The definition of ‘purpose’ that has always resonated with me is ” the reason for which anything is done, created, or exists.” (Free Dictionary). In 2018, I had the opportunity to sit on a panel at the Holmes Report’s (now PRovoke) In2Summit Africa. The topic of discussion was “Finding Post-Truth Purpose: Why Addressing Societal Needs Is More Important Than Ever” and we explored the concept of Purpose-Driven Communications.

My view then – and now – is that every organisation needs to have a purpose, to begin with. If you consider some of the standard objectives that businesses have, including revenue, operational, productivity and performance, customer satisfaction, shareholder profits, etc, having a purpose can make achieving those easier.

As Simon Sinek states in his book, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”

Why = Purpose, in my view.

Companies that are tone-deaf in their communications are usually unclear on their purpose or simply don’t have one beyond making money. They, therefore, spend their time trying to ingragiate themselves in our lives by paying lip-service to the things that are important to us, as consumers of their products and services. They say the things they think we want to hear as opposed to doing the things we want to see.

As consumers today, we are both spoiled for choice and more aware of what is available to us. We don’t want to be simply marketed to but rather want to feel part of something that fits in with our views, our values and our concerns. According to various studies, Millenials are driven by purpose. As Purpose Generation succinctly puts it, “we still crave human engagement. So talk to us, challenge us, and be honest with us. We’re feedback-driven and entrepreneurially-minded, even though we are not all entrepreneurs. We are the Purpose Generation. And we matter.”

Not all of us are millenials but, increasingly, we are all purpose-driven and we see you.

And, with the diversity in South Africa, across Africa, and the world, navigating purpose is made that much harder. The singular homogenous view of the species does not work anymore. Being clear on who your community is and taking the time to understand them in all their forms is imperative. No business can operate in isolation of that community, target market, etc.

I, for one, believe that storytelling is a critical tool. (Or what we are now calling ‘content’.) It is why I have spent the last few years peddling this thinking to various businesses. As we craft what our ‘new normal’ will be, it will be even more important for business to both define its purpose and communicate that in a manner that is truthful, authentic and, sometimes, subtle.

Peter Drucker said, “There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer.”

In my view, creating a customer needs you to be aligned with their purpose. Or put another way, yours must resonate with theirs and you should facilitating them living their best lives.

What is your why? And how are your manifesting it?

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About Kojo Baffoe

Of Ghanaian/German heritage, raised in Lesotho and currently based in Johannesburg, South Africa, Kojo is the proverbial slashie, the professional ‘jack of all trades.’ He is an entrepreneur, writer, facilitator, content architect, former men’s magazine editor and speaker. He has a Bachelor of Commerce (1994) with majors in Economics, Marketing and Business Administration from the former the University of Natal (Durban), now University of KwaZulu-Natal.

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