On That Note: People/Purpose/Purchase
As she explained the motivation guiding Pepsi’s corporate direction and product development, Indra Nooyi, the chairman of Pepsico, said “People are putting purpose to their purchase, so we are putting purpose to our performance.” At the time, her statement appeared to be a rare glimpse of corporate introspection, but soon, many other companies were following suit. Today, ads touting the purposeful performance of employees and products are increasing: we see workers who’ve built GE’s medical equipment (meeting the cancer-free patients they helped); assembly plant workers watch with pride as jets installed with engines they’ve built soar off into the horizon; or celebrities extolling the cost of one HIV pill support Bono’s (Red) campaign; or Chrysler 300 cars, proudly “Imported from Detroit” —products are becoming aligned with purpose. Even the local grocery chain, Piggly Wiggly is getting in on purpose with their campaign, “local since forever.”
Yes, all roads now lead to purpose….
Operating on this same premise, and in a more protracted way, there’s Oprah’s “Life Class-The Tour” on OWN. A series of in-depth conversations rarely had between two people, are conducted essentially for everyone on planet earth: huge local audiences, televised live, engaging interactive (Skype, Twitter, Facebook); and featured ‘teachers’ Deepak Chopra, TD Jakes, Tony Robbins, Iylana Vanzant.
Oprah’s Lifeclass, along with her “Super Soul Sundays” and Oprah’s Next Chapter interviews, have captured Nooyi’s mantra of marrying purpose to performance. For Oprah, purpose is what she’s selling. She wants people to be engaged in a deeper, intentional conversation and to pursue, i.e ‘purchase’ a more purposeful life. Unlike any other show, during her hey-day and now, Oprah was an early adoptor, integrating purpose and the ‘big picture’ into her daily television productions. Now of course, Oprah has an entire cable network, and she’s attempting to integrate ‘purpose’ into her programming DNA - an ambitious feat. But, as she noted, “If you give me your time watching TV, I don’t want OWN to waste your time.” And she doesn’t.
However competition in the realm of purpose is good and growing. And on Sunday nights OWN is in a contest for the primetime slot with another purpose driven show…AMC’s award winning Mad Men.
Now the best scripted shows are also delivering purpose. Mad Men, AMC’s tour-de force has returned! And its purpose - the painstaking delivery of historically accurate psycho-social-cultural detail is peaking. Although many baby boomers think they remember the “60’s”, or can recall the social minutia of their time- many of us really do not remember the timbre, the temperature of the room, without the stage being set so precisely by Mad Men.
If you thought Anita Hill’s claims against Clarence Thomas were hysterical or implausible, watch Mad Men and then, consider the time when term “sexual harassment” was not even a concept. Sure, we may each recall in part, but do you really remember the era when women were not allowed to wear pants in the workplace anywhere; when unmarried pregnant teachers, and other working women were fired due to ‘moral clauses’; or when men in the workplace were waited on, accepted, and expected, to flirt, touch, and seduce their secretaries; or when no black people worked on Madison Avenue, and JET-EBONY, alone, were the sole black media.
No, we don’t often see the grand design without help and that’s the purpose of great literature, theater and TV to help give our personal journey the benefit of broader perspective — a sliced dissection of society. The reason I am such a fan of Mad Men is its excellent portrayal and framing of the zeitgeist, the spirit of the time, and its implications on each life. The irony is that the show’s focus is the advertising industry – an industry that shapes what we see, and seeks to identify consumers based on who we are, what we want, and how we live – yet, it is an industry that inherently lacks the diversity it pretends to know and portends to extol. We are often directed and consumed by advertising that presumes our purpose.
Today, while consumer marketing drills deeper for consumer data and customer research, it also requires companies (the new individual – as deemed by the Supreme Court) to have knowledge of self - i.e. your product and its intent, and its purpose. For as Ceelo sings, “whether you’re selling a dream, selling a scheme, or playing a role, like it or not we’re selling soul.”
A corporation with “Purpose” can surely become the generator of new marketing connections – just make sure they represent the purpose you want to support.