The name was chosen to have a dual meaning. First, that I would continue the purpose journey I began in 1983, guiding companies and brands to embrace society as core to their operating and growth strategy. Second, that I would make a very conscious and intentional effort to continue to raise the knowledge and understanding of this powerful approach.
One way this venture differs from the others is through the focus on collaboration and sharing.
With today’s technology, no one is tied to a company or location, nor to a big agency. The top people in the purpose field are everywhere, most likely leading their own boutique or consulting firm.
At the same time, clients want to work with the most senior talent, and they want to develop trusted relationships that are flexible, smart and efficient.
That’s why I formed The Purpose Collaborative, bringing together amazing talent from 21 agencies, boutiques and subject matter experts (and more to come!), all dedicated to helping organizations and brands advance their purpose journey. We come together in the ”Hollywood Model,” where I will hand-pick teams to solve very specific client challenges.
Another part of Carol Cone ON PURPOSE is The Idea Accelerator, a showcase of breakthrough social innovations – programs from entrepreneurs and established entities covering diverse areas of social need. CCOP connects them to partners, resources, and funding to help bring them to scale.
Why Has Purpose Become Mainstream?
We live in a world of radical transparency and instant communications, rich in content yet poor in attention, with increasingly savvy citizens, employees and millennials demanding more, and sustainability moving from the fringe to daily life.
People expect brands and organizations to stand for something meaningful, and want to know more about how our products are sourced and made, what businesses do to minimize their impact, and how they make a positive difference in the world.
Against that backdrop, purpose has become essential, moving towards the core of business and brand strategy.
Purpose’s Many Definitions
While we think of purpose as the aspirational reason for being beyond profits, what’s exciting today are the many definitions that have emerged to identify, amplify and evolve purpose.
Over the years purpose has been called by many names. In the 80s it was cause marketing and philanthropy. By 1999, we created the term Cause Branding to describe companies like Avon, which had built a cause into its brand. Then as societal engagement began to penetrate product sourcing, use, employee and community welfare and the environment, we started to see terms such as CSR, triple bottom line, sustainability, doing well and doing good.
I really love the McKinsey description of an organization’s role in society:
“Companies that succeed in building a profitable relationship with the external world define themselves through what they contribute... generating long-term value for shareholders by delivering value to society as well.”
(For some other great definitions of purpose, check out the list at the end of this blog.)
Then again, I always say, don’t get stuck on the name. Understand the journey – goals, objectives, and rationale. Then engage with sincerity and a long term commitment.
So today, we embrace the term “purpose,” because of its power to galvanize an organization and its constituencies around a higher order goal and mission, while benefiting people and society.
In its most powerful form, purpose is the “North Star” for an organization. Unilever, for example, has become the global best standard for a company placing purpose at its core: “Making Sustainable Living Commonplace.” PNC Financial Services is another great example. It started focusing its philanthropy on early childhood education. After more than 10 years, the company reports with deep pride that PNC Grow UP Great is core to its overall corporate character and values.
I love to say that purpose makes an organization/brand vital to people’s lives. Purpose-driven brands win people’s hearts and minds. They generate more loyalty, trust, love and respect than any other kind of brand.
“One of our core beliefs is that you cannot have a healthy business in an unhealthy society,” says Keith Weed, CMO Unilever. “Sustainability is all encompassing at Unilever and it bridges between environmental and social sustainability to enable people to live sustainably and businesses to operate sustainably.”
Provides a lens for decision making; it sharpens the focus for an organization, and draws customers and talented people to a brand.
Links and leverages the behaviors of all the people important to the future of the business.
Creates an authentic culture that, once sustained, is impossible to replicate.
Drives innovation: As Jim Stengel said, “The more an ideal (purpose) is built into the structure of an organization and woven into the fabric of its people’s interactions, the easier it is to engage in collaborative innovation and the faster you can push the process.”
Builds advocates and activists for the business and its brands.
I am thrilled to continue on my purpose journey and invite you to join us in many ways:
Submit an idea to our Idea Accelerator so we can match it with the best partner(s) to help it scale.
Sign up for Purposeful Connections, our newsletter providing you with data, insights, and ideas.
Join The Purpose Collaborative as a new partner.
Submit blogs that illuminate stories that are ON PURPOSE and…
Continue doing great work. Act. On Purpose. There is so much more to do.
Others Purpose Descriptions:
It’s about the fundamental question, “Why do we exist?” What its real motive is. What it is trying to do in the world. Leo Burnett
Purpose: The belief that societal improvement is an essential measure of performance and central to the operation of business. CECP
The bottom line is a goal. (Purpose) sic. It’s how you get there. Howard Schultz, Starbucks
The central animating idea of a company that defines the business it is in, the role of it in the world, what people do who work there, and its impact on society. Freya Williams, CEO NA Futerra
Purpose is the name we apply to the evolution of corporate social responsibility as it moves from the realm of the regulatory to the domain of consumer-driven behavior. Oliver Russell
Purposeful brands are not just a product you buy, but an idea you buy into. Brands need to secure a place so they matter to people. They have depth, substance, and will do the right thing in people’s lives and communities. Keith Weed, Unilever
Purpose is actually an economic engine because it provides focus for an organization, it makes decision making more productive, and it draws customers and talented people to a brand. Christine Arena
The connection between the core beliefs of the people inside a business with the fundamental human values of the people they serve. With it, brands and companies have a more important place in people’s lives than the competition. Jim Stengel
For purpose to work, it needs to be true. Which means the work of developing purpose should always be about articulating something that the organization or the brand genuinely believes in and is motivated by. FutureBrand
Brand purpose is about explaining who we are as a company, what we stand for and what our intrinsic values are beyond the products you see on the shelf. Katy Gandon, L’Oreal