1. Relationship-readiness assessment. Audit
programs, vendors, competencies, personnel, budgets and closeted
skeletons (practices that would, in the public's judgment, belie
your stated commitment) to determine if you're ready for a serious
relationship. And reconsider all success metrics. That's a gut
check on how well you've internalized the fundamental shift taking
place. This extends to all channels, including media
2. Purpose discovery. In the fashion of
Patagonia, Krispy Kreme and Secret, find out what, in addition to
making money, is truly important to the brand.
3. Creative platform. This is the conceptual
blueprint for engaging with the outside world. Purpose infuses
everything you say or do; it is not a single element, such as
responsible-drinking messages, tossed in to complete a
4. Engagement plan. Only when you've
internalized the foregoing and installed the structures to
perpetuate it should you engage outward in the classic marketing
sense. By this time you will have abandoned some advertising and
promotional activities rooted in Consumer Era mentality and begun
emphasizing the activities most likely to cultivate sustainable
relationships. It is time to get proactive. Map out the Venn
Diagram of your constituencies and identify areas of common cause.
Then create ways for all to participate.
Along the way, plant azaleas.
Begonias are pretty as bedding plants go, but why invest the
time and money in annuals when azaleas are perennial? In every
aspect of your business, churn is expensive and ongoing
Realize that trust is not a sales gimmick, weapon or commodity.
It cannot be purchased but can only be earned, by being trustworthy
and projecting your essence in all you do.
A great example is Southwest Airlines, which is dedicated to
making air travel affordable. American Airlines is dedicated to ...
who knows? Its slogan is "We know why you fly." Supposedly for our
loved ones, but trust is not built by holding passengers' luggage
Realize above all that purpose is not a slogan. It must be
derived, not contrived, even if the process seems awkwardly New
Age-y, simplistic or silly. Deepak Chopra meets Mister Rogers.
Don't worry about reductio ad absurdum. What is absurd is the idea
that your complex understanding of yesterday's reality is relevant
to a radically different tomorrow.
Simplicity has its merits. John Mackey, former CEO of Whole
Foods and proponent of Conscious Capitalism, holds that everything
worthwhile can be reduced to three Platonic pillars: the good, the
true and the beautiful. If you are honest in your deliberations,
core purpose will be at the heart of all your activities, from
hiring to the voicemail greeting. Take this seriously. It is
reductio ad lucem.
Sometimes when we make that assertion, people look at us as if
we were intoning the words of a cult leader, or just on acid. This
is not a thought experiment, however, but a template for action and
For instance, consider the hundreds of marketers with Twitter
feeds and Facebook pages and YouTube channels, all scratching their
heads because mobs of devotees haven't spontaneously formed around
their brands. That is what comes of forcing the square peg of
Consumer Era thinking into the round hole of Relationships.
Mentalities must change. They haven't much, as evidenced by this
headline. We kind of tricked you. In fact, "influencing people" is
itself a remnant of a bygone era. But impressing and, better yet,
inspiring people will never go out of style.