Purpose is everywhere at the moment.  Is this just faddishness, a fashionable re-branding of CSR and Mission statements? Or does Purpose embody a vital need for businesses to deliver more than just profit? Does Purpose deliver an exciting opportunity for companies to act, as their Victorian forebears did, as “societies within Society itself”?

Paul Twivy’s recent article is a long read but you can see the whole thing here if you’ve got 15-20 minutes spare.  Otherwise, the key points are summarised below:

  • Purpose is the ultimate end-benefit, and best long-term selling-point, of the products and services marketers sell.  ICI’s “responsible application of chemistry” produced Perspex, Dulux paints, Terylene, Crimplene and Tamoxifen.
  • Marketers that harness Purpose can grab consumers’ attention against the odds – many products and services are of low-interest, even dull. Yet, their end purpose rarely will be.
  • Purpose can differentiate you more effectively and less expensively than expensive, time-consuming and open to quick copying innovation. [pullquote]Google’s purpose “to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” is the generic benefit of a good search engine writ large. Google’s constant purpose is made eye-catching and agile by their marketing and their marketing is given a spine by their purpose.[/pullquote]
  • Boards and CEO’s are increasingly turning their attention to Purpose. Currently only a quarter of Marketing Directors sit on the board, so a  focus on the shaping and expressing Purpose will move them closer to the Board.
  • Marketing your higher-order purpose will give you a deposit account of brand trust for the times when the current account of product delivery fails or to preserve your brand distinctiveness after a change of ownership. How else has Innocent preserved its particular brand of innocence post the Coca-Cola sale? Ditto Ben and Jerry’s eccentricity and Unilever.
  • Core Purposes need Good Marketers, as much as vice versa, because Good Marketers possess and/or co-ordinate the best communication skills. Purpose should provide the active framework for product innovation, HR policies, choice of business partners, conditions in the supply chain, use of raw materials and much else besides. Yet all these elements of Purpose will only become apparent and inspire people if they are brought alive by the best marketing, internally and externally.