Flying Seraph

Why Purpose-driven Marketing Works

Imagine I baked a mediocre cake. And decorated it with the loveliest frosting – really inviting – drawing you in, promising quite a special experience…

How many bites would it take you to realise you’d just been fed an impostor. A fraud. A fake.

How would you feel?

Probably more disappointed than if its superficial promise hadn’t been so good.

Well, there are a lot of customers, employees, shareholders and neighbours of a large number of companies feeling just this way. Maybe even yours. Today.

Here’s what’s happening:

Loads of Marketing and Advertising folk have discovered “Purpose”. They’ve been enchanted – rightly – by Simon Sinek’s inspirational ‘Start with Why’. They know Purpose pays back, thanks to ‘Firms of Endearment’ and the Jim Stengel/Millward-Brown work.

Purpose is now the trendy must-have. In fact, they say to themselves, let’s just ditch the term Positioning and write a Purpose. And if we can’t persuade the rest of the business that we need one, we’ll just have a ‘Marketing Purpose’.

Well here’s the inconvenient truth. Purpose is an all-of-organisation construct. It’s the base ingredient that establishes everything about the cake you’re making. It is absolutely central and dictates the cake’s entire character. The whole experience.

My most unfortunate lesson came from a wonderful, but short-lived, campaign I worked on for a Big 4 Australian bank. We created communications around a Brand Model that seemed marvellous – the epitome of an organisation behaving well. Alas, we soon discovered that front-line staff turnover was running at 70% per year. Stories of homes being repossessed were completely at odds with the picture the communication was painting. Not surprisingly, front line staff loved the advertising. But couldn’t bring themselves to support it.

The Brand model and the Business model bore little resemblance to one another.

Imagine how much money went down the drain each time an expensive ad ran and a bank employee told someone: ‘Actually, I work there. I wish we were like that. Unfortunately it’s nothing like that all. Here’s what we did to one customer….’ Imagine that someone told 10 others, who each told 10 more….

I applaud all of you who are desperate to introduce Purpose-centric Branding to your organisation. But please keep this in mind: a Brand is formed by peoples’ responses to anything and everything to do with the organisation that they become aware of/experience. And if yours is only a claimed Purpose – confined to communication – you’re on a slippery slope.

Purpose must be a central ingredient in your cake. Dictating the entire experience. But, at all costs, not just the icing on a poorly made cake – a raised expectation that just leaves an awful taste in the mouth.

Please follow me on Twitter: @MarkSareff
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