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Companies With Purpose – GSD&M

I’m intrigued by companies with strong core purpose and principles. Once such company is the advertising agency, GSD&M in Austin, Texas. This agency was founded in 1971 by four graduates of University of Texas at Austin: Steve Gurasich, Roy Spence, Judy Trabulsi, and Tim McClure.

While the founders recently retired, this agency remains the longest standing partnership in the advertising business. And over the 40+ years they have been in business, they have created bold, successful advertising for companies such as Southwest Airlines, the PGA Tour, AT&T, U.S. Air Force, John Deere, and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, hence my interest.

The story of this legendary agency is told by founder Roy M. Spence, Jr. in the book It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For. Purpose, according to the book, is defined as a definitive statement about the difference you are trying to make in the world. For GSD&M, their guiding purpose statement is to do whatever it takes to grow our clients’ business so that they can fulfill their purpose.

The purpose statement is supported with six core value statements:

  • Freedom & Responsibility – It’s in your hands.
  • Curiosity – There’s got to be a better way.
  • Winning – Play hard. Play fair. Play to win.
  • Community – We’re all in this together.
  • Integrity – It is what it is.
  • Restlessness – Next.

The agency has furthered their purpose-driven culture by creating purpose-based branding as their approach to building their client’s businesses. At Popeyes, we have seen this work brilliantly, as GSD&M have developed a campaign that captures the essence of our brand and has built sales and guest visits for the last four years.

I don’t think this is an accident. When you know your purpose and principles, there is a good chance that they will result in work that stands apart from the crowd. This is the case for GSD&M.

6 Responses

  1. Interesting post. I am going to read the book to determine how applicable this approach may be to health care consulting.

    1. Hi Joy,
      I hope you find the book helpful. My observation is that purpose driven leadership is hugely effective in health care organizations, because so many see their work as having a “higher purpose.” I wish you well in your endeavors.

  2. Public trust in business is at a real low due to the too many failings from Enron through the financial meltdown. Your emphasis on purpose of serving the greater good- shareholders, customers, employees and the public is the answer.There is a real need for more corporate leaders and their boards to walk the talk!

    1. Dear Bill, Thank you for your comment. One of my favorite recent quotes is “Increasingly, business leaders will be the stewards of civilization.” The author, a theologian named Max Stackhouse, argues that business leaders must be prepared to lead where other institutions fail. I’m a fan of getting more leaders ready for the future! Cheryl

    1. Dear Michael, Thank you for your comment. GSD&M has been and continues to be a terrific partner to our company and it stems from their purposeful approach to the work! All the best, Cheryl

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