Making Meaning :: The key ingredient of business in the Naughties

I’ve just been re-reading snippets of Guy Kawasaki’s classic “Art of the Start” – in particular the gems about making meaning, and not just being in it for the money.

Meaning is not about money, power or prestige … Among the meanings of “Meaning” are to

– Make the world a better place
– Increase the quality of life
– Right a terrible wrong
– Prevent the end of something good

The more I think about this, the more I realise that making meaning is the vital ingredient to modern business.

Meaningless business tactics have been the norm in the nineties. Consider the following:

• A pair of sneakers that you buy for $180, costing less than $10 to make, by someone who was probably paid less than $1.80 a day to make them.
• Companies spending millions of dollars on advertising to convince us to buy stuff that we really, really don’t need (4 blade razors, anyone?).
• A product’s cost never includes the true environmental cost.
• Big business becoming so greedy that suppliers like coffee farmers are treated so badly (How crazy is it that ‘Fair Trade’ is a actually something that consumers pay a premium for?).

These ideas aren’t just unjust – they are, well, just old-school (and not in an “I’m cool because I play the keyboard-guitar” type old-school). They’re archaic.

But we are well into the naughties now, and things are a changin. Nice-Guy companies like Innocent, Ben and Jerry’s, Squidoo, Freitag, Simple, American Apparel, Google and countless others are making meaning as well as money.

And it’s not just businesses who are trading in the currency of meaning. Consumers are increasingly making meaning with their purchases, and choosing the nice-guys over the baddies.

Us marketers have earned ourselves a pretty bad reputation in recent decades. But by making meaning, the marketing profession might just allow itself to sleep at night.

One Response

  1. This is a really powerful insight Ben. The ironic thing is that I have found that only when you can move your thinking from ‘making profit’, to ‘worth doing’, will you unlock ways to do the former. I can smell a revolution.

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