the big questions

Why do you exist? What’s your purpose?

Although questions like these sound like metaphysical explorations, we use them when we consult with new clients before creating any design deliverable. When we conduct an internal company audit, it’s surprising how often we find disagreements between company management on basic questions, like “What does this company do? What is its purpose? Why does it matter?” Speaking to executives of successful companies, you wouldn’t think we’d get a different answer from each executive in the same company—but we do.

Answering what the company does may be the easiest, although the answer is still not always consistent. The company’s purpose, or reason for being is much harder and causes the most disagreement. The question, “Why does it matter?” asks for the beneficial reason the company even exists.

Auditing company literature and Web sites often reveal a similar lack of purpose and benefit. Here’s a test. Cover up the logo of your competitor’s Web site and read the description of the company’s products and services. Compare it to competitor number one, two or three and to your own as well. Can you tell the difference between each? Can you cut through industry jargon and understand the purpose and benefit each company serves? This speaks to brand position as well as to communicating value.

You can use different techniques to help you gain an understanding of your company. We often use metaphorical comparisons: thinking of your business in terms of a model car, for instance. Collecting emotional photographs that represent your company is valuable, as is personal expression using drawings. We use such efforts as part of the Discover phase of the modern8 Perception Branding 5D process.