Several times a year we have a marketing advisory board that meets to discuss different topics related to marketing and business. For our meeting this year we were all set to discuss yearly marketing planning activities, getting ourselves ready for the year ahead. 

I had just finished a book, Measure What Matters by John Doerr, which uses a framework to challenge companies, from top down, to identify their Objectives (what you are going to accomplish for the year) and Key Results (how you will measure). 

It was a great read and very useful for taking a systematic approach towards accomplishing goals. It’s always a helpful discussion to hear how everyone tackles this problem and it’s a constant reminder to me that, without the support of senior leadership, there is no framework that will work.

But, in the midst of preparing for the meeting, I was invited to speak locally on personal branding.

It was not a topic I was very comfortable with. I can talk all day about marketing, other people’s businesses, etc. but I felt out of my wheelhouse when it came to me. 

In my typical fashion I started reading and doing my homework. I read blogs, articles, and books, trying to figure out how to talk about myself and how I thought of my “branding.” One of the things I landed on was a YouTube video from Simon Sinek where he talks about starting with “why” when you’re thinking about a brand.

If you don’t have time to watch it, the crux is that while most businesses can say what they do, and some can explain how they do it, only a small fraction actually know why. And yet, why is ultimately the very thing that motivates people to buy from you. 

People become inspired by the story behind what you do, and this has as much power to sway their buying habits as any of your product’s or service’s benefits. 

Ultimately, this led to a lot of introspection and self discovery, not only for me personally but also for our business. I had believed – or perhaps it was ingrained in me from an early age – that my professional life and my personal life were separate. 

What was interesting is that when I started to take inventory of my brand I realized that I had intertwined them. I couldn’t be someone different by night and then someone else by day. My same convictions, beliefs and attitude were a constant. Sure, I like wearing sweats when I get home, but for the most part I’m the exact same person – the good and the bad. 

This led me to think about PRISM’s branding – the meaning we find in our work and the big why behind it all. 

I think I forever told myself that if we delivered results from marketing – a positive ROI – then that gave us purpose. If I knew we were genuinely helping organizations grow, differentiate themselves, etc. then that was enough. But as I started to dig deeper and analyze the business more, a theme emerged. 

I wanted PRISM to make a difference – a real difference with our employees, with our customers and with our communities. 

Marketing doesn’t have to be – and for us isn’t – solely about making that positive ROI. ROI is the basic service that we provide, but we see our work as having the potential to do so much more.

Since this epiphany of sorts, we’ve begun applying this thinking across PRISM. We’ve made internal progress with things like flexible schedules for our team so that work doesn’t rules our lives, and we’ve been winning with some clients who not only believed that marketing could make a difference for their businesses but also for their employees and their communities. At the same time, we’ve been chipping away at helping our community directly through donations of marketing and contributions of our time.

The result? It’s still early in the process, but it’s already been an amazing transformation in focus and attitude. So much of what many of us already felt and believed has begun to coalesce around our focus on doing marketing that matters, and it’s beginning to find its way into our business conversations, as well. 

Why matters, maybe more than anything. 

Without it, all we’re doing is making money, which – while important – isn’t enough to keep most of us going day in and day out. There are plenty of ways we can make money, but what causes us to stay dedicated to our jobs – and what keeps consumers dedicated to our brands – goes beyond just that. 

This is a point that has been made a lot about millennials lately, how they desire to find meaning in their work, and I think it’s spot on. But, to be honest, I don’t think it’s just millennials. I think we all want our work to matter, and that’s really a wonderful thing. We want to see our work as a positive force for good – an honest, hardworking, and authentic effort to leave the world better than we found it. 

I want to challenge leaders and their marketing teams to dig deeper. Find out why you exist and really think about it. 

One thing’s for sure: as consumers, we care about more. So should businesses.