Archives For Brand Purpose

For the past few years, I have been a strong believer that brand purpose, core values and culture are critical to an organization’s long-term success. Organizations that align these elements have been proven to be more effective in delivering financial results. Zappos and Innocent are two examples of brands who have built successful work cultures.

Many organizations have been able to develop purpose and values statements, but few brands have been able to consistently live their values and change behaviors. Enron had a vision and values statement that included lofty values such as respect, integrity, communication and excellence. In a New York Times article, James S. Kunen mentions a writer who, while struggling to draft a corporate values statement, threw up her hands in despair and observed: “Why not just come out and say it? ‘We will strive to make as much money as we can without going to prison.’”

“The writer was joking, of course. But had Enron’s leaders adopted her statement and lived by it, their employees and shareholders might be a lot better off today.”

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit the Motley Fool Corporate Headquarters in Alexandria Virginia. I participated in the Foolosophy Culture Tour which is held on the first Friday of every month. The Motley Fool is a brand committed to living its purpose and values everyday through their interactions with each other and its members and subscribers.

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The Motley Fool is a privately owned multi-media financial services company dedicated to building the world’s greatest investment community. The Motley Fool reaches people each month through its website, books, newspaper column and subscription newsletter services. The Motley Fool advocates for individual investors. The company’s name was taken from Shakespeare, whose wise fools both instructed and amused and could speak the truth to the king —without getting their heads lopped off.

The Foolosophy Tour is a 45 minute peek into the unique culture that makes the Motley Fool different and a great place to work. In 2013 and 2014, the Motley Fool was selected by Glassdoor as the best medium-sized company to work for in the United States. The tour highlighted Motley Fool’s core values and how the organization hires for them and fires for them. Their work environment was open and inviting. The workspace did not include offices, even for the most senior leaders. Each stop on the tour featured one of the organization’s core values. The tour guide shared stories of employees and leaders and their success and challenges in living their values on a daily basis.

One of my favorite parts of the tour was the wall outside the boardroom that featured pictures of every employee in the company. As decisions were made by the board they couldn’t help but look at the people whose work lives were impacted. The Motley Fool was one of the most human and engaging work environments that I have ever visited.

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Motley Fool has a simple purpose: “To Help The World Invest Better”. The company has six core values that help guide their behavior:

  • Collaborate – Do great things together.
  • Innovate – Search for a better solution. Then top it!
  • Fun – Revel in your work.
  • Honest – Make us proud.
  • Competitive – Play fair, play hard, play to win.
  • Motley – Make Foolishness your own. Share your core value _____________.

The tour guide emphasized that the Motley Fool had a competitive performance based culture that was a great place to work while delivering financial results. She also admitted that the Motley Fool Culture was not perfect but that they were always working on tangible ways to implement their values.

It was an inspiring morning, but I learned an important lesson. The road to an effective employee culture is always under construction.

Can you think of other brands, that have been successful in building a values based culture?

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Innocent Drinks is a UK company that was founded in 1998 by three Cambridge graduates. It has grown into the number one smoothie brand in England. Their revenue now exceeds 100 million pounds. Richard Reed, Jon Wright and Adam Balon started Innocent after successfully selling smoothies at a music festival. While selling drinks at the festival, they put up a sign asking people if they thought they should give up their jobs to make smoothies. They put up a bin saying “Yes” and bin saying “No” in front of their booth. They got people to vote with their empties. At the end of the weekend, the Yes Bin was full, so they resigned from their jobs and built a brand.

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I became aware of Innocent Drinks last year when I read Jim Stengel’s book “Grow”. The fundamental premise of Grow is that successful companies are organized around Brands Ideals, a shared purpose of improving people’s lives. Companies that organize around a shared goal of improving people’s lives are the fastest growing businesses. Innocent is a brand built around the ideal of trying to make people healthier.

Innocent was formed with the very simple idea that every product contains 100 per cent pure, fresh ingredients and no fruit concentrates. Their brand purpose is to make natural, delicious food and drink that helps people live well and die old. They demonstrated a commitment to a brand ideal, a consumer focused purpose and a culture that encouraged creative thinking. They developed a business based on sustainability and doing the right thing. They donate 10% of their profits to fund rural development projects in the countries where their fruit comes from. They wanted to make it easy for people to do themselves some good. And to leave the planet a little better than they found it.

Innocent is a values driven organization. Their five values reflect what they are, how they try to do things, and want they want to be in the future.

  • Be Natural – Not just our products, but being natural in how we treat each other and how we speak to the most important people – our drinkers.
  • Be Entrepreneurial – innocent began as a small, entrepreneurial company, and nothing much has changed. We aren’t afraid to do things differently, and we’ve never given up on a good opportunity.
  • Be Responsible – We keep our promises, are mindful of our impact on our community and our environment, and always try to leave things a little bit better than we found them.
  • Be Commercial – We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t keep our eyes on the numbers at all times. Ultimately we want to deliver growth for us and our customers too.
  • Be Generous – This means giving honest feedback to one another, taking time to say thank you, and where we can, donating our resources or money to those who need it more than us. It’s that simple.

Is you company or brand organized around a shared goal of improving people’s live?

Jockey is an iconic underwear brand that started in 1934 when the company launched the Jockey Brief. The Jockey Brief was inspired by a postcard from the French Rivera showing a man wearing a bikini style swimsuit.  In 1935, the company began selling the Jockey Short in Marshall Fields in Chicago. On the first day, 600 pairs were sold and a legend was born. In 1982, Jockey introduced Jockey Cotton Briefs for women. Today, Jockey is marketed in more than 120 countries. The brand markets underwear, intimate apparel, socks, thermals, sleepwear and activewear. Products are offered for men, women and children. Since 1935, Jockey which is located in Kenosha Wisconsin has been an innovator in the underwear category. Today, Jockey is still a family owned privately held company that values integrity, passion, quality and loyalty.

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I had the opportunity to work as the Vice President of Marketing for Jockey in 1999 and 2000.  At that time, the underwear and intimate apparel category was very competitive. Brands such as Victoria Secret and Calvin Klein were selling sex appeal. Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren were marketing a lifestyle image. Traditional brands such as Hanes, Fruit of the Loom and retail store brands were aggressively promoting price. My challenge as the Vice President of Marketing was to develop a long term sustainable position for the brand that would help differentiate it from competition and help generate growth. We asked a lot of questions. What was the brand going to be in the future? Would Jockey become a sports brand? Many people still associated the Jim Palmer ads with Jockey. Michael Jordan at the time was promoting Hanes Underwear. Maybe we just needed a super model.

In search of the answer, I talked to everybody in the company who would give me time. I reviewed all the old ads. I looked at the data to see what products we were selling. I read every email that the company received. We conducted research. I partnered with a fashion magazine that invited readers to share their Jockey story. The answer was simple and obvious. For loyal fans, the brand was about comfort. Yes, physical comfort was important but to the brand’s fans, Jockey was also about emotional comfort. All the company’s efforts were then focused on delivering on this purpose.

The company’s purpose is to “satisfy the human need for comfort”. For the past 12 years, the leadership of Jockey has stayed focused on delivering on that purpose.

What products or brands come to mind when you think about comfort?