Road Signs For Success

By Jim Whitt

A couple of years ago a copy of my book, Riding for the Brand: The Power of Purposeful Leadership, ended up in the hands of Southwest Airlines president Colleen Barrett. As a result, she invited me to speak to the Southwest Airlines culture committee — 200 plus employees from all levels, divisions and locations responsible for keeping the world famous Southwest culture alive and well. After my presentation one of the attendees, Amy Lyon, asked that I give her a call. What’s interesting is that Amy wasn’t a Southwest employee — she was there representing GSD&M Idea City, a communications and advertising firm that has worked with Southwest for nearly three decades.

I called Amy and learned that GSD&M shares much in common with what we do at Purpose Unlimited. While we transform lives, leaders and organizations through the power of purpose, GSD&M helps clients market their organizations through the power of purpose. Roy Spence, GSD&M’s CEO, has written about this purpose-based approach in It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For: Why Every Extraordinary Business is Driven by Purpose. And GSD&M has worked with some pretty extraordinary clients such as Southwest Airlines, Wal-Mart, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Charles Schwab and BMW.

GSD&M is truly unique in the world of advertising and public relations. They don’t just cook up a smorgasbord of ad campaigns for their clients but get to the heart of why the organization exists and start there to build the connection with the customer. I think their purpose-based approach can be summed up in what Spence identifies as three interdependent components:
1. Building an organization that truly makes a difference in the marketplace;
2. Becoming a leader of great purpose; and
3. Bringing your purpose to life so that your constituents know exactly what you stand for.

These components are congruent with our approach to developing purpose-driven organizations: 1) In the old west, a brand not only identified a ranch’s cattle, it was a symbol of pride and loyalty for all of its cowboys — they rode for the brand. People today want to be partners in a cause that is purposeful, heroic, adventurous and idealistic — like cowboys of yesteryear they want to ride for the brand. 2) Great causes require purposeful leadership — people will follow leaders who live and breathe the organization’s purpose. 3) To bring that purpose to life, it must be positive, powerful, simple and serving. Do these things and it’s likely that people will know exactly what you stand for.

What about the bottom line? Roy Spence explains purpose “goes beyond making money — and it almost always results in making more money than you ever thought possible.” He cites research commissioned by Jim Stengel, former global marketing officer of Proctor & Gamble that included over thirty thousand brands and focused on twenty-five top performers. The top performers shared a common denominator — they “were fulfilling a higher order purpose.” He also references the research from Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras: “…organizations driven by purpose and values outperformed the general market 15:1 and outperformed comparison companies 6:1.”

In today’s economic environment your success — if not your very survival — depends upon you giving people a powerful reason to do business with you. The 4 P’s of marketing — product, price, place and promotion are not nearly as important as the fifth P — purpose. It’s what drives extraordinary businesses.

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