Becoming fully invested, obsessed even, with one’s purpose is the hallmark of many successful companies. It can also help brands to differentiate themselves in competitive marketplaces. Sylvain enables companies to find their corporate purpose, align all their activities and departments with it, and grow.
Replacing the outmoded concept of a “mission statement”, a purpose statement must be deeply entrenched within how a brand sees itself.
Sylvain explains what a true purpose is NOT:
Misaligned or poorly thought through corporate purposes can become liabilities, since companies making this mistake are seen as cynical or hypocritical.
A company like Patagonia exhibits the degree of obsession with its purpose that Sylvain finds admirable. It is “in business to save our home planet”, a bold and uncompromising vision.
A well-designed purpose statement has these four main components:
There are other aspects to a good purpose statement, but these are the main factors that matter.
Sylvain goes on to give four examples of companies with well-defined Purposes:
Patagonia – The poster child of purpose, even giving away some of its profits to fund ecological causes and including “hidden” slogans in the stitching of its garments.
Impossible Foods – Whose purpose is to replicate the meat experience, with wholly plant-based foodstuffs. Their burgers are already achieving this to a remarkable degree.
Chanel – Despite its founder’s complex history (Nazi collusion), the company now is still very female-focused, remaining determined not to branch out into menswear. It has also made a conscious decision not to follow most other prestige brands into ecommerce, favoring the high-touch, one to one, sensual experience of its stores.
Tony’s Chocolonely – The Dutch chocolatier has taken on some big high street names with a determination to source all its products ethically, while competing with huge French and Belgian brands.
One BAD example he gives is that of We Work, whose stated purpose “to help people live a full life” did not chime with their revenue and utility driven approach. They over-inflated their own value, leading to the exodus of customers and investors.
Recently they have realigned themselves with their original aim to find employees a place to go – real human connection in a shared workplace, something that may prove popular in the post-COVID transition period.
In the discussion, it became evident that there is often a conflict between finding a match between an entrepreneur’s personal purpose, and that of their client or employer.
Sylvain views this as potentially an opportunity to be an “agent of change” within an organization, a driving force for finding a better purpose. Where personal purpose cannot be so aligned, Sylvain believes you can derive satisfaction from developing side hustles which do.
Although it’s a somewhat taboo notion in a world where obsession is seen as unhealthy, it need not be in Sylvain’s definition. He says: “it needs to really carry through viscerally in every part of the organization… that’s what I mean when I say obsession relative to purpose, because purpose alone doesn’t do it.”
Obsession in this sense means that you must fully bring on board marketing, customer service, R&D, HR, and even investors. It’s also about finding the right balance between emotional content, which can have a “long burn” effect and a more short-term rational focus on goals. It must manage to be audacious yet practical.
Sylvain outlines three steps by which his company helps brands achieve these aims.
FinTech is an example of an industry whose products may be hard to invest with purpose because they are so hard to explain to laypersons. Elegant, visual storytelling and video can be used to help elucidate purpose in complex industries which are not well understood.