Why purpose is your UBER strategy blog


Why Purpose is your UBER strategy!

Purpose is intangible. Not so says Pepe Marais, founding partner, and Integrated Group Chief Creative Officer of brand and communication group Joe Public United, one of South Africa’s biggest success stories in advertising. We recently chatted to Pepe on what it means to have purpose

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During a visit to the NASA Space Centre in 1962, President Kennedy noticed a janitor carrying a broom. 

He interrupted his tour, walked over to the man, and said “Hi, I’m Jack Kennedy, what are you doing?” 

The janitor responded: “I’m helping put a man on the moon, Mr President.”

Sounds lovely. Great story, BUT…

Purpose is boring.

Purpose is fluffy.

Purpose is intangible.

Not so says Pepe Marais, founding partner, and Integrated Group Chief Creative Officer of brand and communication group Joe Public United, one of South Africa’s biggest success stories in advertising.

How does purpose translate into reality?

We operate in a struggling economy (in South Africa) and we felt three pillars; growing our people, our clients, and our country, were of vital importance.

This is what we believe this business exists for; the ‘beingness’ of the business. So the humanness, the Joe public, the human name we gave it, is sort of the ad agency. But the reason for being the greater purpose, the greater social role to society became growth of our people, our clients, our country, and over the next decade, we just unleashed this incredible experience.

And the proof is in the numbers! The agency has experienced double digits growth, and we’re talking, 20, 30, 40% year-on-year growth, for a decade now.

A purpose-driven dolphin in an aquarium undergoing training.

Business has a role to play in society - that’s the purpose of business

Part of the reason we’re so excited about helping businesses unlock the next level of growth at Whale is that we believe that scale-ups specifically have the potential to most impact the world. 

Just look at examples like bee-io – the Israeli start-up which aims to save the world’s population of bees, while cultivating its own honey.

Start-ups and scale-ups, irrespective of what they do, are the world’s biggest employers. “Over 99% of U.S. businesses are considered small (less than 500 employees)” (Embroker)

Whatever the reason, most businesses have a role to play in society!

How to make it count?

A quick search on Google will yield no less than 11,560,000,000 results

Google search on purpose

McKinsey does an annual report on the subject. In fact these days purpose is very ‘in’. We have Simon Sinek and many others to thank for that but living it is another matter.

“Implementing really actively living your purpose is extremely difficult, even for ourselves.

The intention, I think got us out of the blocks the first seven, eight years, but we had to really look at building systems in the business that measured the growth of our people, the growth of our product, and the growth of our clients…

What would it look like to tie your metrics to your purpose?

What does uncovering purpose look like?

Purpose in business HBR

Passion and purpose outweigh experience every time but what’s your tip for uncovering purpose?

Ask your people why do you come to work? What do we stand for? 

You’ll see that purpose attracts people and you will attract people that have that same driver purpose or value. I think that by engaging everyone, that would help uncover what that means for your business. 

I think that’s when you start really building a brand and becomes powerful! When you see it like this, yielding results, it starts to reframe purpose as something esoteric to an UBER strategy.

“You know, you suddenly think beyond the next quarter financial quarter, you start thinking of the next quarter century.”

Purpose is your UBER strategy

With 24 years in the advertising business, Joe Public United was founded in 1998. Almost a quarter of a century later, they employ about 300 people and have ranked for the fourth year running number one in advertising in Africa.

Impressive, but here are some things you may not know about Pepe:

  • He co-founded One School at a Time, a non-profit education upliftment initiative.
  • In the pounding waves of an early winter storm in Cape Town (South Africa), Pepe was flung onto the breakwater and lost consciousness only to be saved by the man who would later become his co-founder.
  • He holds a Master’s Degree in Purposeful Organizational Leadership.
  • In 2013 he was selected by Financial Mail as Agency Leader of the Year.
  • He loves maths and music and played in bands for 16 years of his life. (He almost left advertising for rock music!)
  • He has been the recipient of numerous local and international industry awards (but is the most down to earth guy you’d ever hope to meet)
  • Has judged at the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival (twice!)
  • His passion is to co-create an environment and culture that breed exponential growth, Growth(n),– the growth of Joe Public’s people, clients and ultimately South Africa.
  • He is also the author of Growing Greatness: A Journey Towards Personal and Business Mastery and  Growing Greatness: 20 Habits That Break Habits.

Now you understand why we wanted to have a conversation with him around purpose!

Every entrepreneur operates from purpose

“I really believe it when you start your businesses as entrepreneurs, you might assume you’re doing it because you want to make money, but in your heart, there’s something greater. 


There’s something far bigger because if it was just for money, I don’t think you’ll find the depth that you need to get a small business, to grow into a medium business and eventually potential large business.”


On the blink of bankruptcy in 2009, Pepe ran a process with their then team of 30 staff members. He wanted to find out why they came to work.


And once he got beyond ‘to earn a salary, to pay the bond, to buy a car’, something deeper started to emerge; growth. The team came together to grow, as individuals and as a unit.

You would think the word should be ‘creativity’, but it turned out to be ‘growth’. 

Readiness to Scale Assessment

Readiness to Scale Assessment

Almost everyone wants to scale their business but where to start? Take our Readiness to Scale Assessment to find out! You’ll be presented with 10 statements that correlate to one of three specific scaling stages in business.

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