Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any hows.”
The headline of this column comes from the title of an interesting and practical new book by Jackie Dryden and Bethany Andell of Savage Brands in Houston, Texas. Dryden and Andell come out of the increasingly influential Conscious Capitalism movement based on John Mackey and Raj Sisodia’s book of the same name.
Dryden and Andell’s book actually is titled Get Your Head Out of Your Bottom Line and Build Your Brand on Purpose–their thesis being that businesses can stay ahead of the marketplace only by being clear about what they stand for, as well as what they do. She says,
“Businesses that get out in front of changes are the ones that last, and one of the best ways to do this is to be clear about the company’s purpose. Taking a proactive stance that clearly states what the company stands for attracts customers who are interested in something greater than just sales transactions. When a business communicates its true purpose beyond making a profit, it will attract and retain loyal customers who are more impervious to trends and market conditions.”
Note that this not a theoretical or philosophical book but rather an imminently practical methodology for actually inserting a brand meaning and branded Purpose into all aspects of your firm. Dryden/Andell term this a “Purpose Roadmap.” Their Purpose Roadmap puts flesh on the bones of business leadership’s moral intentionality, in the belief that through-defining your company’s Purpose (beyond filthy lucre) will improve long-term, dependable profitability. It posits that when ubiquitous Purpose is present in a company’s everyday culture, not only do “soft metrics” improve–things like employee engagement and tenure, customer satisfaction, investor loyalty–but companies also deliver stellar financial performance.
The book attempts to bridge the gap between knowing and doing. Dryden/Andell quote Rich Karlgaard of Forbes Magazine, who states: “I would argue that purpose-driven companies have a huge competitive advantage right now. Employees and customers are hungry for purpose….We want to feel that our lives have a deeper meaning that goes beyond paychecks and discount shopping.”
Dryden/Andell term their Purpose Roadmap “building your brand from inside out,” and cite a number of compelling case studies, as well as the entrepreneurial work and writings of people like John Mackey, Kip Tindell, Steve Jobs, Herb Kelleher, Tony Hsieh, Walt Disney, and Jim Sinegel.
My favorite case study of Purpose Branding offered by the book is a litter campaign created by the State of Texas, which had failed repeatedly to turn around an endemic indifference to litter in the state. Texas discovered that the litter problem centered around 18-24 year old males who liked country music and drove pick-up trucks. A series of rebranding ads featured country-music and showed famous Texans picking up trash and disposing of it properly. Each spot ended with the simple line, “Don’t Mess With Texas” over a country music score. It redefined the group identity of these targeted Texans around Purpose. The number of cans on the roadside was reduced by 82%. The Purpose Branding trope actually came to symbolize the very identity of Texas itself and ended rebranding the whole state.
I could go on, but enough said. I do have a few cavils with Get Your Head Out of Your Bottom Line. It is not a poetic, particularly passionate, or philosophical book. For that you will need to go to original sources like those mentioned above. Also, the successful Purpose entrepreneurs I know, or know of, are highly individual, idiosyncratic leaders, who have both read broadly and lived lives of deep thought, study, and almost religious entrepreneurial zeal. Without such seminal leadership at the top I’m not sure a Purpose-based through brand is possible, despite the book’s compelling methodology.
That said, Get Your Head Out of Your Bottom Line is a great practical contribution toward the new tropes of meaning and culture that are the cutting-edge of current business thinking. Dryden and Andell’s book, is indeed a “Purpose Roadmap”–a step-by-step method for actually creating and monetizing a Purpose-based culture. It is a straightforward, accessible didactic guide for transforming company culture and adding long-term profitability.
I’m sure Dryden and Andell would agree with Leonardo da Vinci who said, “Make your work to be in keeping with your purpose.” Indeed.