Three Levels of Brand Purpose

“I don’t know what a business is,” Elon Musk said, “All a company is is a bunch of people together to create a product or service. There’s no such thing as a business, just pursuit of a goal—a group of people pursuing a goal.” Your vision, your goal, your pursuit is your purpose and that’s what builds your company and brand.


Leaders, especially visionary ones like Elon Musk, often have a clear and driving purpose that works on three critical levels:

1. People witnessing the results of their work (in this case Tesla’s electric car Model 3 available and accessible for a mainstream audience);

2. Being part of a team in contributing to and creating something which an individual cannot do alone (Musk is an entrepreneur; not an automotive expert, solar engineer, astronaut-explorer or clean-energy scientist). Worth noting here the root word for “corporation” is the Latin “corpus” meaning an accumulation of separate parts or elements gathered and working together for a greater whole.

3. Lastly, by making the world a better place (Musk’s ambition for a sustainable global energy future).

Elon Musk’s purpose infused throughout all of his entrepreneurial endeavors speaks to this last goal. However, the chasm between the entrepreneur and the average US worker’s sense of purpose is reaching worrying levels. According a 2016 Gallup study only “32.6% of American workers are engaged” (Gallup), and “24% of employees worldwide are ‘actively disengaged’” (Gallup). How can companies expect individuals to be motivated if they’re not engaged in their work?

Dan Pink wrote in his best selling book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, “Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives.” One of the key points to Mr. Pink’s book is that people in the workplace are driven by autonomy, mastery and purpose.

Revisiting the three levels of purpose within an organization, one doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to find that purpose in one’s work is essential to healthier, more productive workplaces. The opportunity to have a meaningful company is available to all businesses and should be available to anyone within these cultures. Organizations find more meaning in their work and put more value into the world by infusing purpose on these three levels:

1. Individual Purpose: I can see the fruits of my labor and the impact my work is making. My efforts lead to progress and results, and no work is useless.

2. Team Purpose: I’m contributing towards something larger than my own efforts, which I couldn’t achieve alone. I have a strong sense of collaborating with and contributing to a team effort that motivates and inspires me to rise to the team purpose and perform better.

3. Social Purpose: My work within this organization has a broader positive impact on the world. This work matters beyond my team, culture and workplace.

Millennials represent the largest rate of turnover when compared to other generations. According to Gallup, “Millennial turnover costs the U.S. economy $30.5 billion annually.” However, engaged millennials, those deeply connected with their workplace, are “64% less likely to say they will switch jobs if the job market improves in the next 12 months” (Gallup). One powerful way for companies to gain deeper engagement in the workplace is to infuse purpose on all three levels throughout their organization.

While not all of us will work for Elon Musk we can all learn from his committed sense of purpose throughout his work—from the individual, to the team, to the organization’s aims to make the world a better place.

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