver, ideas that need a longer time line get shoved aside.

Unilever recognized this. The focus on purpose gave them clarity and vision. And they started to attract the investors who understood and valued this approach. The stock recovered. And then shot past the previous mark.

Unilever has the advantage of pursuing bigger ideas because they took the risk to break from a myopic view. They understood that a Big Audacious Meaning would unlock more success than simply chasing this quarter’s numbers.

You can see the brand purpose in the stories

Organizations that have a Big Audacious Meaning tell great stories. The overtly purpose-driven brands in the Unilever portfolio demonstrate this. These are stories that inspire us, making us want to be the best version of ourselves. Stories that compel us to join up in making a difference for those around us.

This isn’t some squishy, hopeful idea. There is some great research that explains why this is so powerful to us humans. A recent post sums it up:

As the research shows, we are wired to be inspired. We are waiting for those stories that only a Big Audacious Meaning can deliver.


Numbers are undeniable (mostly). So it’s easy to use them as an excuse not to explore something that could have an exponentially larger impact on the world around us. It’s too easy to cloak ourselves in rational arguments like, “We don’t have any numbers proving that will work.” So we put our heads down and do all the things we know will help us meet our quarterly goals. The organization lumbers along. Decades roll by.

What if we had the courage to say that there is a bigger purpose to our 9 to 5? Imagine spending our days driven by a defining thought that inspires and excites us. Sounds like something that is either impossible or presents an incredible risk. But as Unilever is showing us is that it’s just the opposite. And the research is helping us understand why.

We need to use their lead as the catalyst for our own courage. And then overcome that thing that is keeping us from making a difference. Us.