October 17, 2011
@ the Intersection of ‘The Why?’ and Social Marketing
The first place that one begins to see an emerging pop-management meme is in PowerPoint slides. A client or manager gets everyone assembled in a fluorescent-bleached conference room, and the hum of the projector signals “marching orders to come.” If you are in the agency world, you have the privilege of being able to move regularly among various such assemblies, all in a short period of time. When you start seeing the same slide showing up in multiple conference rooms and on conference stages, you know a pop-management meme is on the loose.

Purpose or “The Why?” is a pop-management meme on a tear. One’s never entirely sure who puts a meme in play; but I will credit Nikos Mourkogiannis for his book Purpose: The Starting Point of Great Companies, which I believe will become the Good to Great of the first half of this new decade.

A Purpose genre has emerged in his wake. Agency legend Roy Spence, of Austin’s GSD&M Idea City, has made Purpose his purpose, both as author of It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For and as CEO of the Purpose Institute. In 2009, Simon Sinek joined the Purpose parade with his book, Start with Why, as does former P&G CMO Jim Stengel in his forthcoming book, Grow, a work founded in the concept of Purpose.

So why are they all asking, “Why?”

Is this just the latest in a long list of “USPs,” “Mission Statements,”,“Hedgehogs,” “Elevator Speeches,” “Brand Stories” and other such buzz speak that keeps the consultants in their platinum cards, or is something bigger going on? All of these tomes speak to how important Purpose is for marshaling organizations, attracting talent and fueling growth, but they are also very heavily associated with the changing dynamics of marketing communications. There is an important intersection at which Purpose and social media cross.

The mainstream of communications is now controlled by users, not distributors. Okay, no duh. But where Purpose meets this new mainstream is in the conversation content of social-media chatter. Nearly every marketer who has thus far entered that stream with the conventional “deal-points” approach to marketing communications has been rebuffed.

You can’t just show up at social conversations with your bullet points and promotional offers. You need to be able to talk to people like, well, like you would talk to people. So how does a company or its representatives enter such conversations?

By talking about Purpose, or “The Why.”

You need to be able to enter such conversations with altruistic, empathetic observations, stories and POVS—admittedly contextualized in what your business is up to, but nevertheless not so baldly mercenary. What real good, not just value, is your business delivering to the world? What causes are you pursuing that are larger than next quarter’s deliveries, or even the technical dimensions of your product or service engagement?

Without such Purpose, without starting with “The Why,” you’ll be excluded from the new, critical first phase of the sales cycle: the conversation that precedes and begets consideration.

The bad news is that 99 percent of companies haven’t a clue about their larger Purpose, much less an altruistic, empathetic storyline with which they can enter conversations. The good news is that there is a powerful emerging market demand for the strategic and creative services required to define and propagate such Purpose, conceptually and technically, larger than any the marketing industry has ever known.

No worthy marketer should need to beg bread.

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Follow Rick on Twitter @MrBtoB.

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Nikos Mourkogiannis
Nikos is one of the world’s leading experts in the field of Strategic Leadership. With over 25 years experience at the highest levels of industry and strategy consulting, Nikos is an independent consultant who has created an elite global network of alliance partners specializing in Strategic Leadership, Purpose Led Transformation and Human Capital...
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