The power of purpose

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The power of purpose

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Paul GagePaul Gage, head of strategy Asia Pacific, GTB, illustrates the power of purpose and its impact on business - as well as outlining his own professional purpose.

A clear purpose brings organisation and focus to a business. It’s not a tag-line. It’s not a ‘brand’ campaign. Compelling purposes align everyone connected to the business – staff, partners, investors, suppliers and the public – to believe in a higher motivational value than just functional utility for sales and profit.

 There are theories that suggest that brand presence through mental and physical availability is all that’s needed to grow. There are elements of truth there, but the outperforming brands in lists such as BrandZ, BAV, Interbrand and the like, that deliver shareholder performance, are consistently those with a clear reason for why they do what they do - and how they go about doing it.

 The link between purpose and results

A compelling purpose will directly affect all strategy, planning and implementation. I consider the best strategies to always be about sacrifice: what you will do, and what you won’t do.

This enables media strategies to break out of category conventions and rethink where investment can bring the best returns over a longer period. A credible purpose also enables strategic brand partnerships and ambassador collaborations.

But most importantly, purpose creates idea-led initiatives that are informed by data, rather than the business just being driven by the metrics of media and big data.

 Creating purpose

Purpose or the business’s ‘why’ (with reference to Sinek) should be created and owned by the whole business. As mentioned, it is not an advertising campaign to run and see what happens. However, to discover and define the purpose should be managed by a small cross-functional team within the business, with relevant and trusted outside agencies or partners. From initial development, the purpose should be shared and debated more widely.  Nothing should ever be ‘launched’ to the public without full internal consultation.

In my experience, a successful purpose must be easily understood, genuine, credible, challenging but achievable and ownable. The best purposes come from deep interrogation of the archaeology of the business and the brand: finding real truths that can be reimagined moving forward. This isn’t navel-gazing on obscure heritage and history. It’s about finding the genuine and credible reasons why the company is where it is today, and how it can set a distinctive agenda for the future.

Unfortunately, many brands develop purposes based on how they’d like to be seen, or by jumping on technological or social bandwagons. This may create a buzz-worthy campaign, but it is ultimately empty as there is no real substance behind it.

 Connecting purpose to brand behaviours

For a purpose to bring business and brand value means integration and alignment of all initiatives internally and externally: internal structures and objectives, product and service development, communications, media, retail, distribution, pricing, sales, on and offline presence, and customer relationships.

It is not as simple as launching a ‘brand purpose’ with advertising, adjusting media plans and expecting immediate results. In many cases, the results of a clear and coherent purpose can take over a year to really show a bottom-line impact. Bravery and conviction are essential throughout the business.

My own professional purpose

I’m a strong believer in collaboration, simplicity of thinking and being action-oriented. No hiding behind Powerpoints. No getting stuck in endless research. No belief that data will drive everything we do. And certainly, no scam.

With my experience in data, media, digital, research, advertising, retail and brand, my overall purpose is to break down the barriers, burdens and bureaucracy that seriously threaten what should be an exciting, dynamic and rewarding industry for us all.

Paul Gage will be presenting on ‘The Power of Purpose’ via Skype from Shanghai at IPA Campaign Planning, Melbourne, which runs from April 2 to 4. Book here.