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Happy Thoughts

When Purpose isn't a Positive

Any viable business exists to address some unmet needs. That is the business’s purpose.

When Purpose isn't a Positive

by Jessica Lyonford

3 years ago

Purpose and purpose-driven get thrown around like confetti these days. They’re buzz words to drive engagement because of some inherent good tied to purpose. But the terms really mean nothing. 

They mean nothing because every action is done with purpose. Some actions are good and some not so good, but there is purpose behind all of them. 

Any viable business exists to address some unmet needs. That is the business’s purpose.

Some businesses exist for purely personal reasons - for money, success or fame. Most businesses, I suspect, exist to serve others.

When a business’s purpose is to address the needs of others, answering those needs is the value they provide customers. And addressing that need, living that purpose, increases customer happiness. 

But again, it can get tricky here because purpose is now a marketing term, much like organic. It is used to market products and services as better, yet it might not actually be better. 

Think about it. Let’s say a new restaurant opens up in town. The owners have always wanted a restaurant but knew it needed to stand out to be successful. They opened their doors with the premise that single moms eat free. Awesome. 

Now across town there’s another new restaurant. These owners never wanted a restaurant. Their purpose has always been to support and empower single moms trying to get by. They realized that single moms rarely have the funds to go out as a family so they decided to open a restaurant that serves good food for single moms and their kids. 

Both are rooted in purpose, but one restaurant’s purpose is to market it's business while the other’s is to support single moms. Both serve single moms which is awesome, but their purpose is very different. And that distinction is important for consumers to see. 

I think all businesses are purpose-driven which is why I dislike the term so much. The way we use it to market products and services seems dishonest. 

It’s like the obnoxious guy who always announces how funny he is; if he were really that funny, he wouldn’t have to announce it.