What will lead you to your “why”?


What do you do to define your organization’s brand purpose? Your “why”.

It’s not exactly the kind of thing you just whiteboard for half an hour with a few members of the management team. This is the guiding principle that will become your North Star for all decisions. This will define how you will change lives, communities, and even the world. This is a Big Audacious Meaning.

This demands investigation, validation, and inspiration.

Vision quest?

It would be great if you could solve this by wandering in the desert for days (just think of the tan you’d get). Or climb a mountain and come down with perfect clarity. While that sounds awesome, I’m not sure how much further you’d read if I told you this was how it was done.

In truth, there is a much more measured approach that brings people together and helps you discover the “a-ha!" moments that will lead to your brand purpose. So while there is no wandering, this is a sort of vision quest. One with structure and collaboration that looks to reveal the answer by investigating the four forces that shape a brand purpose:

  1. The Environment – A Big Audacious Meaning isn’t created in isolation. It doesn’t live in an ivory tower. It must be relevant in the world around us. The workings of our world help inform it. We judge its relevance by how naturally it complements our way of life. At the same time, a Big Audacious Meaning is not driven by fads and trends. And it’s not so esoteric that it only appeals to a segment of our potential believers. It is timeless and universal.
  2. The Industry – What is it that makes our Big Audacious Meaning distinct? There has to be something that makes it stand out among all the choices in the industry. If it mimics a peer company’s brand purpose, it could cause confusion. Although our Big Audacious Meaning should not be driven by simply differentiating from our peers, it is a factor in helping us understand why it will be unique in the world.
  3. The Organization – What is it that aligns our Big Audacious Meaning with our organization? As we develop our brand purpose, we need to ask this question. We can’t manufacture a meaning. It has to spring from who we are. It has to be authentic. This requires digging into our past to rediscover where we came from. It means understanding who we are today - across the entire organization. And it means aligning with a vision of who we want to be tomorrow.
  4. The Believers – Ultimately, a Big Audacious Meaning must be irresistible to our potential believers. These are the people that our brand purpose serves. They are the ones we aspire to help and to inspire. We need to know how they have evolved over time. Is it their motivations? How about their expectations? We need to understand what inspires them. And what would motivate them to become an evangelist for our brand purpose.

Process will set you free

Process and structure can be incredible catalysts for releasing inspiration. After all, If you don’t have to worry about how you go about it, the more of your brain you can give to the discovery process.

You don’t need a vision quest. Or a guru coming down from on high to give you the answer. Investigating the four forces gives you the process to help you discover your Big Audacious Meaning.

It will lead you to your “why”.

Dan Salva is a co-founder of Will & Grail, with more than three decades of experience in brand marketing and developing and implementing go-to-market strategies. He can be reached at dsalva@willgrail.com.

Dan Salva