The Triad of Brand Success & Failure

The most successful brands and companies weave together three critical elements.  They understand the differences between them, how they work together, and the unique risks that can happen if any one element is missing.

Purpose: This is your “north star”…  the reason your company exists, who you are and what you stand for as an organization. It’s what captures the hearts and minds of your customers, employees, and partners and makes them want to work with you. And it’s rooted in human emotion and story, not product features & benefits. 

Culture: It’s the “way things are done around here.” It’s the behaviors and attitudes of your people…  the norms and the examples set by leadership.  It’s organic and always developing. You can guide and shape it deliberately or let it form organically on its own.  Either way, it requires constant tending and care.

Strategy: This is the execution plan for how you will operate. It defines the people, systems and processes needed, and is broken down into goals and measurements to quantify success, maintain alignment, and process adjustments as necessary.

How Do They Work Together?
These three elements work together to strengthen and support each other. The Purpose provides a vision and objective around which to build the Strategy and organizing principals around which to energize a Culture and rally the troops. The Strategy provides logical processes for executing and achieving the Purpose, and a way to know if you are on track for success or need to adjust the Culture. The Culture and behaviors of the people are what ultimately sustains the Strategy and operations and delivers on the Purpose.

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The Risks of Missing Any One Element
If any one of these three critical elements is missing or underdeveloped, a specific kind of risk becomes more likely. 

“Risk of Miss” (Purpose & Culture but no Strategy):  An organization with an inspired purpose and great culture can be an exciting and idealistic environment in which to operate. But without a sound strategy for execution, it risks falling short of delivering on its purpose and vision.  Those who have worked in a start-up venture know this situation well.

“Risk of Fizzle” (Strategy & Culture but no Purpose):  A company with a great strategic plan and nominally healthy culture can execute well for a period of time. It may make profits, but in the long run will be challenged to sustain performance as people leave or the organization finds itself without the inspiration needed to evolve, innovate and overcome marketplace challenges.  Many companies in the adolescent stage of development – beyond startup but yet to “cross the chasm” – experience this. They may have been started with a great product or service and been successful delivering it, but lost touch with their founding vision. 

“Risk of Rogue” (Strategy & Purpose, but lack Culture):  A company with a strong purpose and effective strategic plan can be highly successful in executing.  The risk is that organic elements developing on their own within the culture will ultimately undermine the strategy or purpose.  This is typical in larger and older organizations and was apparent in VW and Wells Fargo. Both companies had strong visions (e.g., “Be the largest car maker in the world”) and well-developed strategies. But in the end, rogue elements of the culture embraced a set of behaviors (e.g., emissions cheating, opening falsified accounts) in pursuit of that purpose and strategy that ultimately damaged the brand. 


Purpose, Culture, and Strategy can seem simple on the surface, but getting them right – and getting them working together – is hard work that requires a breadth of expertise.  That’s why (Brand & Culture) teams up with experts like (Culture & Strategy) to make sure all three elements are operating at their peak.

Unsure if your brand is firing on all three cylinders?  Reach out, or take one of our self-diagnostic surveys to determine the strength of your Purpose or the health of your Culture