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Empowering our Partners to Weather the Age of Uncertainty

By Emily Knapp


Why do we start with purpose at i.d.e.a.? If you’re one of the 46 million people who have already watched Simon Sinek’s now famous Tedx Talk, you’re probably familiar with the argument that the world’s most visionary leaders have historically relied on rallying people around purpose in order to drive action. But just in case you haven’t, in a nutshell, Sinek posits that “people don’t buy what you do, people buy why you do it”. (Check out his talk and deep dive into his examples here, or skip straight to 3:12 for his mini Apple proof of concept).

A brand’s purpose and values inform much more than marketing messages. They also provide an antidote to the short-term, “earnings management” thinking so often pushed by single-minded shareholders that it has come to be known as “the modern dilemma” in business (Harvard). Short term-ism has many well-documented harmful impacts on business, including the obstruction of investments that can produce long-term results, the distribution of earnings as opposed to the reinvestment into capital or innovation expenditures, the sacrifice of employee development in order to bump up earnings per share, and C-suite pressure to provide near-term boosts that are likely to fizzle without long-term support (Forbes).

And with one in three employees worldwide indicating strong agreement with the statement, “The mission or purpose of my organization makes me feel my job is important” (Gallup), it’s clear these beliefs also play a critical role for recruitment and retention – a scarce resource and timely investment.

While the business case for purpose is clear, the path to defining it is decidedly less so. And while one size certainly does not fit all, at i.d.e.a. there are three key ingredients we rely on to help our clients identify insights that can inform their mission and purpose. They are the “three C’s”: Company, Culture and Customer – a reference to the deep learning and research we conduct in each of these areas to inform the strategic choices we make together with our partners.

We use the insights developed during our “three C’s” analysis to build the scaffolding for a robust co-creation work session during which we share learnings, map affinities, and participate in a number of exercises to help flesh out the brand’s defining characteristics, foundational equities, and key reasons to believe. We then build upon the strategic choices made in that session to create a brand architecture document that helps to codify brand beliefs, why they matter, and how we should message them. The brand architecture document not only acts as a blueprint for marketing and communications, but a heuristic to inform brand decisions focused on long-term sustainable business drivers.

We recognize that our clients are not only under intense pressure to deliver value to shareholders, but that they also operate in a landscape characterized by political uncertainty, whiplash-inducing technological advancements, and an emboldened and vocal population accustomed to instant gratification – all of which can also significantly impact their business. A clearly defined mission and purpose adopted across the organization enables our clients to be what leading industry strategist Paul Kemp Robertson calls “agile long-termists”. With a clearly defined mission and purpose in place, our clients are empowered to maintain focus on their long-term vision while remaining nimble enough to responsively introduce beneficial short-term ideas or rapidly adapt existing plans.

Are you interested in developing long-term business strategies that will liberate you to confidently navigate our constantly evolving and unstable business landscape? Get in touch!