Out of college I produced theater in southern New Mexico, mounting a new production every four to six weeks non-stop for 5 years. People rehearsed with me for three hours a night after working eight hours a day. Then they performed on the weekends, all for little or no money. Why would they do this? Working together in service of something greater than you is very satisfying.
Theater is a culture of commitment. At the core of theater is belief. Theater people have unlimited belief power. If a 16 year old playing Mark Anthony in a high school production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar believes he’s Mark Anthony, then we believe it to. Even though we already know the story the meaning of it bears repeating. And most of all we get to experience the meaning of it together with others. Years later living and working in Chicago, I realized that, through brand, business can offer the same experience as theater; I became a brand strategy consultant.
Being human is to make meaning, together. Business people, and rightly so, believe in profit, shareholder value, market share, annihilating the competition, and so on. This may not be compelling or relevant for employees. Even when you pay them they’re unhappy. Knowing you’re in it for the money doesn’t endear much customer loyalty either. Branding is a way of signifying through story, symbols and metaphor, what you believe in and why it matters. It’s a beacon to attract fellow believers to the cause.
There are many business leaders who have a higher purpose. When fulfilled, profit is the by product. If you are one of those leaders, or speak for one of them, I want to meet you. Coffee is on me.