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If you have a purpose and can articulate it with clarity and passion, then everything makes sense and everything flows. You feel good about what you’re doing and clear about how to get there. You’re excited to get up in the morning and sleep easier at night. If you don’t have a clear purpose, everything feels a bit chaotic, harried and maybe even meaningless. Meetings may go on for hours with arbitrary decision-making criteria being thrown around by anyone with an opinion. You may launch totally new business plans year after year. Without a core purpose in place, the way forward is often a real challenge.

These are the words of Roy Spence, co-founder of GSD&M Idea City and co-author of It’s Not What you Sell, It’s What You Stand For, in an article that appeared in an issue of Adweek dated February 9th, 2009. 2009? Just goes to show that the idea of purpose and purpose-driven brands is not a new idea. In the article, Roy stressed how people are looking for products and services that improve their lives. They are looking for values and value for themselves, their families and the global community. Further, what a company stands for is more important than what it sells. These ideas resonated a decade ago and have become only more compelling in modern times, thanks to factors such as digital transformation and the rise of social media channels. Let’s face it, human nature hasn’t changed. Won’t ever change. We all want to engage with and root for people and causes that we could believe in. That make a difference. As Mr. Spence put it, “Purpose is not some soft or nice thing—it’s everything. If you want to jump-start your company and rejuvenate your culture, and start driving sales and profitable market share, start with discovering and bringing to your life your core purpose. Purpose trumps everything else—strategy, tactics, mission and vision. If you start with purpose, everything else falls into place.”

Needless to say, purpose isn’t new to us. We’ve been living it for years and have injected purpose into all of the brand work, communications and new product innovation we’ve done clients. So I suppose no one would be surprised to hear that 20nine recently rebranded ourself as a purpose-first brand consultancy.

We’re now excited to live our purpose through the work we do and interactions we create.

Intent is a competitive advantage.

Perhaps the biggest shift in recent years has been the conscious move from brands identifying in logos, taglines, features and benefits they provide. Instead, it is more important to clearly communicate why your company exists and the intent behind what you do. Yes, intent truly has become a competitive advantage for brands across a range of industries. You’ll probably recognize the intent that is communicated through the purposes of each of these popular brands:

Disney: To use our imagination to bring happiness to millions
Chipotle: To serve food with integrity
Starbucks: To inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time
Nike: To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. If you have a body, you are an athlete.
Walmart: To save people money and help them live better

Being able to tap into your true intent is the first step in building true and enduring differentiation. Think about it. A competitor might be able to knock off your technology or design aesthetic but they’re unlikely every to steal your original intent once it’s been established. After months of soul-searching, fact-finding and truth-telling, 20nine articulate our purpose with our true intent in mind:

20nine: To energize positive change in brands, people and organizations. We inspire people and communities to “do what you believe in and believe in what you do.”

People don’t want more marketing in their lives. They want greater meaning.

Consumers are calling BS. They are. They’re calling bullshit on trivial marketing ploys and companies that promise to be one thing and act another. Old marketing playbooks and points of view will continue to struggle in these times of increasing transparency and accountability. There is no place to hide. Brands must have a clearly defined belief system of risk facing backlash or irrelevance. Burger King is one of the original combatants of The Burger Wars. The Whopper has become part of American culture. Yet, in order to remain competitive they had to make a choice. They had two options in order to build relevance and sales. One, they could engage in the “patty wars” and continue to build beef skyscapers and pour on the flavor and fixin’s. Second, they could cater to the changing dietary patterns of people. They chose the latter and came out with the Burger King Impossible™ Burger, the first plant-based Whopper. By offering the Impossible Burger™, BK didn’t just fuel the marketing engine with more of the same, they wanted to create greater meaning for people who love the taste of burger but were aware of the effects of raising beef on the planet and our bodies. It’s important to note here that brands that become more purpose-first don’t have to set out to save the world, they just want to change the contribution the brand is making to it. To improve your place in the world.

Burger King Impossible Whopper Commercial —

The Journey Ahead: Your reasons for being are just as important as a consumer’s reasons for buying.

Here’s the thing about 20nine’s new Purpose-First positioning. It’s not new. It’s a decision that’s been bubbling up through the work we had been doing and the relationships we’ve been building. Now we’ve put a stake in the ground and want everyone to know where we’re coming from and where we’re committed to going. And how we intend to lead our clients. It’s going to be fun and probably pretty enlightening as we make our way on this journey. We’d love it if you could come along for the ride so we could share some of the things we see and learn along the way.

Remember, do what you believe in and believe in what you do.


Temple University is one of the premier universities in the country. It continues to raise its reputation as both an academic institution as well as a nationally recognized athletic program across a range of sports. It continues to rise in stature. As partner of being a progressive university, Temple has identified the opportunity to engage […]
By Gary Kopervas

Gary is a self-proclaimed “creative misfit” in that he doesn’t fit neatly into any one compartment or department. He’s an insight spotter, brand strategist, writer, content creator, creative facilitator, product innovator and a nationally syndicated cartoonist.

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Reclaim Your Core. Purpose First Virtual Workshop

The Purpose First Virtual Workshop helps you and your company’s leadership team align your brand’s core purpose, vision, mission and values with the needs of your core customers to help your brand lean into uncertainty with greater confidence, and advance the business forward even in these unprecedented times.

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