Hatch Communication
What’s in your WHY?

In 1960, a young 26-year old girl by the name of Jane Goodall travelled from her safe England home to an unknown land, now called Tanzania. With no formal academic training, she braved a realm of unknowns to give the world a remarkable window into humankind’s closest living relatives, chimpanzees. Because of her choice to discover, Jane is famous for her great contribution to conservation. And her insights are legendary.

A couple of weeks into the realms of the unknown – the COVID-19 pandemic has entire populations of most nations in its grips. Government and business leaders are scratching heads in war rooms. Swift decisions need to be made that will change lives forever and the way in which we do business will set a new course.

Decisions weigh heavy

Brand messages and actions are zig-zagging direction at a dizzying pace. Sometimes every few days or hours. But it is also leaving plenty of opportunity for individuals and brands in-between to turn inwards to somehow try and make sense of the situation.

As a result of the lockdown, many organisations now have to draft and decode policies dealing with remote working and what to do with employees that are unable to work. They have to figure out how to curb loss of income, how to deal with closures, and retrenchments. And then they also have to answer to public perception of their actions or sometimes in-actions.

Leaders have to make many tough decisions at lightning speed. They have to adapt. Change direction. Retract messages. Calm down employee fears. Calm down consumer fears. Reassure their publics. Adhere to decisive government orders. Defend their stance. Change direction. Lay off people. Find new ways of working. Find new ways to try and mitigate job losses, profit losses, stay open for business.

It is tough. No denying that. So what do you do?

Choose your purpose

Coming back to Jane Goodall. She later wrote that she accepted the job in Tanzania “for no other reason than a real desire for knowledge.” It was this desire that ignited her purpose. One of her well-known quotes jumps out:

“What you do makes a difference. And you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

There has never been a better time for brands to prove that they can stay true to their core. Or if they don’t have a core, how to now dig deeper to discover just what their purpose is in order to make a difference.

This virus and the repercussions of governments’ efforts to contain the pandemic essentially ignore cultures, status, and wealth. And it impacts everyone the same. The process and outcome of the collective inward reflection in order to cope is ‘interesting’ to watch. We see it manifesting in some truly great initiatives and directions that companies have pursued since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Live your purpose

Some of the big multinational tech brands have been mobilising their resources to live out their brand purpose and effect change. Microsoft’s success has a great deal to do with sticking to its core value, which is “to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more.” CEO Satya Nadella detailed at length on his LinkedIn platform its extensive action plans, which among others include bringing in new capabilities within Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365 (now downloadable for free). This is to help employees and students be productive, making collaboration easy and helping them maintain a sense of community while working and studying remotely.

Contrast this to Apple’s mission statement noticeably without a strong core purpose. Instead the statement rather touches on WHAT the brand is doing, instead of WHY: “Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork, and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.”

Under Steve Jobs, the company’s mission statement was: “To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.” Apple CEO Tim Cook has declared that the company is sourcing ‘millions of masks’ for healthcare workers to use. Apple is also focusing on donations towards COVID-19 responses. All pretty much unrelated to their product.

Fast forward a few years and consumers might not remember Apple’s contribution as much as Microsoft’s or even that of Amazon. Amazon is prioritising its warehousing and logistics operations to distribute essential items including daily household staples, baby and medical supplies. During a time of large-scale job cuts, CEO Jeff Bezos also reiterated Amazon’s commitment to hiring 100,000 new roles, along with raising hourly wages for fulfilment workers.

Because Starbucks’ brand purpose is “to inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time,” the company has since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic committed to provide its partners with personalised and confidential mental health care.

Chanel’s recent commitment to close its factory for fashion garments and instead produce surgical masks for French health workers is another great example. Chanel has been a timeless brand for decades now. Its founder, Coco Chanel, is hailed as visionary for her time and by determining her world, she influenced the world. In Chanel’s report to society the company states their purpose to be: “We contribute to a future that creates value for both business and society in a mutually beneficial way.”

Many South African high net worth individuals and brands have also come onboard and is contributing in monetary and other functional ways.

Know why you do what you do

When a brand truly discovers and lives out its purpose through its actions, it has the potential to not only contribute to the overall good of society, but also to influence in the long-term. If this purpose is not yet being lived out every day, there is not a better time than now to ask the question of WHY you as a brand would like to help.

What we choose today has the potential to make a difference on a large scale. Take this time along with employees and top management – go inside, reflect, find your purpose. Think about your organisation critically. Think about where you want your brand to be in the future, and be visionary.

Survival is not enough. Finding your purpose and meaning – that’s what brings brand excellence.

The time to choose your “why” is now.

Additional resources:

In 2009, Simon Sinek started a movement to help people become more inspired at work, and in turn inspire their colleagues and customers. Since then, millions have been touched by the power of his ideas, including more than 49 million viewers who’ve watched his TED Talk based on Start With Why. His talk is the third most popular TED video of all time.

– By Sunet Schoonees, Account Director at Hatch Communication