Branding, Okinawa Style

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Since starting my career, sometime towards the end of the 19th century, and until going independent I had the opportunity to be a part of seven different organizations. I had long terms (6 and 8 years) and shorter terms (of a year). Great successes and grand failures. In a moment of perspective, I ask myself — what made the organizations where I stayed and succeeded, to be those I’m proud of to this day? What made them stand out from the others, where I preferred to leave early?

Or in a nutshell; What makes an organization one you stay at?

Despite what you may be thinking, for most people the answer won’t be: “Liters of money”. There are million research documents showing financial compensation is important, but is definitely not everything. Many times an employee that accepted a position “because the pay is great” will be the first to leave.

To answer this question, somehow I keep circling back to this diagram:

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I already wrote about it here, but those four circles that come together to form Ikigai (“A reason for being” in Japanese) go with me for years now. A complete life approach with a simple core — you find the “Reason for being” where the circles meet; What you love, What you’re good at, What you can get paid for and What the world needs.
According this approach, as long as you’re looking for this place you’ll feel uncomfortable.

So why do I write about it again, and how does it fit?

You can be part of a really excellent company. Well managed, spoiling employees, compensating generously and brings about great business results. My argument is that if the company is only going after the bottom line, there’s a good chance it will not be able to retain employees for any extended period of time. Wait, what? Isn’t making money the goal of any private sector organization? Well, yes. Obviously. But some companies focus on a bigger purpose. Something they want to achieve, a change in this world, an impact. And of course, making money while doing so. These are the companies that have Ikigai.

Yes. What allowed me to bond with companies I thrived at was that the company had a purpose bigger than the financial goals. In these cases there was a group of people working together to win, to create an impact, to change the world. To become significant. Not necessarily “Find a cure for cancer” — modest goals achieve the same effect as well. When you, as an individual, connect to the bigger purpose, and feel you have an actual ability to affect the outcome — that’s where the magic happens.

I’m trying to bring this insight into my Strategic Branding work

I’m going back to the Ikigai diagram and attempt to apply it to organizations (at the end of the day, organizations are a group of people sharing a common goal, no?). Successful organizations have a purpose. Yes, there’s the circle of making money (and at the end of the day, how much is “enough” money is a personal perspective). But there are other circles. When I meet with organizations’ owners and CEOs, I’m trying to understand what do they love, what drives them, what are they passionate about. I’m trying to understand what they are good at — them and their organizations. What place do they want the organization to take in this world. What kind of impact do they strive for? In short, draw down the diagram of the organization’s purpose.

When we have it, when it’s real — that’s when the people that fit best come in, and everybody is in sync in front of the common goal. When the heart is in the right place, business results won’t be far behind.

Yes, Okinawa people, the birthplace of the Ikigai, did not consider marketing, companies or branding. But maybe unintentionally they created the best branding model in the world.

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Practical Strategy for the Digital Age. Strategic consulting with practical attitude & deep understanding of the digital sphere.

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