The 2017 buzz was all about purpose and experience

As I take a look back over the buzz of 2017, two themes stand out – purpose and experience. One is centuries old while the other is a relatively new idea. They also sit as bookends to my brand equation, so in my final blog for the year let’s take one last look at how they connect up.

Philosophers from across the ages have touted the virtue and value of a purpose in life to help guide and shape what we do. However, despite the storied roots of the topic, more recent rhetoric feels more fad than wisdom. Unmoored from any underlying character and day-to-day habits, purpose today feels adrift in a sea of hyperbole.

At the other end of my equation sits experience, with both customer and employee varieties having their fair share of coverage this past year. Experience is where the promises rubber meets the road. It is what happens once you get past what’s said and sit down in the office, walk up into the store or go to the website.

Yes, a deliberate and conscious approach to the experience you want makes a great deal of sense. However, there are too many people jumping on the customer experience bandwagon after a quick grounding in ‘design thinking’. And what we’re starting to see are experiences becoming the equivalent of cookie-cutter suburbs of the 50s. With street after street of bland, instead of anything approaching a distinctive brand result.

Any discussion of purpose and experience needs to include values and promises. They are what will make them relevant and distinctive. You need values to shape what and how the purpose is delivered. They are the character and conscience, the second half of the identity of the organisation. Together they are your foundation.

You also need to have a solid understanding of what you can do to make promises you can keep before the experience of employees or customers has any chance of being good. A bit of aspiration is fine; it’s good to aim to do and be better at whatever you do. But a good experience lives in what people count on you doing, every time.

Along with values and promises is a whole world of questions and complexity that is part of what sits between purpose and experience.

What you do with your purpose, how does it show up in your strategy? How is it demonstrated via your products and services, policies and practices? What expectations are you setting? Is the experience of your employees and customers a virtuous cycle or a doom loop? Are you keeping the promises you’re making? Are you keeping up with your environment so you can evolve and stay relevant?

In 2018 I’d love to see us all think and talk about this stuff in more realistic terms. Distilling everything down to a single purpose statement and set of experience principles too often equals job done. When if fact it’s only job begun!

And to close out the year, thank you for reading and sharing my words. I’m so grateful and wish you all nothing but joy and peace for the holiday season.

See you next year.

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