The Purpose Advantage | Creating a connection with employees + customers

Charles Cornwell | Nov 5, 2019 Charles Cornwell 11/05/19

In today’s world, where connecting is easy but making true connections can be tough, consumers expect more from brands. With more choices than ever, they want to do business with brands that are making a difference, that aren’t just out to make a buck—brands that have a greater purpose. In addition to that, the company needs to be filled with employees who believe in that greater purpose and are about more than just getting a paycheck—they’re true brand ambassadors.

We sat down with author Jeff Fromm of Barkley to talk about his latest project, The Purpose Advantage, and what brands can do to create a connection with customers and more meaningful experiences for employees.


SMG: What role do employees play in a purpose-filled brand?

Jeff Fromm: You can’t win outside if you’re not winning inside first. Employees are often the front-line service providers that live out your company’s purpose—the first people your customers interact with. Employees are crucial to your brand’s reputation. Particularly in a world where consumers are looking for proof—if your employees don’t deliver on that proof, there is a disconnect.

Even great brands can fail. There are several high-performing companies that launched a purpose program before embedding it in their culture and it backfired. Employees and stakeholders need to have visibility of what you’re doing before you get started. Otherwise, you’ll get accused of purpose washing.


SMG: How are successful companies creating emotionally invested employees?

JF: In the first chapter of my book, I talk about the incredible story behind MOD Pizza. When they launched in 2008, they knew the world didn’t need “just another soulless restaurant chain.” So they embedded the theme of second chances into their culture: If customers don’t like their pizza, give MOD a second chance to make it right. If a person has a gap in employment or a brush with the law, MOD will not just give them a second chance to make a living, but will pay them more than the industry standard and provide benefits and an empowering team environment.

By hiring those that might have otherwise been overlooked and paying them well, MOD has created a sustainable business model while contributing to the community. MOD hit the sweet spot where purpose meets profit—where doing good is scalable and return on investment is no longer restricted to financial return.


SMG: How do companies turn employees into brand ambassadors?

JF: When we talk about purpose in The Purpose Advantage, we’re talking about the kind of purpose concerned with the well-being of others, the planet, and our future. We mean missions for preserving the environment or fighting for social justice, the kind of purposes that make the world a better place.

Companies need to make purpose a verb and evolve their brand into one that is functional, emotional, and societal in order to meet the demands of modern consumers and the expectations of employees.

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For more on how to turn your brand’s purpose into a competitive advantage, check out The Purpose Advantage by Jeff Fromm. And to learn how engaged employees are a critical component to delivering exceptional customer experiences, download our report: Five things we learned from talking to 1 million employees.


Charles Cornwell | General Manager, Employee Engagement