It's so exciting to see the corporate world begin to embrace a ‘purpose bigger than profit’ mindset. Whether B Corporations, Changemakers or Conscious CapitalistsI love to hear about and read the case studies, stories and achievements of this rapidly growing community so I am particularly drawn to events where like-minded business leaders, owners and entrepreneurs congregate.
I was at one of these events recently and something the speaker said caused me to question the worthiness of his organisations purpose. I still find myself sparring with the issue so I thought I would write a post to get a broader perspective. So here it is...
The speaker was a senior marketing executive with a very large company. The company had compelling story and the executive was clearly very proud of the work they were doing and the corresponding impact they were having on the lives of people worldwide. It was fantastic. But it was when he started to explain how the organisation embeds purpose into its brand strategy that the gloss came off, at least for me.
By way of example he chose a soft drink product the company enjoys huge success with. The message they had crafted had little to do with the thirst quenching benefits of the product and everything to do with its lifestyle attributes. It now represented cool, happy, healthy, sporty, active, successful people at the top of their game. People were buying the product because they identified with or wanted to be associated with that lifestyle. So what wrong with that you might ask?
Well maybe nothing but I couldn't help but think about the fact that this product was actually very unhealthy. That is was full of sugar and other ingredients you might not want to put into your body with any degree of regularity. The brand message seemed to communicate something that was entirely removed from the realty of the product.
This troubled me because I started to get the sense that the ‘purpose bigger than profit’ movement was being almost hijacked by this huge company in order to do exactly the opposite. Their association with the movement seemed to give them the credibility and respectability they needed to disguise the products failings and in doing so sell more, much more.
Can there be purpose in using clever branding to 'sell' a good message about a product that’s ultimately bad for people? I don’t think so. For me purpose has to be worthy. Is yours?
Ian J Lowe is the CEO of Go-Givers Australia, a sales transformation, coaching and consulting organisation offering a unique culture-defining philosophy and framework that makes giving value the cornerstone of a refreshingly open and authentic approach to selling. Download the first chapter of ‘The Go-Giver and Go-Givers sell More’ here.
Image Credit: Breaking Bad - 2008-2013