In 2009, Simon Sinek introduced the concept of starting with the “why” as the framework for how great business influencers think, act, differentiate from competitors and, in turn, build the world’s most successful companies. While Sinek popularized the word “why” as a strategy setter in his bestselling Start With Why and his popular TED talks, there’s a parallel word dominating today’s business lexicon and becoming more paramount to what is important in our society and, basically, everything that drives us. That word is “purpose.”

Carrying the baton for purpose is Diane Primo, who claims business has “re-coded its DNA” to make purpose a top priority. As CEO of (what else) the Purpose Brand agency in Chicago and sporting a resume flooded with executive roles at major companies, Primo not only has walked the walk when it comes to purpose but has written the book on guiding companies and their leaders along a purposeful path.

 That book, called ADAPT: Scaling Purpose in a Divisive World  (Weeva), spotlights companies like JPMorgan Chase, Microsoft, Nike and others that have embraced this new cultural identity and also provides practical advice for both advanced thinkers and novices.

“The purpose of business is the business of purpose,” says Primo. “All that we value — an end to racism, a welcoming home to workers regardless of sex, color and ethnicity, the very future of our planets — depends on this imperative.”

Purpose, Primo says, appears simple but is operationally complex. That’s why she details a five-part operational framework — Assess, Define, Amplify, Perform and Transcend — to get readers to purpose’s Promised Land, culling knowledge and research to focus on the new key trends and practices.

TYING BRANDS TO THE SOCIAL GOOD

She validates the shift to purpose-based initiatives with research showing the population’s growing interest in categories like the environment, social justice, civic engagement and giving back — which are replacing past priorities like sports, video games and fashion.

 Tying brands to social good is more than just an internal exercise; it also resonates with consumers. “As many people want to work for and represent a company with a defined purpose, many consumers want to shop at and spend money with brands that are using their resources and platform for social good.”

Think of this very readable narrative as a book that tells the story of purpose. While it offers steps for which every practitioner must account, it also offers real-world descriptions of purpose-based companies in action. One such profile is Patagonia, the outdoor clothing and gear provider that for decades has donated percentages of sales to environmental groups and other worthy causes. The fact that the company has a “Director of Philosophy” speaks volumes about its mission, which is dissected in an interview with that Patagonia DOP, Vincent Stanley.

Many other companies get the up-close and personal treatment, helping readers realize that purpose is not just a buzzword that showed up yesterday. It is a well-thought-out concept, an essential component in how brands what to be perceived.

If you’ve ever pondered the importance of purpose and what it represents in our society and in our leading organizations, there’s nothing to think about anymore. Anyone picking up ADAPT will understand that the strategy is far beyond the philosophical stage. Now is the time to act.

Primo quotes the words of Whole Foods CEO John Mackey who says, “Just as people cannot live without eating, so a business cannot live without profits. But most people don’t live to eat, and neither must businesses live to just to make profits.”

There’s a greater good — or, if you will, a greater purpose.

ADAPT is available for purchase from Weeva and Amazon.

Diane Primo is the CEO of Purpose Brand Agency, an award-winning, Chicago-based public relations, branding and digital marketing firm. She is the only African American female CEO of a purpose-driven communications agency. Diane’s focus on impact marketing stems from the belief that brands must be relevant, purpose-driven and committed to consumers to be successful today. She builds on a groundbreaking 30-year career leading some of the top marketing organizations in the country. She served as general manager at Quaker Oats, president of product management at Ameritech and SBC (currently AT&T), chief marketing officer of CDW, and CEO of a Kleiner Perkins-backed e-commerce startup in the home services sector. A communications innovator, Diane was recognized as such with Ragan Communications’ 2020 Top Women in Communications Trailblazer Award. She holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA from Smith College.