Purpose gives a greater meaning to everything.
In any company, explaining why you do what you do can help give your employees, clients and consumers a sense of meaning. Perhaps ironically, we in the marketing services industry are often terrible at ‘selling’ what we do. And it is hurting us. A lot.
We’re notoriously better at drowning clients with marketing buzzwords and complex reports than making their lives easier. This is disrupting our ability to attract and motivate talent, get a seat at the CEO’s table and ultimately earn consumers’ trust in what we do. Our somewhat confused purpose is crippling our ability to do your jobs – but it doesn’t have to be this way.
Consider the Googles and Facebooks of the world. They are cleverly disguised as cool “tech” companies but, in essence, they have now turned into plain “media vendors” with technology as their backbone, packaging content they neither own nor produce. In spite of all this, they aren’t victims of the same predicament that we face and are instead very clear about what they do. Why? It’s all about purpose.
In one single sentence, their mission communicates the real value they add to humanity through their consumer experiences. Exhibit A: the mission of Facebook is “to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected”. Exhibit B: Google aims “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”.
What about marketing services companies? Mission statements in our industry are more likely to feature words like “profitability”, “audiences”, “creativity”, “data”, “ROI” or “stakeholders”. Doesn’t seem quite as meaningful, does it? Even the most charitable version of what we do, “connecting brands with consumers”, does little to inspire awe. They rarely – if ever – articulate the benefit to people in the streets.
So what can we do about it? What we do best. We need to go back to the basics, re-program our mindset and rebuild our values – but it won’t be easy. We need to connect employees, clients, stakeholders and even consumers to a larger purpose that contributes to the greater good – because we actually do something amazing.
For over a century, we’ve helped to educate, entertain and start a dialogue between consumers and brands. We continue to spread awareness and increase knowledge. When done well, advertising and communications companies help people save time and ultimately make better choices. Through the colorful stories we tell, we remind people of their sense of humor, wonder and ultimately their very own humanity.
As an industry, we need to shoulder some of the responsibility for “badvertising” and be more effective in advising against it. Even more, we need to invest further in technology to harness meaningful data, stay tuned to what consumers need and respect them more by serving only relevant advertising. We need to get rid of our narrow B2B mindset and adopt a broader P2P attitude. After all, don’t campaigns have a real influence on how consumers’ think, feel and act?
I realize that it’s a daunting prospect when our industry has become what it is today by putting its clients’ needs first, but we can stay true to our mission while keeping consumers’ best interest at heart. By doing so, we can stop frustrating people and minimize the need for ad-blockers. After all, even the small publishers, who provide free and great content, deserve a governed environment to sustain themselves and survive.
So, what should our industry’s mission be? Here’s my take on it:
“Let’s educate and entertain people to help them make smarter choices.”
The time is ripe to start the conversation giving more meaning and purpose to what we do. This may even be a way to stem the flow of the most promising talent to the cool world of start-ups and tech companies. We need to strengthen our clients’ faith in us, gain consumers’ trust and continue playing a crucial role in fostering economic development.
Oh, and create a little magic along the way!