Every New Year begins with a slate of good intentions and ambitious goals. As we stand on the threshold of 2024, amidst the buzz of ongoing geo-political conflicts, alarming news about climate change, ESG backlash, and increasing concern about the future of democracy, I have been reflecting on both the challenges and opportunities that brand leaders face.

Over the past few years, the media alongside marketers, human resource professionals and PR/communications advisors, has promoted numerous narratives about the importance of business embracing brand purpose. Yet, as we’ve moved forward, the say-do gap has remained, and for many organizations implementation of purpose has not necessarily advanced. Importantly, this gap is about more than failing to meet promises – or even true intentions; it’s about a commitment to genuine and meaningful change, and the impact of a brand’s actions on engagement with consumers, employees, investors, and other stakeholders; on preserving natural resources and regenerating the environment; on social equity and inclusion; and ultimately, on sustainable medium and long-term financial performance.


The Strategic Imperative to Close the Say-Do Gap

With global warming, wars in Ukraine and Gaza, the US presidential election and more, 2024 will likely represent a pivotal year. Increasingly shaped by the complex political landscape and global dynamics that define our era, the role business plays in the larger societal ecosystem arguably has never been more critical. And even more so than before, brand leaders will be called upon to earnestly bridge the gap between intentions and actions. With this backdrop, a commitment to purpose must be an unwavering growth strategy – driving every campaign, innovation, policy and procedure; evident across operations; and embedded into organizational culture and across each touchpoint of the brand experience…. Even as political uncertainties call brand leaders to pause and be cautious as they step up brand development and transparency about initiatives and programs.

As I work with clients and industry leaders and speak with students I increasingly see how purpose can be so much more than a buzzword: how purpose is a concept that transcends the latest marketing or management trend. And how when effectively activated, purpose is the cornerstone of sustainable success and ethical leadership that underpins stronger financial performance.

So as the new year begins, here are five mandates that will help guide brand leaders to create – not only envision – a better future for their brands and all of us.


Five Mandates for Evolving Purpose in 2024
  1. Translate Aspirations into Tangible Realities: Like brand leaders we hold up as the gold standard, move beyond the comfort of aspirational narratives. This demands more than visionary thinking. It requires a gritty commitment to making difficult choices, fostering innovation that aligns with brand purpose, and being transparent about both your progress and shortcomings. Demonstrate a clear point-of-view on the reason you exist and courageously (and measuredly) transform lofty ideals into concrete actions.
  2. Act Thoughtfully and Sincerely: 2024 will require brands to be more introspective as they develop more authentic initiatives and programs that add more value. It’s not enough to perform actions that appear purposeful; deeds must genuinely resonate with a brand’s ethos, consumer’s needs, urgent climate action and shifting cultural sentiment. Scrutinize your activities through the lens of purpose, ensuring that impact is not just visible but deeply felt and aligned with the real-world challenges your brand aims to address.
  3. Embrace a Societal Role: As the human faces of companies, brands increasingly are expected to actively participate in society as citizens– albeit to varying degree and evolving consumer permission, dependent upon their purpose. In 2024, a wider systems perspective will be necessary to understand how actions contribute to or detract from national and global systemic challenges such as climate change, social equity and gender equality. Innovate responsibly: carefully weighing the implications purpose-driven campaigns and taking a stance will have on all material audiences, and fostering collaborations that transcend traditional business boundaries and amplify impact.
  4. Incorporate Long-Term Well-being in Performance Metrics: 2024 will continue to insist on a radical rethinking of KPIs and how to measure success. Short-term financial gains must be balanced against employee well-being, supply chain relationships and long-term societal and environmental health. Champion metrics that value ethical practices, social equity, respectful relationships and ecological preservation, even if it means challenging established norms of business success.
  5. Elevate Ethics, Honesty and Impact as Guiding Principles: As people crave authenticity, guiding principles for 2024 should be uncompromising. Good governance will be more than a lofty ideal. Ethics, honesty and impact will emerge as essential for cultivating trust and excellence. Make decisions that are profitable and simultaneously mutually beneficial for customers, employees, investors, local communities and wider stakeholders, including society writ large and the environment.


A Year of Purposeful Commitment

Whether it’s in response to societal needs, environmental concerns or evolving consumer expectations, purpose can guide brands – and each of us – to be relentlessly authentic and transparent. So, on New Year’s Eve, I invite you to join me in welcoming 2024 as the year of purposeful commitment. As an opportunity to reinforce dedication to transforming brand aspirations into tangible realities that shape a future in which purposeful change is actively- and continuously –pursued.