Introduction to Industry Insider

Sean MacPhedran In the Second Issue of 2014, The SoDA Report continues to explore the theme of Value. In the Industry Insider section, two great articles with 5 big thinkers explore everything from the emergence of micro video storytelling to the continued importance of risk-taking in building brand value and connections with consumers in the digital space.

Rather than trying to cleverly tease their insights, I’ll use the introduction for this round to touch on an idea that seems to be trending all over - the notion of Purpose, the value of marketing with meaning and its role in the Transformation Economy.

The word “purpose” seems to be creeping into more and more conversations, articles and creative briefs this year. In some cases, it presents itself as a force that aligns an organization around meaningful intent – a company like Tesla eschews most traditional marketing activities and focuses completely on radically innovating their industry. In other cases it presents itself as a communication idea, as with Dove’s Real Beauty giving the brand a purpose – to reshape cultural notions of beauty and improve esteem issues.

Max Lenderman of “Purpose-driven” agency School aptly identifies the nuance of the term noting that, “Cause marketing is, for the most part, against something. Purpose, on the other hand, tends to lean into support for something.”

While it’s not a new pattern of thought – it feels a little like the Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs) from Built to Last – it seems to be presenting itself more articulately in the startups and upstarts who are forming companies around a clear purpose, and managing to behave in ways that make it apparent that these organizations aren’t just paying lip service.

Accomplishing that requires an internalization of the brand values within the organization itself. Something that’s easier to accomplish when the brand values are driving towards something meaningful – an observation made well through considerable research in Daniel Pink’s Drive.

Employees crave meaning more than money (after a point). A brand that is able to instill a sense of greater purpose amongst their employees will have a happier, more productive organization.

It’s trite to say that consumers crave meaning. Humanity as a whole craves meaning, and much of advertising thought is built around the foundation of providing symbolic meaning through brands.

Not to reference too many books (this section introduction isn’t part of an Amazon affiliate program, I swear…), but The Experience Economy, lays out an interesting framework for the economic value provided by marketing activities that maps well onto Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Coffee is a clear example of how each step in the value chain works. It’s a bean. It’s a bag of grounds. It’s a hot cup at Dunkin’. But it’s also a hot cup at Starbucks. And in that gap between the brands, people are paying more for perceived quality, but they’re also paying more for the experience.

After the added value of experience, the authors outline the interesting idea of the Transformation Economy. Personal transformation through brand value. Just do it, you’re a Real Beauty in your emissionless Tesla Roadster. Actualized yet?

In this space, Consumers are moving towards Actualization, Brands are moving towards Purpose, and the additional Value is Meaning.

As we maintain our flat-out run to keep up with emerging technologies and the impact they’re having on how we all relate to one another, it’s important that we don’t forget to keep our bigger ideals in front.