How Brands can Create an “Internet of Purpose”

With today’s brand activism, we see many companies deciding to take a stand for a better world. For example, since signing Colin Kaepernick to an endorsement deal, Nike has added $26.2 billion to the company’s net worth.  That is not an accident.

But could Nike go further?

We’ve all heard about the Internet of Things, but what if Nike (or anyone else) used its products to build an Internet of Purpose (IoP)?

Let’s explore the idea (we came up with this while listening to Haier’s Zhang Ruimin at the Global Peter Drucker Forum 2019).

What is the Internet of Purpose?

Does anyone remember the days when bad news was printed on milk cartons? The product (milk-cartons) would raise public awareness of missing children through the message on the cartons.

Now imagine an intelligent product which allows the customer to engage with a cause they care about. As the product is used, the customer is awarded points which can be redeemed in ways that make a difference towards the cause they support. Social recognition and social rewards are powerful tools for encouraging good behavior.

The Internet of Purpose (IoP) is the product/device ecosystem that engages the customer with relevant and meaningful opportunities to do good.

To design a brand-activism program that employs the Internet of Purpose, a company will have to understand the psychology and cultural narrative that resonates best with its customer.

What sort of issue appeals most to the consumer? We have identified seven wicked problems that companies interested in pursuing brand activism may want to consider. We call them the “Wicked 7” because they are key components of the “ecosystem of wicked problems” – intertwined and not easily solved – and yet, these are the very problems your future customer expects you to work on.

Here’s the step-by-step process:

  1. Pick the issue or cause that resonates most with your target customer
  2. Identify how you will support the cause
  3. Design a product architecture that connects the cause to the consumer
  4. Create advertising that builds a narrative for change
  5. Ensure the packaging is consistent with the narrative
  6. Build the “activism-in-use” component embedded in the product
  7. Design the elements of the brand activism campaign that will nurture the consumer as activist: education, calls to action, and alerts
  8. Implement a social rewards program that enables activist customers to support the cause
  9. Measure and communicate the impact, the collective campaign results, with the customer

The Nike Opportunity

How could Nike use the Internet of Purpose to have an exponential impact with its Kaepernick “Just Do It” campaign?

The key would be to connect the shoe to the cause.

Every step you take must help the cause.

How?  Imagine this: Nike pledges to donate $1 million dollar each month to one of Colin Kaepernick’s favorite causes – anti-police brutality, youth initiatives, community reform, minority empowerment, health reform, and nourishment. The winning cause is determined by points donated by shoe owners who accumulate a point for each step they walk.  Points are awarded via a K7 app, and can be tagged by shoe owners towards the cause they select.  At the end of the month, the winning cause is awarded the $1 million.  Repeat each month.  Note: Causes may change, as selected by Kaepernick, over the course of the brand-activism campaign. 

Nike, just do it!