Friday 14 June 2024

Hell’s bells!


I’ve been harping on about Purpose for nearly as long as this old blog has been going. There’s this post, and this one here, then this one about all those Whys and Hows and Whats and their chums, or this about the lack of humility demonstrated by brands (or their managers), and musing on whether brands can save the world. Or not. 

Or you can do a search, or press “purpose” on the RHS, and you’ll undoubtably find many more.

Author Nick Asbury has been way smarter about his thoughts on Purpose, formulated them all into a coherent story, and published a book which was officially launched last night.

Here’s a review I did earlier.


“Your business is none of my politics”

This book is the story of how the idea of a mandatory “higher social purpose beyond profit” gripped the corporate world, especially those involved in brand marketing and advertising. And the result: how purpose leads to bad marketing - and a worse world.

It’s a view, a perspective, backed up with substance, not an academic paper or text book (thank goodness). A lot of the argument resonated with me personally. Although I don’t agree with every word (which would be weird), this book has been an immense help to me in working out why I’ve felt some unease in my work as a freelance brand consultant over the last few years.

I guess everyone who works in brands or marketing has taken their own byway to Nick’s “Road to Hell”. Setting up as a freelancer in 2003, I was interested in how to reconcile integrity and responsibility with business. CSR was the buzzword of the time. Two ex-colleagues of mine from Saatchis, Giles Gibbons & Steve Hilton, had recently set up a consultancy called Good Business and written a book with the same title, described as a “radical manifesto for capitalism.”

To cut a long story short, I supported the concept of corporate (maybe not brand) purpose for many years, until I noticed that it had been hijacked and metamorphised into something else. In the book, this politicising of brands is covered in detail. I still remember the days when I worked for major brands who prided themselves on being “for everyone” and made a point of actively discouraging communication that could be perceived as political.

“The Road to Hell” is free of finger-pointing, preaching and ranting. It’s written with intelligence, charm, humour - and, most importantly, hope. There is redemption - it’s up to us to follow the pointers and find it. And not be too proud to retrace our footsteps.

I don’t buy business books often these days. So many of those lurking in airport bookshops tend to go stale very quickly. But “The Road to Hell” is one that will stand up to re-reading in years to come.


As an interesting aside, that’s the version posted on Goodreads.

I tried with my friends at Amazon.

They told me to go to “H-word place” with my disgusting review.

No comment. 

Gone are the days when they lauded me as a Top1000 reviewer, but today they only really rate ratings.

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