We don't need better marketing, better advertising, better taglines.
We need to better understand the worldview of our customers, colleagues, employees and stakeholders if we're going to make positive impact.
We are bombarded almost every moment of the day by some form of advertising – content marketing, social media, native advertising, celebrity endorsement and product placement are all now as ubiquitous as traditional forms of media.
We’re fatigued. Mostly apathetic. We’re switching off.
Most advertising is, at best, meaningless entertainment. At worst, it’s just noise.
As customers, we demand more.
We know that the answer is not the next tech platform or channel – it’s not a new gadget or widget. It’s not finding new ways to say the same old thing. We don’t need to shout louder, we need to stop and listen.
Welcome to the age of meaning.
Human beings are diverse. We speak different languages, come in different shapes, sizes and colours, and we have contrasting opinions and ideals.
However, there is an overarching quest that glues humanity together almost as closely as our genes, and that is our search for meaning. Meaning provides a sense of control over our lives and an anchor for our values and behaviours.
It’s no accident that, more and more, we look to the organisations we interact with each day, to reflect the meaning and purpose of our own lives. Product features, brand ambassadors, and celebrity endorsements may gain our attention, but they’re not the reason we stay.
Today’s customer expects much from the organisations she interacts with and these expectations are to be met for fear of perishing.
And it’s not just customers. As employees, we also expect more. We need to know we’re spending time away from our loved ones for a higher purpose – we need to believe that we are doing meaningful work.
A research project conducted by McKinsey & Company found that “of all the events that can deeply engage people in their jobs, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work.”
Gen-Y employees are driven by purpose like no other generation before them. Barry Salzburg, Deloitte’s Global CEO states that “more than half of Gen-Y believe that in the future, business will have a greater impact than anyone else in solving society’s biggest challenges. And 86% of them believe business will have at least as much potential as government to meet society’s challenges.”
Jan Schmiedgen of Business Models Inc speaks of ‘four layers of value creation’ where the one question he always asks is “Where is value created across the business?” and holding a belief that the answer is the key to creating business models that are innovative and sustainable.
With an understanding that with any business the key focus has to be on the customer, Jan Schmiedgen’s question poses the more important question, “who is the customer and what is value for them?”
To enable a more complex, multi-layered discussion about purpose-driven businesses, we need to acknowledge those layers.
Customers: The customer is and will always remain the key focus in terms of value creation. If there are no customers there is no business. We must ask ourselves what type of experience are we going to design for our customers and how will we meet both our needs and theirs?
The Organisation: If most of our waking life is spent working in organisations of some shape or form – in this context, the members of the organisation are key. Why do they come to work? What matters to them? What are their goals? What are their values? How do we want to run the organisation? We also expect organisations to depict a true picture of our society, a diverse picture that embraces the layers, differences and distinctiveness of humanity.
The Organisation’s Community: No organisation runs on its own. It is nested in communities, collaborates with suppliers, works with partners and creates products and services connected to the resources flow. It is important how an organisation thinks, responds and collaborates with this ecosystem.
Society: As we are all part of one large society nested on Earth, we must ask ourselves of our work, “How does our work impact the society and the environment at large?”
Ultimately, we want the organisation to act with integrity. We want them to provide open and honest communication about their business practices and act with accountability when those actions don’t measure up to the values and expectations of their community and their customers.
This is the meaningful organisation.