The new CEO at Unilever, Hein Schumacher, is calling BS. He directly positioned himself against the old CEO (as is common) in the latest earnings call by saying they will stop “force-fitting” purpose across all brands. Hellman’s is back to being a cheap creamy white stuff that some people like.
Purpose language, and its close cousin, “family” are always red flags to me -- they signal that more and more will be asked of me in order to sacrifice on the altar of some higher ideal. But business has no ideal beyond the generation of profit, and this is precisely what makes it so flexible, adaptable, and innovative. It’s also what makes it suck the soul out of us humans.
‘Purpose can’t be found in a job-shaped container.’
Superb short read this Paul
I once had a client ask me to invent the ‘why’ of her business for a video she wanted to make. She’d read Simon Sinek and thought it was a marketing technique to have purpose.
I absolute love this piece. The whole sustainability piece was a big part of why I was drawn to Unilever some years ago to work, realized it was a whole facade and a strange way to brand a company that churns out millions of plastic bottles and tons of waste 😂 A job is a job, a business is a business - odd to frame it in an over idealistic way
the unfortunate thing that happens when we seek purpose in "a job-shaped container" is that we forget that purpose is found in our acts of self expression – it's the way we show up as a friend, it's the way self expression that manifests in a side project, it's the way we build community with those around us
seek purpose in self expression over jobs
"you can’t aim at purpose" - that's a profound notion Paul. I think you're right, in the sense that trying to take charge of creating a natural and rightful destiny is has too much hubris in the mix to allow for the magic. But I still believe deeply in purpose. To me it's more likely recognizing that purpose is aiming at us, and we need to relax our ideas about what purpose is and what it looks like so that we can catch what it is that is pursuing us out of the corner of our eye. It's a much more feminine process than we think.
Love this take - such an interesting and thought-provoking read! Out of interest, how do you think companies like Hellmann’s should market themselves to jobseekers/candidates? One of the thing which has struck me whenever I’ve been interviewing university-leavers is that they really do resonate with the “purpose” aspects of companies’ branding. It’s hard to imagine companies abandoning these purposes if they’re resonating with jobseekers, even if the purpose statements themselves are a bit fake and grandiose. What do you think?