Over the last four months, we have all seen multiple restaurants shutting shop due to the pandemic. However, the news of the closure of one restaurant – “Mirchi & Mime” – elicited a huge emotional response from the patrons. I believe that was largely due to the fact that people did not see it as just a place to eat and hang out, but rather they felt a sense of connection with the place, possibly because of the way it was positioned. Much like most restaurants, Mirchi & Mime got their core right (offering good food), but they also associated the business with a sense of purpose – employing specially-abled people for its service staff. Moreover, this was communicated effectively. Even their name was a careful combination of what they stood for – “Mirchi” signified the classic, seasonal dishes they offered, and “Mime” represented that the food was served by speech and hearing-impaired staff. The closure of this restaurant and its subsequent response took me back to one of my strong beliefs – that a purpose-driven company and related communication creates a stronger affinity for the company. Especially in times like these, when everything seems like gloom and doom, it becomes even important to lead your communications with a purpose behind it.
Having a purpose for the business is not just about bringing in a social connection or talking about social initiatives. But it is about the entirety of actions that a company takes which resonate with one strong, core purpose. The Japanese concept of Ikigai, which speaks about finding a purpose for yourself, can also be applied to a company’s sense of purpose. The four elements come together to become our company’s purpose: what our company wants to stand for – or our mission, what our company is good at – or the most popular products and services, what makes our company profitable – or the income, and what the world needs – or simply why people need us. Getting this right is crucial in the first place. As for a restaurant, the offering i.e. food is common, but the allegiance comes because of the purpose. This purpose could range from differentiated service, promotion of music, or bringing a certain form of art to the fore. While running the business is important, it also needs a meaningful resolve that adds value to its existence.
Numbers, advertisements, launches, and other regular management activities often overpower our communication as a company. In the process, we do not focus or highlight the core sense of purpose with which we operate, thereby losing an opportunity to build long term associations.
Let’s take the example of LinkedIn. Its vision statement is seemingly simple yet packed with a purpose: create economic opportunity for every member of the workforce. It stands by this purpose by proving itself as not just a professional networking platform but one that also offers upskilling through certified courses, insightful discussions with business experts, or knowledge papers, thereby enhancing economic opportunities for the workforce at large. Under its campaign #InItTogether, it recently highlighted how several professionals leveraged the platform’s potential in their careers during the current challenging times. Such communication that fits in with the company’s purpose creates a stronger sense of affinity amongst its stakeholders and strengthens its reputation.
The Body Shop, whose motto is to conduct business with a “powerful force for good” is another example. Right from the process of testing and recycling of its packaging, to community trade and purpose-driven communication, the company has been consistent with its efforts. This strong commitment to the cause makes it stand out against other cosmetic products’ brands.
Organisations often talk a lot about how sensitive and purposeful they are, but deeper down there is a shallow reality. On the contrary, many companies do a lot of great things but do not translate them into their communication. Neither of these scenarios helps to improve a company’s reputation. CSR activities are not imbibed into the company’s DNA; they just seem to be a tick in the box. It is hence essential that the companies have a well-defined purpose, especially today when virtual connections have become a bigger reality and hence perception will be a major driver of brand association. Thinking carefully about our Ikigai or “reason for being”, and absorbing that into every action, operation and communication is crucial – Defined purpose, followed by a promise and made real through performance.
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