What lies behind the rhetoric of brand 'Purpose'?
Richard Shotton has already dismantled the lazy logic that suggests there is a relationship between purpose and business performance.
The case for more perspective and greater humility has been made by Gareth Kay.
I want to offer just one more line of critique.
Namely that if a business or brand tells you that it wants to help solve a big problem in the world, or that is has a higher purpose than simply selling stuff, or that it wants to make the world a better place, then marketing's claims, promises, and manifestos are not what we should be interrogating.
Instead, we should be looking at where it sources its raw materials from
... its manufacturing processes
... its sustainability practices
... its employment practices
... its pension provisions
... its safety practices and policies
... its approach to workplace diversity
... its stance on worker representation
... its treatment of workplace whistleblowers
... its policy on pay equality
... its attitudes towards job automation
... its commitment to employee re-training
... how it compensates its senior management,
... what its incentivises senior management for
... its business practices
... how it treats its suppliers and partners
... its stance on corporate governance
... how it treats customer data
... how it protects customers’ privacy
... what it does with its profits
... what proportion of its profits go to civic or social good programmes
... if and where it chooses to pay corporate tax
... what legislation it lobbies for
... its political party donations
... how it defines success
... and how well all of this is aligned with its stated Purpose.
In other words if a business tells us that that it is driven by a world-changing purpose, we should enquire whether the entire organisation is pointed at that Purpose. Or just the marketing department, its agency, and its advertising.