Purpose Is Key. But It Belongs To CEOs, Not Marketing

Purpose Is Key. But It Belongs To CEOs, Not Marketing







MARK SAREFF on 27 November, 2014 at 10:11

I’ll bet very few in your business know what builds your brand.Big call? No. I think I’m on very safe ground.Be patient with me for a few moments while we deal with a fundamental many people have lost sight of: Tell me, what is a Brand?

A Brand is a person’s response. To the things we do. The things we omit to do. And the things that others do or say around us. It is very individual in that different people can feel differently about the very same brand – proving that the brand actually belongs to people – where it resides in their minds as a bundle of feelings and associations. But it does not belong to a company.

And that’s not confined to customers. It’s also the way shareholders, employees, partners and community members feel that counts. Come to think of it, in an era where we all – directly or indirectly – own shares, many of us are simultaneously an employee, a shareholder and a customer of a business.

Don’t give up yet.

We’re in a good position to influence the integrity and value of our brand/s. Michael Eisner (former Disney CEO) said this of brands:

‘A brand is a living entity – and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time – the product of a thousand small gestures’.

Which means a great number of small gestures build your brand – gestures towards more than just customers. And it seems we can’t really tell what will be a person’s first, next, most recent, or even most memorable contact with your brand.

If you doubt me for a moment, think on this: You’ve just spent millions on a big ad campaign. Somebody who has begun to feel good about you talks to a friend in the school car park. The friend says: ‘Hang on a bit. I have a sister who works there. Let me tell you what they’re really like.’ All the money spent on ads just went down the drain.

The same goes for a poorly designed website. Or for leaving a customer on hold for ages. Or for bullying suppliers (Yes Big Grocery, I’m talking about you.).

So it seems every behaviour matters. Equally.

It is obvious that Marketing folk can’t control the total experience. Which is created by the total set of organization behaviours.

But the leader of the business can. And the best tool he/she has is Purpose and Values. Together they can inform all behaviours. Which means the CEO is the ultimate Brand Manager. Good CEOs use Purpose to inform all of company behaviour.


For those who think Purpose is Marketing frosting to dress up a mediocre brand cake, I wish you the very best of luck. Lots of it.

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