Companies are moving into a new age. We are leaving behind the post-industrial age when making the best product was enough and the information age when data was a differentiator. In today’s age the difference between product can only be understood by a ‘Which Tester’ and anyone with an internet connection has access to more data that they can possibly process with the tools to filter that information freely available to everyone, from Google Think to Topsy.

We are entering a new age, the Purposeful Age; an age when the strongest companies will align their business and communication strategies around a purpose. A purpose that is defined as the reason a company exists beyond making money and a purpose that defines your value to culture and society and your responsibility to both. A purpose that can exist on a sliding scale from making the world a happier place to delivering against a fundamental human need. Purpose not confused with a CSR strategy; how ludicrous does it seem now to plant a tree after taking a flight…

… it was captured perfectly by Indra Nooyi, the CEO of Pepsico.

“When we articulated the notion of performance with purpose, people said ‘oh, this is corporate responsibility.’ Wrong. This is not about how we spend the money we make. The focus needs to be on how we make the money.”

In this new age a traditional business plan and brand strategy may no longer be enough, they are too easily pried apart and disrupted. In the ‘Purposeful Age’ companies and institutions have the opportunity to join a meaningful conversation around things that matter, take their place in culture and demonstrate their responsibility to society.

Companies operating in the ‘Purposeful Age’ have the ability to not just be affected by the accelerating world and the disruption that surrounds them but to the effect the world around them for the better.

What is driving the move to the ‘Purposeful Age?’

Disruption.

It is the concern of business; every sector is talking about it. When will the Uber or Airbnb of their sector arrive? When will a company be created that focuses on eliminating the inefficiencies in the existing business model of that sector? Will it be airlines, banking, insurance or the energy sector that will face disruption? Probably all. One of the ways to protect against this disruption is to take your role in culture and society and ensure that the world is a better place with your company in it than not.

The world is accelerating.

The decline and rise of companies has been accelerated, in the linear world you could see you competitors ‘coming’ as they grew in a controlled way, you knew who they were. Now new investment models, the power of the public, the ability to scale quickly and cheaply are just some of structural changes that are driving a world where exponential growth of businesses becomes the norm. Your competitor in one year’s time probably doesn’t exist today.

Value is changing.

As the value system of new generation has changed; they are no longer focused on financial return but lead with a thirst for meaning and experience. Operating in the ‘Purposeful Age’ becomes about attracting the best talent to the company. At it’s most fundamental it becomes the ‘skills strategy’ for the company allowing companies to attract the best talent.

What does this mean for communications? We believe the types of services that are needed have changed. The expectations of an agency are different.

To meet these demands we have focused our agency around a model we call the 3P’s:

Performance +

Purpose =

Preference.

These are 10 factors driving that change:

+ Exponentiality.

The decline of a linear world and the rise of the exponential world.

+ Purpose driven communications.

Trust being driven by truth and transparency in communications.

+ Blurred audiences.

The decline of B2C and B2B communications and the rise of B2Hcommunications

+ Future legacy.

Doing good today is not enough. A need for a future legacy, both as individuals and corporations will change our message.

+ Accelerating Technology.

The oldest piece of technology you will ever hold is your smartphone. Accelerating technology is driving new product and service communications.

+ The Power of the Public.

The public are driving change not governments or business. Power is returning to the people. We need new public engagement strategies.

+ New brand coalition strategies.

Collaborations are no longer enough. Companies are forming coalitions around fundamental human needs.

+ Character driven communications.

In an age when brand is no longer enough and companies need look to deeper values.

+ Social curation + publishing.

We curate rather than create the story.

+ Employees as advocates. Inside out strategy.

Your internal audience becomes your most powerful tool.

And what will be next? One thought is that on the horizon and accelerating toward us is the ‘Altruistic Age.’ An age not created by business and fueled by exponential investment but an age powered by the public. An age that will be truly disruptive making the Uber business model appear as irrelevant as Kodak was in a digital era.

An age that will truly change the world for the better.

Simon Shaw, Chief Creative Officer, Hill+Knowlton Strategies UK

For more on this topic, join Simon and H+K UK CEO Richard Millar at Eurobest as they present How to Disrupt Your Business.

“The synergy of knowledge.”

Those four words, scrawled across the chalkboard on the first day of my grade nine science class, formed the basis for four years of science instruction and—come to think of it—an enduring worldview that values curiosity and tangential thinking as the basis for creativity.

It’s stuck with me.

The concept, described by a delightfully eccentric and highly energetic science teacher (who went by the name Skippy), was simple: in his class, we would discuss and explore a variety of topics. Some would be relevant to the curriculum and final exams; others would not. And that was OK, because everything that we would discuss in class—be it molecular structure or professional wrestling—would ultimately have synergistic value in our sum accumulation of knowledge through the semester.

In other words, the interaction of seemingly unrelated facts, ideas and debates would ultimately combine to produce a total effect greater than the sum of its individual parts. And this sum of many parts—this synergy—offered tremendous intrinsic educational value.

At the time, I hypothesized that the concept of “the synergy of knowledge” was manufactured to give license to professorial tangents and off-topic distraction.

But it was more than that.

It was about cultivating a discipline of curiosity. About embracing the tangents and exploring new ways of thinking. And, in so doing, opening oneself to think differently about problems and cross-pollinate ideas.

As a communicator, marketer, storyteller and problem-solver, I take great pleasure in applying the synergy of knowledge to my life. By cultivating a variety of interests, I find I’m able to bring different perspectives to client challenges, place myself in someone else’s shoes or simply collect information to file away, knowing that it may come in handy at some point.

Whether 3D printing, backyard curling, urban beekeeping, tabletop gaming or Harry Potter trivia (to name a few), my (sometimes weird) interests combine with synergistic effect. They spark new ways of looking at the world. They unearth novel audience insights. They foster new connection points with people around me. And they are among the things that I explore and consequently talk about with the greatest passion.

The best stories come from a place of passion and synergy.

It’s no different for brands.

Most organizations have deep subject matter expertise, and no shortage of passion. This tends to be bundled within institutional synergies of knowledge. And these are the makings of brand stories that people want to read. These are the things that organizations know and do that others will find fascinating. How did that innovation come to be? What feat of industrial engineering is behind that object that we take for granted? What’s the quirky tidbit about your company that I’m going to toss out at my next dinner party?

And similarly, how can a brand connect its knowledge to the things in which its audience is most interested? When you unlock the most compelling bits of information and subject matter expertise and pair it with what you know your audience will find the most captivating, branded content sings. That’s where it works the best and travels the farthest.

We help brands unlock their synergistic knowledge and convey their passion to their audiences. We help them find the ways that information can become the connective tissue that helps drive affinity and begets loyalty. Those stories are everywhere; it just takes a little bit of creativity and passion to tease them out.

In practical terms…

I grew interested in the maker movement a few years ago, when I started exploring how to turn retro household objects into Bluetooth phone docks. The more I absorbed, the more passionate I became.

Months later, our team was devising a strategic platform for our client, Absolut Vodka that connected with new generations of creators and contemporary artists. Given Absolut’s heritage of partnering with artists like Andy Warhol in the 1980s and ‘90s, building connections with this new generation of creators and artists—makers—fit perfectly with Absolut’s direction. And so Absolut Makerfest was born.

What started as a pet interest—completely disassociated from client work—blossomed into a multifaceted campaign that included drink-dispensing robots, Twitter-powered lighting installations and tech-infused art. At the crux was the brand’s passion for creative expression, matched with the passion of the maker community, capped off with Absolut’s own synergistic worldview.

The result? Great stories, like an exploration of how Absolut Vodka is made, an introduction to Cocktail Chemistry and many other stories about the world of mixology, cocktail culture and even bar-bots.

As it turns out, Skippy was on to something.

Zack Sandor-Kerr, National Director, Content Marketing, H+K Strategies - SJR Canada

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