Covid-19 is the biggest challenge the world has faced in our lifetime and there’s no escaping the fact that uncertainty and human tragedy is staring at us through our screens on an almost constant basis. We all want this to be over, but do we really want to return to normal?
Over the past few weeks I’ve felt a growing sense of a very real human need and desire for change. Each and every one of us has been forced to view our lives through a different lens and I’ll place a bet that many, whilst frustrated about being confined to a much smaller version of their world, may have found themselves appreciating a different kind of freedom that we haven’t experienced in our adult lives.
Recently, I’ve had more time to focus on the things I value most in life (including having a fulfilling career) and have started to wonder whether businesses have been massively overcomplicating the process of searching for deeper meaning in our companies. The word ‘purpose’ has certainly been enjoying its starring role as a corporate buzz word in recent times. So much so, that many of you have probably just rolled your eyes at the mere mention of it. But have we overused the poor word so much that even its own purpose isn’t clear anymore?
Don’t get me wrong, having a purpose is important – and rightly so. It’s something we discuss a lot with our clients, and there’s no arguing the data that proves consumers choose to engage with and purchase from purposeful brands that align with their values. We know we need to have a purpose (both personally and professionally), but if we’re scratching our heads trying to determine what our purpose is, or paying thousands of pounds for someone else to help us decide, are we actually missing the entire point of purpose?
Purpose is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as, “The reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists”. As business owners, is it really possible that knowing our purpose has been taking us months or even years to establish? Why don’t we know why our companies exist beyond commercial gain? Owning a business certainly isn’t a linear line to wealth and success. It’s hard work and often pretty scary, so there must be a reason why we continue to invest so much of our time, energy and emotion into them, often at the expense of the things we love the most.
Maybe we’ve all become too submersed into a world that’s bursting at the seams with corporate jargon and a fear of exposing our real selves. There’s constant pressure to come up with a purpose that’s different – something ground-breaking, unique or uber cool. Too many companies have been looking outwardly for the ‘killer’ purpose to fit their brand (and some have found great success in doing so). But I can’t help but feel that in behaving in this way we’ve managed to over complicate the simplicity behind the reason of purpose.
As the enormity of the Covid-19 pandemic hit, business owners all over the world will have shared a feeling of fear and many will have experienced a huge surge of adrenaline as fight or flight mode kicked in. I’m sure if we’d been asked at that moment why we were choosing to fight for our businesses – we wouldn’t have given the answer a second thought.
Purpose is all about authenticity and values and should form a fundamental aspect of your business and marketing strategy. But can it really be considered a valid part of any strategy without those two components? I actually think we all know what our purpose is, but sometimes it takes life’s more challenging moments to help us to see the obvious clearly.
When we truly know what our purpose is, the journey of building our brands through marketing and communications becomes much easier (and probably much more budget friendly). At ADPR, we advise lots of businesses about how to communicate purpose effectively, and there’s no doubt that commissioning a professional to help craft the look, feel and messaging of your brand will be beneficial to your overall business strategy. However, any work undertaken by marketing, branding or comms specialists should be to amplify and articulate your purpose, not to determine it. Businesses who get this right will save themselves a lot of time, money and head scratching in the future.
I wonder whether we’ve all been spending too much time focusing on ‘blue sky’ thinking and not enough time in the real senses of the world. During the pandemic, how many of us have taken a moment to look at the actual sky and have noticed how much bluer and calmer it is without the aeroplane trails and pollution. Perhaps it’s time to reconsider ‘blue sky’ thinking in the boardroom and take some much-needed time to consider the authenticity and beauty of the real thing.