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Purpose-Driven Branding

In life and in business, your purpose is essential to achieving meaning and significance. Arguably, though, the word “purpose” has become the new buzzword, much like “innovation” did previously.

In most (not all) businesses, their vision, mission, and/or values convey their purpose. But socially-conscious businesses that find a purpose beyond making a profit matter now more than ever.

Today, people are looking for jobs with companies or brands that share in the simple, yet significant, belief that we owe it to ourselves and each other to do our part to help the environment, people in need, and society as a whole.

Philanthropy is at an all-time high and there is certainly no shortage of causes to get behind.

My purpose behind this post is to shine the spotlight on brands that have a purpose-driven approach to social responsibility.

Here are a few examples:

TOMS – the one-for-one company. TOMS is, first and foremost, a shoe company that manufactures shoes by using sustainable and vegan materials. What sets them apart is that for every one pair they sell, they will give a new pair of shoes to a child in need. To date, TOMS Shoes has given away 60 million pairs of shoes in 70 countries. In keeping with their brand purpose, they have expanded this one-for-one idea to other products that they carry.


Each eyewear purchase = restored sight for a person in need.

Launched in 2011, TOMS Eyewear has helped restore sight to over 400,000 needy people in 13 countries.


Each bag purchase = a safe birth for a mother and baby in need.

In 2015, TOMS Bag Collection was founded with the purpose of helping provide training for skilled birth attendants. On top of that, they distribute birth kits containing items that help a woman safely deliver her baby. Notably, TOMS has supported safe birth services for over 25,000 mothers.


Warby Parker has revolutionized the way glasses are made and sold. Talk about a purpose-driven company – they wanted to solve two important issues facing an estimated one billion people worldwide: that glasses are too expensive and often unattainable for people in need.

With this in mind, Warby Parker sought to find an alternative. By circumventing the traditional channels, they were able to produce cost effective, stylish glasses and still be socially responsible by partnering with non-profits like VisionSpring to ensure that for every pair of glasses sold, another pair is given to someone in need.


The last example I will give is not a recognizable global brand, but rather a privately-held company doing some remarkable things for the communities in which they operate. United Scrap Metal is based in Chicago with locations in four other markets in the US. For over 35 years, they have provided both public and private sectors with comprehensive recycling solutions, all while helping preserve the earth’s most precious resources.

Marsha Serlin, United Scrap Metal’s Founder and CEO, takes great pride in fulfilling the brand’s promise (purpose) to sustain communities and the environment. This promise led United Scrap Metal to a decades-long partnership with Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC). Each year, United Scrap Metal hosts a Recycle with Ronald event at their facility where they collect thousands and thousands of pop tabs. The proceeds are directly given to Ronald McDonald House Charities. In 2015, they raised $50,000 at this single event!

Pictured: United Scrap Metal management team presenting the check for money raised at the 2015 Recycle with Ronald event in Chicago.

The significance of this annual family event not only raises funds but also provides an educational opportunity to increase awareness of the importance of recycling and our environment.

United Scrap Metal’s involvement with Ronald McDonald House Charities extends beyond the successful Recycle with Ronald program to hands-on volunteering to spearheading other fundraising events. This community-driven purpose even inspired a few of the United Scrap Metal executives to step up and hold board-level positions with RMHC. To date, United Scrap Metal has raised over $1,000,000 for RMHC.

These are three meritorious examples of purpose-driven businesses that have mastered the delicate balance of leading a company to achieve revenue and profit targets while not missing the opportunity to devise ways to be stewards of a higher social purpose. They have done this in an authentic, credible, and proven way that people can not only identify with but want to be a part of. These businesses prove that communities will invest in the brand if the brand invests in the community.

When you’re surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible.” – Howard Schultz

Do you have other businesses that you’d like to highlight for their high social [brand] purpose? Please share in the comments below.


Michelle Mariola is founder & director of ISH-Productions, a Chicago-based branding and marketing company whose mission is to help emerging to mid-market companies develop their marketing strategies and brand identities.

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