From Gordon Gekko to Gandhi: A Brief History and the Bright Future of Purpose

In 1995, when BrightHouse began, Gordon Gekko and greed, big cars, and big hair were a mere five years in the rearview mirror. The vestigial race up the corporate ladder was still being climbed with Gucci-suited enthusiasm.


At BrightHouse, we say the fruits are in the roots. You must go back to your organization’s beginning to understand its instructive spark of fire. And you must look at the historical context into which it was born.

 We also say that to understand the big Why – your purpose – you must first understand the smaller why – why your organization was created in the first place.

For BrightHouse, our story opens on Joey Reiman sipping a vodka martini on a flight back from Paris. The giant holding company that owned his then ad agency had lectured its leadership about keeping clients “fresh.” Twisting his lemon rind, Reiman realized that he, that marketing, was really in the refrigeration business—preserving brands rather than serving them and society.

Before drifting into a trans-Atlantic nap, he began to dream about a company that would come to believe marketers, and indeed business, could do better. If the White House were run by thinkers instead of politicians, Joey wondered, would it be called BrightHouse?

After jettisoning the marketing model, mindset and the holding company that were holding it back, BrightHouse emerged as the world’s first Ideation Corporation. Our Thinkers soon realized that some ideas were bigger than others. That, as Aristotle said, if you know your why, you can deal with any who, what, where or when.

The world has always had problems. It’s looked to religion, then to government, with their size and strength, to solve them. Today, business touches every human endeavor. It’s the only entity with both the mouth and muscle to move millions of hearts and minds, and to move the needle in improving public life on the planet.

As we look towards celebrating our 20th birthday this June, having partnered on purpose with many of the best brands in the world, it’s both grounding and elevating to remember that BrightHouse was testing and trademarking our purpose methodology to uncover organizations’ why while everyone else was still focused only on the who, what, where, and how.

People scoffed, even guffawed in many of our early presentations. Before the big studies were done, big business called what we did soft, squishy. Now that there’s hard data to support not just the positive impact on society, but also on the bottom line, purpose is no longer a pipedream on a flight, but has taken flight to become a global movement and hot topic from Davos to Detroit.

Our work is far from done. Restless and relentless innovators, we continue to look for what’s next. Once you know your why, how can you bring it to life with clarity and constancy? How can purpose truly infuse your organization from HR to operations to marketing?

Today, people are more likely to look to Gandhi than Gordon as a hero. Our hair is smaller and less coiffed. And business is learning that better is bigger. It’s March 4th, 2015. And as BrightHouse does each March 4th, we’re marching forth on our dreams. For us, it’s to infuse purpose into every human endeavor. How will you take the day off to take on your dreams?

Need some inspiration? Watch our March 4 video. And on this holiday, take the day ON! Follow BrightHouse on Twitter and LinkedIn, and subscribe to our blog for all the latest findings on purpose. 


Top image: All aboard the soulful excellence plane! CEO Joey Reiman, President and CCO Cathy Carlisi, Director of Strategy Monika Nikore, and Executive Vice President and CSO Dolly Meese.

3 Comments

  1. I picked up reiman’s book thumbs up and it inspired me as a designer! I just got around to check out brighthouse.com and your agencies purpose continues to connect with me. Thank you for bringing out the art in marketing and for making the world a better place.

  2. Thank YOU, Victoria. We are fortunate to be growing, so feel free to send a link with your work to Jeff Harter, if interested in opportunities that should be popping up over the next 6-12 months!

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