I sat down to write WE-Commerce five years ago, and it was finally published by Penguin in December of 2015. I cannot tell you how rewarding it is today to see how my vision of a world where “we would do it for the benefit of the many over the few” has actually come to fruition. When I first started to think about the “world of we” that we are living in today, Airbnb was new, and the sharing economy was simply thought of as a wunderkind economic engine focused on democratizing the use of things like luxury lodging and car service globally.
That provincial notion changed overnight after PwC cited it as an economic niche that would potentially drive $335 billion into the global economy by 2025. Now in 2018, it’s hard to imagine a world that isn’t centered on the power of placing the well-being of the collective we over that of the singular me. Illustrative of this idea is a recent profile piece in the New York Times, where David Gelles wrote about the incredible rise of WeWork from a multi-billion-dollar office space provider, to an entity that is projected to be worth hundreds of billions in the not too distant future. The catalyst for this mind-boggling growth: the company’s mission of instilling a sense of the value of purposeful community into society at large-way beyond the walls of just the workplace. WeWork CEO Adam Neumann summated it similarly to how I did in WE-Commerce, stating that we are heading toward a world “where a mindset of we versus me” will most definitely shape our future.
This phenomenon of doing it for the many vs. the few has led us to the much-heralded age of purpose we are living in today. Holly Branson (yes THAT Branson), like Adam, touches on many of these new ideals in her new book WEconomy. I took a similar POV in WE-Commerce, where I called for a new era of “profiting with purpose”—one where brands would place benevolence at the heart of all they do, with an eye toward doing what is right, not just what’s convenient.
Holly perhaps said it best when she noted: “Purpose is the biggest transformation to happen to business since the assembly line,” and I couldn’t agree more. Ironically, I spoke of the Model T in my book and analogized the Industrial Revolution to our present decade. I highlighted the shared ideal of redemptive deconstruction—one where the world tears down what doesn’t work and rebuilds again anew with vigor. I truly believe that we are exiting a period of darkness with corporate leaders taking on a heightened sense of moral responsibility that will help direct us toward a much brighter and better tomorrow.
I am proud to say that my company Brandthropologie is not just talking the talk, but walking the walk. Not only are we helping brands follow the ideals of visionaries like Adam and Holly, but we are also working to grow the technology of our own new parent company Centiment. Centiment, an IBM With Watson company, is neurodata technology built to do good. For the first time in history, we have the ability to quantify, measure + understand human thought. We are at the forefront of this shift and are helping pioneer a new age of marketing + advertising–one that is emotionally-informed, non-biased + purpose-driven.
I predict that the age of We has only just begun. I see a day in the not too distant future, where the line between personal and professional lives will continue to blur as the need to make personal value statements in all actions escalates. I imagine a bright future where the idea of brands isolating CSR and cause into compartmentalized units will evaporate. I see that in the age of collaboration we are living in today, purpose will continue to emerge less as a function of brand aesthetics and more as a vital driver of business strategy and innovation.
Consequently, in order to win in our new world, brands won’t need to just create the best “things”, they will need to embody the best values and ideals, while demonstrating a commitment to extend the notion of profit way beyond their bottom-line. The world of profit with purpose is here stay, and in my humble view, the age of WE-Commerce has only just begun.