‘Purpose is like Pokemon,’ contends Mr. Goodvertising
Among an impressive line-up of deep thinkers, CEOs and Ph.Ds sharing wisdom about instilling purpose into businesses, it was Homer Simpson that drove the point home.
Corporate branding executives are not unlike the lovable cartoon oaf battling with his alter ego, contents Tom Kolster, author and founder of the Danish creative agency Goodvertising.
“You have a mission and a vision, and then introduce a purpose – a third thing. How are you ever going to move forward with that?” he asked 450 attendees at Sustainable Brands in Copenhagen.
Likening the purpose-discovery exercise to a two-headed monster, Kolster took jabs at companies focused first at short-term profitability and second at the less important goal of operating ethically with an eye toward long-term sustainability.
“Too often purpose is glued onto the brand it’s really not lived,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of purpose washing going on.”
Kolster took shots at branding consultancies and corporations for creating awkward, voluminous mission, vision and purpose statements, eliciting laughter by suggesting the Internet bot, Mission Statement Generator, could save considerable money by doing the work.
But Kolster, who operates under the moniker Mr. Goodvertising, was not entirely pessimistic. He lauded American Express for creating the Small Business Saturday campaign and said the brand had authentically executed on the lofty goal.
He urged the corporate social responsibility and sustainability executives, and the communications and marketing people supporting them, to thoroughly examine purpose in their own lives and at work instead of treating the topic cavalierly.
“For me purpose is like Pokemon,” he quipped. “Everyone is searching for it but no one really knows why.”