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Why Choose Why? Explaining How Purpose-Driven Brands Succeed

The future of our economy is purpose-driven brands. Purpose-driven will succeed more and faster than profit-driven brands.

Providing a fantastic service or product is super important. Obviously. Create the best version of a needed product or service, in its price point, and it will sell. That’s Business 101.

Focus on the details. Add some bells and whistles. Make it better, cheaper, faster. Watch the profits roll in. Boom, you’ve built a profitable business.

But, growing a business is about more than sales. The most successful companies are more than just really good products or services. Think Apple. Think Disney. Think Google.

They are powerful brands.

Their brand stands for something, something that their customers inherently buy into. These brands inspire loyalty and eagerness. Consumers want to be associated with them. Other companies want to be linked with them. Smart people want to work for them.

Nobody “shops around” when it comes to Apple. They are all in, regardless of price.

What’s the key?

These brands are just plain built differently. Their products and services are fabulous, yes, but that’s more of the end result than the objective.

What do all of these companies have in common? They are purpose-driven brands. Their “why” steers the company’s trajectory.

Consumers don’t think about their product first. They think about what the brand makes them feel.

Companies that find their ‘Why’ grow bigger and faster. Purpose-driven brands are the future.

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What Is a Business’ ‘Why’ and Why Does It Matter?”

Simon Sinek gave an amazing Ted Talk explaining the importance of finding your ‘Why’.

If you haven’t watched it before, stop reading and do it now. Seriously. It is worth your time. If you have seen it, watch it again. Then share it with your company.

Sinek explains the importance of businesses knowing their purpose, their cause, their beliefs. The importance of knowing their ‘Why.”

Businesses that know and embrace their Why, inspire. They affect behavior. They go beyond product to focus on the fundamental drivers that compel people to act, purchase and make decisions.

“People do business with people who believe what they believe.”

Companies that communicate their beliefs and focus on their Why, connect with consumers that feel the same way. Tapping into the emotional center of customers enables brands to transcend the normal buyer-seller dichotomy, instead, becoming partners in a mutually beneficial relationship.

Apple, Disney and Google are some of the biggest names in the business. But, they are not the only ones. It’s not just mega-companies that have figured this out.

Why-Driven Brands and What Motivates Them

Driven Brands

Brands of all sizes, across all industries succeed by focusing on their Why. They not only know their purpose, but it is at the core of everything they do. These brands put their Why at the forefront of their business, communicating it to their customers with every interaction. Here are some examples of purpose-driven brands*, every one of which explicitly state their Why on their brand page:

  • Kashi – Nourish people and the planet with plant-powered passion
  • Honest Company – You shouldn’t have to choose between what works and what’s good for you
  • ThirdLove – Every woman deserves to feel comfortable and confident
  • Dove – Help women develop a healthy relationship with the way they look
  • REI – Awaken a lifelong love of the outdoors
  • Kickstarter – Bring creative projects to life
  • Enjoy Life – Eat freely
  • TOMS – Address needs and advance health, education and economic opportunity for children around the world
  • 7th Generation – Promote a natural healthy life for the next seven generations
  • Fenty – Makeup so that women everywhere will be included
  • Tesla – Accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy


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Benefits of Being Purpose Driven

The very concept of a purpose-based business really resonates with today’s society.

Millennials EAT THIS UP.

There are countless tangible and intangible benefits associated with having a Why. There are four major categories of benefits of being a purpose-driven company: consumers, employees, partners and operations.

Build Consumer Loyalty and Communities

Consumer Loyalty

The modern economy experienced huge shifts in consumer behavior and buying patterns. Consumers want to identify with the brands they support. They want their dollars to go towards brands whose values align with their own. This is especially true with the younger generations, like Millennials.

These shared values can be everything from supporting the environment, women and minority issues, LGBTQIA+, political agendas, health and wellness, arts, innovation, technology, or pretty much anything they feel strongly about.

In fact, brands that prioritize their purpose over their product can earn customer buy-in before products even hit the shelves. Apple, Starbucks, Nintendo have achieved “autobuy” status, because consumers trust in their brand. People will buy whatever they produce.

A computer company making a watch? Sure.

A unicorn frappucino? Never knew you wanted it, but you gotta have it now.

A new Mario game? Why, yes, I do need 37 different versions in my collection.

In some ways, purpose-driven companies don’t have to work as hard as product-driven companies. Consumers connect to brands’ value systems in a way that makes them more receptive to new purchases, regardless of what they are. These customers have already gotten over the hurdles of awareness and consideration. They are primed to buy.

There is an inherent level of trust already built in to the relationship between customer and a Why-based business. In many cases, these brands have developed a community of like-minded buyers, or a tribe, that are eager for whatever they can produce.

Part of the halo effect of companies following their Why, is the perception of being more honest. Millennials, in particular, value honesty and transparency in businesses and are willing to reward these companies with their money. Even more than that, consumers are willing to forgive mistakes and missteps from companies that practice openness and honesty with their customers.

”Why” Benefits with Consumers

  • Develop loyal consumer community
  • Perceived as more honest
  • Can achieve auto-buy status
  • Easier to attract new customers and convert existing customers

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More Attractive to Partners and Outside Investors

Partners and Outside Investors

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Everybody loves people that stand for something. That includes other companies — especially ones trying to appeal to the same type of consumer. Think of Landrover and Clarks. BMW and Mont Blanc.

No, it’s not just car companies either.

Dove partnered with the Cartoon Network to foster girls’ self esteem at their most impressionable age.

What all of these collaborations have in common, is their audience. Whether it’s a passion for the outdoors, a love for the finer things, or a dedication to women’s self-empowerment, brands seek partnerships with like brands.

Not only does having a strong Why present more opportunities for collaboration, but both brands can benefit by expanding their audience, increased consumer appeal and market validation. Co-branding opportunities, sponsorships, merchandising and licensing, charities, content creation and other possibilities expand an individual brand’s exposure and sales potential.

Building a reputation as a company with a purpose is not easy. But once they do, successful brands, with a strongly established Why, can leverage it to create more opportunities with other like-minded brands.

Other companies will want to associate with you, which is good for your mission and good for your business.

”Why” Benefits with Partners

  • Associate with other like-minded brands
  • Reach new buyers in your target market
  • Loved by association
  • Countless brand collaboration opportunities

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Strong Corporate Culture and Employee Retention

Corporate Culture

As Sinek mentioned in his Wright Brothers example, employees working together with a shared sense of purpose work harder and do more. The sense of dedication and commitment they feel towards the ‘cause’ compels them to push forward and keep innovating, more so than in traditional companies.

But hard working employees are just the beginning. A strong sense of Why trickles down into every area of the company. It’s nearly impossible to find a Why-driven company that doesn’t exemplify that ethos in every area of business, from benefits to management practices to human resources.

The Why drives the fundamental corporate culture.

The corporate culture at purpose-driven companies is a very different thing than other places. When the focus is on values, not [only] profit or product, employees feel like an investment, not a line item.

Better parental leave, in office perks like free catered food and beverages, ample creative spaces or relaxation areas, a commitment to charities, positive work/life balance, and even office design become intentional aspects of the company‘s pursuit of their Why.

Potential employees want that. And current employees never want to leave it.

A strong corporate culture calls to talented employees. People want to love their job. Being a sales rep for Generic Company A vs a sales rep for Patagonia is roughly the same function. But it is not even close to the same experience or level of job satisfaction.

The most talented workers seek out companies with a Why that they identify with. They know they can get a job anywhere, but they prefer a job that they can believe in, a company they can believe in. A company with a Why.

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”Why” Benefits with Employees

  • Recruit better talent
  • Boost corporate reputation
  • Retain valuable, experienced employees
  • Harder working, more focused teams

Determines Corporate Trajectory

Corporate Trajectory

Businesses reach many forks in the road, where tough decisions need to be made. Do they focus on product category A or B? Do we cut costs or invest?

There are countless examples of both major and minor decisions that business leaders make every day. Every decision plays a part in the company’s future, where it is going, and who is going with it.

A company’s Why can drive its evolution. When viewed through the lens of the corporate Why, many of the right decisions are already laid out for them.

If a company’s Why focuses on improving the environment, then choosing everything from suppliers, to in-office recycling programs, to more flexible work schedules encouraging work-from-home and video conferencing, to partnership opportunities should be fostering that mission.

Examples of this include:

  • CVS removing tobacco products from their stores
  • Patagonia refusing to partner with brands that don’t improve environment
  • National Geographic offices closing for one day a month to conserve energy

”Why” Benefits for Operations

  • Recruit better talent
  • Boost corporate reputation
  • Retain valuable, experienced employees
  • Harder working, more focused teams

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How To Find Your “WHY”

How To Find Your “WHY”

Many business leaders read articles like this and think to themselves, “I’m just in it to make money” or “My business is making widgets. There’s no greater purpose.”

This is a mistake.

Even companies that may not have been founded with a clear, focused mission can still reframe their purpose and find their Why. Countless studies have proven that purpose-driven leaders succeed more, purpose-driven businesses grow faster, purpose-driven brands have more loyal customers.

Shifting your company’s focus to a single driving purpose seems like an overwhelming task, but it really just takes some commitment and some long-term vision.

Smaller, more nimble companies may find it easier, but larger companies are shifting gears successfully too. Unilever eliminated their Corporate Social Responsibility division, instead, reforming their entire business model to put sustainability as its purpose. The heart of Unilever’s Why is now promoting healthy living conditions world wide, encouraging gender equality and becoming more environmentally friendly globally.

Danon is working to become a B-corp by 2030. Their Why? Promoting sustainability and health through food.

If they can do it, you can do it.

Steps To Creating Your Why

So how do you get started?

It may start at the top, but for purpose-driven brands to be truly successful, buy in at all levels of the company is required. Engaging with executives, as well as entry-level employees, is essential to build your Why.

No strategy will fit every company, but review these ideas to find what helps to find your company’s Why.

  1. Sit down with a cross-section of your company for a deep-dive into what your company’s purpose should be.
  2. Establish annual (or more frequent) retreats or breaks for the entire company, dedicated to connecting with each other, brainstorming ideas for the future, or touching base on what’s happening and where the company is going. Do it out of the office, somewhere fun or relaxing that inspires ideas and refreshes employees.
  3. Talk to your newest hires about why they applied to your company. Go beyond the financial incentives and see if there was anything about your company specifically that spoke to them.
  4. Find out why long-time employees stay. Is it just because it’s easy? Or is there something else that keeps them loyal?
  5. Consider hiring a moderator or industry expert to help brainstorm or guide your decisions and get to the heart of what drives your company.
  6. Communicate! Yell your purpose to the rafters. Make sure everyone that works for your brand or interacts with your brand knows exactly what you stand for and why you are doing it.
  7. Examine everything you are doing and evaluate it against your Why. Social media, press releases, marketing and website, office design, contracts, partnerships, community involvement, global impact, human resources…nothing is off the table. Ask yourself if what you are doing furthers your Why, or is a disconnect.

Your Why is Your Future

Brands that find their Why are poised for the future.

Consumers want to buy from you. Employees want to work for you. Partners want to be associated with you.

Finding and embodying your Why is the path to growth, financial success and making a difference in the world around us.

If you are looking for help finding your Why or looking to revitalize your brand, talk to the experts at CMDS. Our brand strategists can sit with your company to help dig in to what drives your company and your employees. We are experts at finding the hidden nugget that resonates with you and your customers —  and then helping you execute on it.

CMDS provides premium consulting capabilities for businesses looking to define their purpose. Once identified, we can expedite your transformation by helping to update your communications strategy on your website, social media and through marketing materials.

Find your purpose. Call CMDS at 732-706-5555 or email us to get started.

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