Putting Purpose Centerstage

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‘Purpose’ is one of those buzzwords that we hear every day now. So much so that its true meaning has become somewhat diluted and the playbook for how to lead with purpose slips further into the distance with each new interpretation. 

This is strikingly similar to what happened to the definition of “The Role of the CMO,” as we saw play out over the past few years.  Luckily, we have a pretty good idea now on what it takes to be a great CMO with lots of supporting content, including rich articles from CMO experts, podcasts and playbooks.  In fact, one of my driving forces for launching CMO Moves, after authoring last year’s CMO Playbook, was so we could all benefit from hearing directly from those leaders who were modeling the way. 

Let’s face it, no textbook will ever give you the tools you need to succeed quite like being able to learn from a human being who’s lived it.  So in that spirit, here is quick cheat sheet on how to create your own “Play” for Purpose.




Purpose begins from within

"We found an amazing video tape of our founder, Sam Walton, receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George H.W. Bush. In his speech, he said: ‘If we work together… we'll give the world an opportunity to see what it's like to save and have a better life.’ And boy, when we found that tape, we found those words, we realized that our work was done. We didn't need a bunch of MBA’s to come in here and figure out the purpose [of this company]. It had already been articulated by Sam Walton. And that message really is something that we've spent the last decade trying to insert every place we can in this company.” - Listen to Tony Rogers, former CMO of Walmart, now Chief Member Officer of Sam’s Club

Remember your roots

“For 125 years, our brand has stood for invention, engagement, and figuring out what the world needs and literally inventing it; as Thomas Edison said famously long, long ago. In the last fifteen years, our brand has become much more globally-focused on technology, software and hardware. I think a lot of [our new focus] is about being a brand that is human and accessible, frankly in defiance a little bit, of being a very big company. The anecdote to [our large size] is being human; is being a brand that people can actually relate to. As a brand, we always try to reveal the people here and what they're working on and I'm experimenting with different forms of storytelling to share those stories. The way we go to market is as much about who our brand is, as what we say.”  - Listen to Linda Boff, CMO of GE

Create Dimension and Depth

“I have the great privilege of leading marketing for this great company [Verizon], because of what this brand and this company stands for. The dedication and passion for quality and the reliability of our products is really inspiring. Verizon is one of those brands that the product is tangible and clear, but I have to go one step further in terms of creating a very strong connection with the consumers. Now is the moment where Humanability is not only just an advertising campaign, but it's the manifestation of the business strategy and philosophy that is demonstrating how our technology and our capabilities help people. What I love about what I'm doing and what are we doing as a team is we continue to add a dimension to this brand.  Creating dimension and depth, that's what I'm after.”  - Listen to Diego Scotti, CMO of Verizon




Build Brands that stand the test of time

“The role of the CMO has been, will always be, to build brands that stand the test of time. And we build the brands that stand the test of time because I believe, we believe, that building unique, memorable and relevant, and importantly differentiated brands, are the key to building businesses that stand the test of time.  And the responsibility of the marketers is to ensure that those brands are anchored in purpose, that they've made a really meaningful role in people's lives, that they’re built on strong emotional connections, that they behave with integrity and importantly that they're always reinventing themselves to deliver that purpose. Sometimes the craft forgets about it, but to me, that has not changed. What has changed are the ways in which we are actually building the brand that will stand the test of time and all the tools that we have available to connect with our customers and consumers.” - Listen to Antonio Lucio, former Chief Marketing & Communications Officer of HP, now CMO of Facebook

CMOs are Chief Purpose Officers

“We ought to change the name from Chief Marketing Officer to Chief Purpose Officer, because marketing is the carrier of purpose. When CMOs take [purpose] and embrace it, they affect not only the consumer, but also the culture of the organization. I always tell CMOs: ‘You have the opportunity to be a force for good, especially when you're purpose-driven.’ The best organizations are driven by purpose. The great visionary companies, the ones that are built to last, will always have a purpose beyond making money. And in the process, will make more money.”  - Listen to Roy Spence, Co-founder & Chairman of GSD&M, Co-founder & CEO of The Purpose Institute

A CMO’s job is to provide the platform

“A lot of people are doing Tough Mudder events, not necessarily because they want to get into shape, but because they want to overcome something. And I think that's the power of this organization. What I try to support as a CMO is the purpose of the organization. We are about helping each other. We are providing a platform for that. It's why millions of people are doing Tough Mudder events. It's why 20,000 people have a Tough tattoo because for some of them, it's a way of life. I'm very humbled as the CMO of a smaller organization because I'm helping people to achieve something and appointing the platform for that; ensuring story around that.”  - Listen to Jerome Hiquet, CMO of Tough Mudder




The right people will fix the wrong strategy

“It’s about having the right culture, the right motivation for the right reasons, having a purpose for the team to embrace and to go after. You have to gain a cross functional perspective of the business. Let go of the area that you’re most comfortable with. Allow others to play that role within the team and coach them and empower them to really excel in the areas where you’re most comfortable. And then partner with the other members of the management team to create a strong leadership path and to cultivate the right culture in the organization. When you have the right strategy and the wrong culture, the wrong people, you may destroy the strategy. If you have the wrong strategy but the right people, the right culture, those people will fix the strategy.”  - Listen to Nuno Teles, President of Diageo Beer Company

Marketing is a talent business

“I work very closely with HR during the recruitment process because in the end, marketing is a talent business and I want to make sure that each new team member knows what the brand stands for and what our culture is all about. Yes, we make yogurt, but our business is wellness and we want to do good things with our brand platform. We’re focused on nutritional wellness, which is what we're doing with No Kid Hungry, Save the Children, and a lot of our Chobani Foundation work. We’re also focused on community and social wellness, which is all the community stuff we do day in and day out. And lastly, the environmental wellness that the company stands for. I partner with our HR department so that new recruits are fully immersed in what the brand is all about. I think culture and fit is so important. I want them to hear my perspective of what Chobani is all about and I feel like I know the most about what we're looking for.”  - Listen to Peter McGuinness, Chief Marketing & Commercial Officer of Chobani




Culture is the way you behave

“Culture means a lot of different things to people. For me, culture is simply the way people behave. So, I ask, ‘What is it about our behaviors that are helping us grow? What is it about our behaviors that are slowing us down? What is it about the culture we're going to cherish and what is it about the culture that needs to change?” I believe as a leader that it's kind of a cop out if you walk [into a new role] and believe everything that isn't yours is bad or wrong. I'm really intentional about trying to celebrate the things that I know are amazing here and that make H&R Block a very successful company. At the same time, I also identify the things that are keeping us from realizing our full potential and capabilities. What are the things we should be able to do to accelerate our growth?”  - Listen to Jeff Jones, President & CEO of H&R Block

Apply your belief system to the way you do business

“I think people have to develop belief systems. They have to understand and appreciate their view of the world, their approach to business, their approach to their craft. That has to be your central starting point because it's so easy to get lost. It's easy to get lost in new technologies and new mediums. It's easy to get lost in competing strategies and interests. For me, my fundamental belief system actually comes from the career that I decided not to do. I started out as a journalist. I thought that if you want to see progress in the world, if you want to have the ability to improve people's lives, then it's all about useful information delivered time and time again. Then I started to think, where else in the world do people get information? Where would that belief system have unique value? So, I accidentally got into marketing when I was looking for an alternative to journalism. If you look at where the world has moved and where communications has moved, so much has been stripped away. It creates an incredible opportunity for a marketer to simply say something honest and meaningful and allow that [message] to sell the product and get everything else out of the way.”  - Listen to Seth Farbman, CMO of Spotify

Have no fear, but do have some fun! 

We have a culture of challenging convention and challenging ourselves and challenging our competitors. If you're going to push yourself, if you're going to push boundaries, it's inherently creative. It's inherently curious, right? That [mindset] creates an environment that's exciting, innovative, and inspiring. It also creates an environment where there’s no fear to do things differently. We want to break down barriers and challenge convention and by virtue of doing that, you're going to make a lot of mistakes along the way. When [making mistakes becomes] acceptable, it brings out the best in people. They become their most creative and inspirational selves. We're founder-led company and it's OK to make mistakes as long as we're moving forward, having some fun; and as long as we learn from them and don't repeat them. It's a beautiful thing.”  - Listen to Peter McGuinness, Chief Marketing & Commercial Officer of Chobani




The next generation of marketers have purpose in their DNA

“We’ve got to inspire purpose-driven, talented, creative, young people to realize marketing can be a force for good. The millennial generation is more purpose-searching than any generation that we've ever surveyed. Boomers started with paycheck, millennials start with purpose. We had bosses, millennials want coaches. We had annual reviews, they want to talk about development. As CMO, you have got to become the champion of finding the purpose, marketing the purpose, enculturating the purpose because if you don't have a purpose in your organization, I don't think you'll be around.”  - Listen to Roy Spence, Co-founder & Chairman of GSD&M, Co-founder & CEO of The Purpose Institute