May 12, 2008
mark earls and the “purpose-idea”
When I’m talking with clients about marketing, it’s very hard for me to go more than a few minutes without mentioning the term, “Purpose-Idea”.
The “P.I.” is not a term I coined myself. That credit goes to my friend, marketing hero and frequent podcast partner, Mark Earls. He wrote about the P.I. in his seminal marketing book, “Welcome To The Creative Age”.
Marks begins his thesis by saying that actually, when you think about it, talking about “The Brand” is pretty meaningless. Imagine lots of meetings crammed full of suits yakking on about “Core Brand Values”, “Living The Brand” and all that marketing waffle, and you kinda get the idea. I’ve been in those meetings and they suck.
What’s far more interesting, Mark says, is the reason we all get out of bed in the morning. The thing that drives us as individuals, as a company. Ask yourself, what is our company for? Is all our professional life about just selling aluminum widgets for 16.7% margin, or is there some sort of higher meaning involved? What are we trying to change? To improve upon? To disrupt?
Why are we here?
Mark then goes on to say how much more fun, interesting and profitable it is for a company when what it does has a sense of shared purpose, an idea it can believe in. This is the “P.I.“
The Blue Monster i.e. “Change The World Or Go Home” is a P.I., the Microsoft tagline, “Your Potential, Our Passion” is not.
Why not? Because that’s not how people talk in real life. Sure, the word, “passion” may be in the line, but it burns with about as much passion as a wet Kleenex. Which is why it comes off being contrived and phony at worse, boring and uninspired at best.
I’m not trying to go after Microsoft, here. They’re still buddies of mine, I continue to like, admire and respect them. But there’s so much real, genuine passion under the hood of that car, I just WISH they could do a better job of letting the rest of us see it more often. I find their tagline a sorely missed opportunity.
I would guess that the cheapest and easiest way to better articulate this passion, My Friends in Redmond, is to spend more time thinking about what your Purpose-Idea ACTUALLY IS, as opposed to what you think people outside the company might want to hear. I’d recommend any Microsoft employee who knows me, to go read Mark’s book. Rock on.
[Disclosure: I consider myself a friend of Microsoft. They’ve been clients of mine in the past, they’ll hopefully be clients of mine in the future, they are not not clients of mine at the moment. It’s all good.]
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