In his SB ’15 London workshop on Monday afternoon, Pulse Brands founder Simon Milton and Adele Blakebrough, Chief Executive at Social Business Trust, highlighted 12 practical tools to create a purpose-led organisation.
“Sit back on your chair. Place your feet on the ground. Breathe deeply and ask yourself ‘Why am I here?’”
Milton used two minutes of mindfulness as a way to delve into the personal side of purpose, to tap into each individual’s creativity from a level deeper than the intellect. His own journey, he said, led him to move beyond mission spin in advertising. He surrounded himself with people doing good and brands living their mission. The workshop established that though living a brand’s purpose is “is flippin’ hard,” there is a new appetite for purposeful brands emerging.
The session focused on the three founding principles of purposeful branding that drives the organisation’s behaviour.
1. Organisations Exist to Serve Others
The core of any purpose-led organisation is to recognize why it exists. Every organisation was set up to fulfill a need in society, through a product or service, and then create it better. A purposeful brand keeps the people it is serving at the forefront of its focus — this includes investors as well as customers, suppliers, workforce community and planet.
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When a brand is able to be the dynamic heart of the organisation it goes beyond being a strategic tool. It connects great leaders and teams with all stakeholders, engages with key audiences and drives them to achieve what they set out to achieve. The brand’s reputation is then shaped by the experience, trust and level of commitment it has to an organisation. The brand’s purpose needs to be lived at every level of the organisation.
3. Stand for Something
An organisation needs to stand for something it really believes in, that goes beyond profit. This will attract and attain the right employees, a loyal customer base and investors with shared vision and beliefs.
Milton revealed that a brand’s purpose is becoming more important to millennials, where 58 percent consider a company’s CSR performance when evaluating future employment. This is raised to 72 percent in marketing jobs.
Standing for something and then living it raises the challenges in itself.
Pioneers such as Richard Branson’s Virgin and the John Lewis Partnership’s model that challenged the business model status quo face their own challenges when implementing and scaling their businesses.
“Organisations don’t need to be liked by everybody, but they need to be liked by the people that count,” Milton said.
Blakeborough works with Milton at the Social Business Trust to bring together world-class business expertise with social enterprises. She gave insight into a social business model where ambitious social enterprises are backed by business acumen to help them scale their social impact, become sustainable enterprises and implement positive change.
“The business community has answers to questions that people in the social sector don’t have. These worlds that tend to remain separated can learn a lot by being integrated,” she highlighted.
Companies such as Permira, British Gas and Clifford Chance engage staff and their razor-sharp skills to develop strategies for social enterprises such as Teach First and LEYF Nurseries. This means employees focus on their strengths, give purpose to their work and have real impact.
Milton went on to cover the rest of the nine principles of purposeful branding:
4. Every organisation should Start With the Individual. By nurturing the differences of individuals and allow them to act meaningfully by connecting with what motivates them, while working together as a team to reach their shared goal.
5. Working Iteratively shapes a purposeful brand by repeating processes, tweaking them and building on past challenges and successes. This is an on-going process.
6. Small Things Make a Difference when purpose is demonstrated through practice. This affects how your customers, employees and investors feel about the organisation. When the organisation cares about the details, it shows care and authenticity.
7. Courageous Leadership requires the organisation’s leaders to make difficult decisions and challenge the status quo regularly. This can emanate as a personal quality, as well as from different levels in the organisation.
8. Ownership of the organisation’s purpose is entrenched, managed and lived in the functions of each department, not only within marketing,
9. Purposeful branding is a constant Journey Towards a Unifying Vision. An organisation starts with a clear vision of where it wants to be and needs to assess along the way what needs to change to get there.
10. The Substance of what the company does, drives it beyond the logo and inauthentic messages, to the purpose of the brand.
11. The Humility and transparency lead all the brand’s actions, especially in the face of mistakes. Balancing profit and doing good are a challenge that need to be met with a level of transparency as to where the brand is and what it aspires to achieve.
12. A purposeful organisation consistently works on Uncovering and Discovering the goals and beliefs that where at the heart of the business when it first started, in order move forward.
The workshop then split into individual discussion groups to explore examples of brands and organisations that are living these 12 principles and how they can be applied within their own businesses. Most groups noted that the principles often merge and fluidly lead into each other.
Finally, Milton emphasised that these principles can be argued, butchered and put back together. Each company and individual has their own experience and journey that will influence their own principles, which we can learn from. It is a constant discussion.
As Milton concluded: “Being truly purposeful is an ideal — but we can all journey towards being better at it.”