There's nothing new about companies having a sense of purpose.
To achieve market leadership, to be the most profitable, to have the most satisfied customers...
Enshrined in mission and vision statements, these and many more like them have been used for years to galvanize employees.
And very powerful they can be. When I first joined Tesco, in the years before “Every Little Helps”, the whole business was motivated by overtaking its arch rival, Sainsbury's: we stayed longer, worked harder, and strove to find that extra something.
After all, as Daniel Pink has ably demonstrated, people have an innate need to feel that the work they do is worthwhile. Alongside a desire for autonomy, and for learning and creating new things, they want to contribute to something greater and more enduring than themselves.
However, such statements of mission only reflect the company's agenda. They have little to do with what's important to customers, or the communities in which they operate.
Increasingly, for today's workforce, is that really about creating something worthwhile?
One response is to involve the company in doing "good", through charities and philanthropic acts. These can capture the imagination of employees, and also be good for the company's reputation. And they do great work. Just look at the amounts given by the charitable foundations of such companies as Walmart, Coca-Cola, and Pepsico, let alone the banks and oil majors.
But they're not at the core of why a company exists, and how it creates value for customers. The real magic happens when the company's core purpose is focused on improving people’s lives in some way.
Just look at the Apple stores.
They’re based around Steve Job’s vision of enriching people’s lives. Certainly, they’re brilliantly designed, and of course, the products speak for themselves. But in-store, you get this real sense of employees engaged and working together with customers, helping them be more creative than they ever thought possible.
By grounding the core purpose in enriching people’s lives, the employees and the customers are united and inspired around the same goal.
They share the same agenda.
Such are loyal brands…