Recently, we completed a new show open for E!’s hit series, “Fashion Police,” and found ourselves focusing on the aspirational nature of fashion for the open’s theme. The fashion industry is driven by an unabashedly honest mandate to be aspirational. As much for designers and brands as for the consumers they create for. Aspiration, along with motivation and inspiration, is a key part of the trifecta that’s essential for any company to grow, but it’s not where we usually place our emphasis in our industry.
As brand marketers and designers, we operate at the intersection of business and creative, equally influenced by both industries. In the business world, the focus is on a very outward, but down-reaching goal of how to increase motivation from interactive programs and books to motivational speakers. In the creative world, we put so much emphasis on where we get our inward inspiration, via conferences and award shows, design annuals and publications. Both have their place, certainly, but without the key ingredient of the forward-thinking key of aspiration, we’re losing an opportunity to focus on long-term change.
We focus so much on motivating employees and inspiring good ideas, but do we really focus on our own aspirations for our company? Maybe we should take a cue from that industry and as entrepreneur Curt Hanke puts it, be a little more “naked with our ambitions.”
But to really be sure we’re incorporating aspiration into our company’s mandate, it’s important to understand how motivation, inspiration and aspiration differ. Motivation is a complex driver that governs much of our life, especially our basic needs. It can be summarised as “the desire to do things.” It can be biological (“I’ve got to finish this project by lunch because I’m hungry and need to eat.”) or psychological (“I’ve got to finish this project by lunch because it was due last week, and I don’t want to get fired.”) Within this context, aspiration can be seen as a “long term hope” or “goal.” Your aspirations can motivate you to work hard and get things done to achieve your further reaching goals (“I’ve got to finish this project by lunch because I want to start working on the idea that will make me the next Leo Burnett.”). While inspiration is a sometimes fleeting injection of some higher reaching creative that we’re trying to make accessible on our own level, budget, time or talent-wise.
Aspiration is about raising the bar from within. That’s why it’s important to revisit your aspirations on a regular basis, whether for your career or your company. And, by keeping your aspirations as goals at the forefront of your company’s mission and feeling proud enough to share them with your partners, employees and collaborators, you’re essentially broadcasting your confidence in your own brand. So, even if our wardrobes haven’t changed much since the ‘90s, maybe we should all aspire a little to be more like the fashion industry and reach a little higher.