I was thinking about this today when I saw a blog post from a very cool marketing company, Zeus Jones. As I read what they were saying about helping clients find their core purpose, something kind of clicked for me and I saw a way to talk about this with more clarity.

The purpose of your company should be to support the purpose of your customer.

Your mission statement may say that you intend to be the leading brand of bottled sunshine, but what does that mean to me? A brand purpose is about putting the customer first. It’s about where I take your product and your brand, and where it takes me. So Patagonia’s purpose as a company is to get me outdoors and into the wilderness, hiking, climbing or surfing. Southwest’s purpose is to make you and me free to move about the country. Apple’s purpose is to give me what I need to be insanely great. And Nike’s purpose is to get me out the door this morning for my run, because it makes me better, whether I feel like it today or not.

Each of these companies makes their brand about me. Each of these brands makes the work of their people — from the CEO to the important people like the janitor — about encouraging me to be my best. They make their brand about me, first, and themselves second.

And that’s why I love them.