Ritson is wrong

I read the recent article Mark Ritson wrote for Marketing Week with surprise and a sense of disappointment; I couldn’t believe someone held in high regard could have such out dated views.

The article was well crafted but Mark’s argument was flawed on so many basic levels. His binary view that “marketing is about profit, not purpose”, assumes the two things are mutually exclusive, they are not, in fact there are numerous ways Purpose drives profit.

Of course, the primary purpose of a commercial business is to make a profit, but success depends on people wanting to engage with that business; people to run it and people to purchase their goods and services. When the attitudes and tastes of those people fundamentally change, business needs to adapt, or risk becoming irrelevant.

Increasingly, employees are seeking meaning in their job beyond the wage they earn, and consumers are seeking enrichment beyond mere transaction. Marketing Week’s Killer Stats to Start the week verifies this, with 40% of consumers have either abandoned or never tried a brand because of its values or behaviours. This behaviour is being driven by an instinctive need to belong to a community of people with shared values, and a desire to take responsibility for shaping a society people wish to live in; it is very clear to most that ‘Profit without Purpose’ has created a world that is unsustainable.

Those businesses that don’t adapt to reflect these new attitudes will certainly see an impact on their profit; from finding it increasingly difficult to hire talent to losing customers who prefer to align themselves with brands that reflect their values. So, if you wish to join the Milton Friedman school of marketing and try to hold onto a ‘Profit without Purpose’ philosophy, feel free, but don’t complain when your customers and employees turn their back on you, or worse turn on you.

In this new paradigm, which no doubt makes the old guard of marketing uncomfortable, business needs a clear and compelling Purpose to attract a new generation of staff, customers and stakeholders who want to engage with brands that reflect their values. And that way lies greater profit.