Missed opportunities in purposeful transformation

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By helping brands communicate purpose, agencies gain advantage, says Mirum's marketing and brand strategist.

As technology moves into all aspects of our lives, the world of marketing is evolving. Clients look to experts to help them adapt, and agencies and consultancies find themselves moving into each other’s turf, taking on partial responsibilities previously owned by the other. Agencies are fighting for top executives’ time to create solutions that impact more than marketing. Consultancies are hiring marketing expertise to expand their value offerings beyond just consulting and into actual execution—traditionally agencies’ domain. As the lines between these two practices blur, it’s unclear which will reign supreme, but agencies face an uphill battle moving into the space currently owned by top consultancies.

For agencies, understanding a client’s brand purpose might be the best path for entering the consultancy space and bidding on transformational work. Approaching company transformation from the familiar territory of brand marketing differentiates agencies’ approach from that of traditional consultancies. I had the pleasure of attending the San Diego Cause Conference this year, during which many successful marketers attributed their success, and their clients’ success, to focusing on the purpose behind what they do. 

This purpose/mission/brand identity is often relegated to one statement in the About Us section of companies’ websites, but a brand’s reason for doing business deserves more prominence than that, and should be the driving factor for all decisions. Knowing a brand’s reason for being empowers agencies to maximize the impact the brand makes in the world. And that leads to transforming an agency practice from one doing marketing to one trusted to solve larger challenges.

Additionally, given their marketing expertise, agencies are uniquely qualified to help brands create or reimagine their purpose—a service that a shocking number of brands are deeply in need of; and arguably, a transformational requirement. Over the years, shareholder needs have given way to the customer as king, and customers are increasingly demanding that their brands support social and sustainable causes. There is an expectation now that brands be a force for good as well as increase profits year over year, and bring customers what they want, better and faster than before.

This risks pulling brands in many competing directions and losing perspective about why they got into business in the first place. Many brands are all too willing to adopt any popular cause in order to support their broken brand. However, appeasing customer sentiment is not the same as having a genuine purpose that drives business, motivates employees and differentiates your offering. Purpose has the power to unite stakeholders and prioritize needs; agencies have the power to authentically tell the story of a brand’s purpose. Put together, agencies that enable transformative success for their clients through purpose will open a floodgate into consultancy solutioning for themselves and the agencies that follow. 

To begin this transformative journey, here are some tips to get started: 

1. Ask yourself if who you are is who you need to be to succeed. Are you, and will you continue to be, differentiated? Are your employees, customers and shareholders all aligned on, and in support of, why you do business? If the answer is no, your brand is ripe for some transformational purpose-building!

2. Commit to finding the right purpose and embracing the changes needed to embody it.

3. In finding your purpose, stay true to your foundational roots, but leave room for progress. A genuine purpose originates from solving acute problems you are uniquely equipped to solve. Why did you start your business in the first place, and how does it need to change for you to stay relevant?

4. Be authentic. Tell your story, not a story. How can who you are change the world?  Support (or create) a cause that closely aligns with your purpose.

5. Commit to living out your purpose wholeheartedly every day, with every decision, by aligning your priorities to maximize the impact of your mission.

Kimberly Gossard is Marketing and Brand Strategist at Mirum.