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  • MAP Asia Pacific Ltd

Purpose vs. Mission: What's the Difference? Finding the right expression for your company is crucial

We recently helped a large company with its strategic planning process. Faced with the uncertainty of the pandemic world, the company's senior leadership needed a strategy framework for future growth. Before our work began, executives had already decided to develop new business, mission, brand, value prop, and purpose strategies. Even the most experienced business leaders can be left scratching their heads as to which element means what, and which they out to prioritize. In a world of uncertainty, the greatest challenge is cutting through complexity to get to better, more effective strategy as Felix Oberholzer-Gee Professor at Harvard Business School writes in his recent book Better, Simpler Strategy.

We wanted to look at two of the biggest offenders: "brand purpose" and "brand mission." Often considered the foundation of a company's brand strategy," purpose and mission are hard to solve for to begin with. But this is only made more challenging by the fact that there isn't widespread agreement as to how each is defined, the role of each, and how they are similar or different. At StrawberryFrog, we've defined and activated purpose strategy among employees and consumers for over 20 years, so we thought it would be helpful to try and sort through these two concepts and offer some clarity.

There are two broad schools of thought we've encountered in thinking about brand purpose and brand mission. Let's have a look at each:

1. Purpose and Mission as Two Competing Kinds of "Why"

This POV view holds that Purpose and Mission are fundamentally different approaches to defining why a company exists. Under this view, purpose is a broader idea and more high-minded form of why, the company's reason for being beyond profit, while mission is narrower and more practical form of 'why,' tied to benefiting its stakeholders.

By this line of thinking, purpose-driven businesses are those committed to making a positive impact on society and creating a better world. This would include companies like Unilever, with its purpose 'To make sustainable living commonplace," Patagonia whose purpose is "To save our home planet," and Truist, whose purpose is "To inspire and build better lives and communities."

Mission-driven businesses, on the other hand, focus on delivering impact for customers, employees and shareholders. Examples include Google's mission, "To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible," Starbuck's mission, "To inspire and nurture the human spirit, one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time," and Peloton: "Using technology and design to connect the world through fitness, empowering people to be the best version of themselves anywhere, anytime." Read More at


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