There’s an interesting disagreement between Jim Stengel and Simon Clift, former CMOs of P&G and Unilever: “Who is Right: P&G or Unilever?“. Jim is in the process of writing a book and teaching a UCLA class on the role of purpose and ideals in business. He invited Simon Clift to talk to students last week and probed on the different ideals of two different Unilever brands.
Jim asked Simon how he felt about “the juxtaposition of Dove’s Brand Ideal of improving women’s self esteem with Axe/Lynx’s Ideal of helping geeky guys get the girl, with a “tongue-in-cheek” sexist portrayal of girls?”
Simon doesn’t see a conflict. Jim disagrees: “I totally support that each brand in a multi-brand company needs its own voice, its own Ideal, its own “subculture.” But I feel each brand in a multi-brand company needs to not only live under the parent company’s beliefs and values, it needs to actively trumpet them in its own voice, in its own style. At P&G we had two brands in these very same categories, Olay and Old Spice, and they competed head-to-head with Dove and Axe/Lynx. We found a way to reveal their individual Brand Ideals, or Purposes, in a way that brought to life P&G’s purpose with no inherent conflict.”
Regardless of who is right at a corporate level, it’s clear that those individual brand teams have thought about purpose. That itself is rare. The larger issue in my opinion is that many brands and businesses don’t have a well-articulated value system, mission or purpose whatsoever. Scouring the lookalike mission statements from Fortune 500 companies is laughable reading. Most don’t stop to consider the “why” of what they do. Sure, all businesses have mission statements. But most are meaningless fluff. It doesn’t matter that a mission statement is hung on the wall, painted in calligraphy, or chiseled in stone; a meaningless mission statement is still a meaningless mission statement.
David Hieatt has an inspiring essay on the importance of purpose as he launches a new business and recounts his last business. “You see, as well as love, you need a purpose to really motivate yourself, and therefore succeed. You need to understand the ‘why’ you are doing something.”
David shares a telling video on Raleigh Denim, a young blue jeans brand founded with purpose. Their purpose is so tangible, they hand-sign every pair of jeans with a Sharpie. Signing your work personally is a good sign that you’re making something with purpose.