Marketing innovator says purpose is key to business success


Joey Reiman, founder and CEO of marketing and creative consulting firm BrightHouse, says he believes “there’s never been a better time to be in business” than today because many companies are changing their corporate culture to focus on purpose, not just shareholder value.

Reiman, the 2012 Graham Executive in Residence at the Babson Center for Global Commerce, spoke to students, faculty, and community members earlier this week. His talk, a mixture of personal anecdote, historical reference, and advertising and marketing expertise, drew an enthusiastic response from the audience.

Reiman argued that social and economic trends – among them the end of an historical period of growth at exponential rates and social malaise brought on by a climate of fear in the post-9/11 era – have created in people’s minds a crisis of meaning that gives businesses an opportunity to stand for more than simply increasing the value of their share price.

“People want much more than a point of difference [from companies],” he said. “They want a point of view.” Companies that manage to communicate this purpose to their customers, he said, can build strong customer loyalty and earn much better returns.

For example, Reiman said, the brand loyalty and burgeoning balance sheet of computer giant Apple was largely attributable to the late Steve Jobs’ purpose-driven goal of improving the interaction between people and computing technology. Customers saw that purpose reflected in Apple products and responded. Products that are purpose-driven, Reiman said, “feel better, do better, and people love them.”

He also warned, however, that merely having a corporate purpose is not enough: “There are some purposes that aren’t very good.” Companies seeking to discover their purpose would do well to look to the reasons the company was initially founded, he added. “The fruits [of corporate purpose] are in the roots [of the firm].”

Reiman founded Atlanta-based BrightHouse in 1995 after a successful career as an advertising executive. BrightHouse’s client list includes Coca-Cola, Rubbermaid, Procter & Gamble, and Estee Lauder. BrightHouse was a partner with the University last year in  Sewanee’s 10 percent tuition-reduction announcement.

Cathy Carlisi, C’89, BrightHouse’s chief creative officer, also returned to Sewanee for the Graham Residency. She and Reiman both taught classes and advised students on career paths. To view a video of Reiman's speech, click here.

The Graham Executives in Residence Series at the Babson Center is made possible by a gift from Diane and the late Henry H. Graham, Jr., of Jacksonville, Fla.