Corporate purpose has been on the receiving end of some negative press recently. Maria Hengeveld attacked the ‘the scam of the purpose paradigm’ and Anand Giridharadas and Rutger Bregman have received huge publicity for taking billionaires to task over their ‘philanthropy’ and ‘social conscience’. So is it time to ditch purpose? Absolutely not.
In the corporate responsibility arena companies aren’t just doing more, they’re talking about it much more too. But when you read the actual words being used, the language often feels strangely out of step with the real world. In fact, the way companies talk about reputation runs the risk of undermining the very thing they’re trying to enhance.
The appeal of a narrative comes from a simple insight – that people increasingly want more than a rational list of reasons why to buy a product or engage with a company. There’s a strong desire to understand the backstory of the organisation, what they’re trying to achieve and where they’re heading.
‘Age’ has previously been a pretty good proxy for ‘stage’ – with marketers making assumptions about life stages and likely activity. However, as we enter the era of longevity, this is a dangerous pitfall that brands need to work hard to avoid. We are starting to see changes in traditional life paths and so brands need to be more sophisticated in their understanding of longevity. The opportunities for those that can do this successfully are sizeable.
People are living and remaining active for longer than ever, putting strain on systems that were developed for the three stage life - education, work, retirement. In this post, I use the three horizons model of longevity to assess where the future of longevity may lie and how we can overhaul a predetermined life-path that will soon no longer be fit for purpose.