This is an image of Brand Purpose visualized as an onion, entitled by Asher Jay as the Purpose Onion.

The Purpose Onion Key TakeAways

A multi-faceted way to explore your company’s “reason for being.”

Nothing real can be broken. Everything unreal crumbles.”

— Asher Jay, Sustainable Brands Conference, San Diego

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES, October 26, 2023 / — As a design and systems thinking professional, Asher Jay, the CEO and Founder of Henoscene often visualizes complex processes and relationships using relatable similes and metaphors. To Jay, ‘brand purpose’ is spatially multi-faceted like an onion, with layers waiting to bud and blossom. Both purpose and onions are multi-layered, capable of growth, integral as a whole, and make people tear up when their integrity is compromised or spliced apart.

Simon Sinek popularized the concept of brand purpose with his two-dimensional Golden Circle, consisting of three concentric circles labeled “why,” “how,” and “what.” However, Jay believes this representation falls short, as it simplifies the premise of purpose to a meager transverse section of its whole. The concentric circle diagram is commonly known as an onion diagram, yet no one thought to expound on the obvious three-dimensional metaphor, to provide purpose with more than a mental model in the form of theoretical contours. Jay proposes a holistic approach to brand purpose, that uses the entire anatomy of an onion to create a more tangible context for brand purpose within both natural and social constructs. The onion’s respective parts are further broken down by Jay into similes that delineate a corporation’s roles, responsibilities, and clear lines of command and deliberate how these hierarchical tiers must work together to achieve the business objectives of an organization.

The onion analogy gives “brand purpose” a body and a sense of belonging. Just like the layers of an onion, a strong brand has a well-defined organizational structure, with each layer representing different aspects working seamlessly to support the overall purpose. Similar to how an onion’s layers are distinct yet intertwined, a successful brand emphasizes synergistic cooperation and collaboration within and across its departments.

Integrity and authenticity are vital for a brand’s purpose, just as an onion’s organic form reflects its cohesive and comprehensive growth. A brand’s purpose should exhibit a clear alignment between its intrinsic values and its extrinsic outcomes, avoiding artificial attempts to please others or pander to transient trends.

Successful brands should also be receptive to feedback, just like an onion has porous membranes. They should actively seek customer perspectives and market insights, responding to feedback to continuously improve and adapt to changing market needs and social concerns.

The bulb of an onion protects its core, symbolizing a brand’s need to align its actions, decisions, and messaging with its core values to defend its resiliency. Furthermore, brands should build reserves of vital assets and talent, like an onion’s fleshy storage, to ensure the longevity and continuous nourishment of their purpose.

An onion’s supple tissue exemplifies agility and adaptability, qualities that organizations should embody in response to external stimuli and changing conditions. Brands need to be flexible, refocusing resources as societal and ecological landscapes dictate, while remaining vigilant to innovation, market trends, and emerging customer expectations.

Resilience is crucial for both onions and brands. Just as an onion’s architecture helps it withstand external challenges, brands with a strong purpose prioritize sustainable practices and long-term perspectives to weather demand volatility, market fluctuations, and competitive pressures.

The scent and texture of an onion evoke emotions, much like how a brand’s purpose can resonate with its audience on a sensory level. By leveraging sensory engagement, brands can deepen their emotional connection with consumers.

An onion’s growth into a flourishing plant signifies the need for an integrative approach, constantly evolving and encouraging positive change. A brand’s purpose should inspire growth, upgrades, and progress, avoiding narrow focus at the expense of the whole.

The Purpose Onion model encapsulates the layers, depth, and interconnectedness of a brand’s purpose, invoking emotional connections and inspiring growth. By using the attributes of an onion as similes for corporate characteristics, we gain a better understanding of the multidimensional nature of brand purpose. This approach helps us see how purpose permeates through various organizational levels, connecting people, values, and actions to drive meaningful impact.

Ivett Cser (Media Relations and Customer Support)
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