Make Meaning Grid

lifebuoy“The best reason to start an organization is to make meaning,” says Guy Kawasaki (in The Art of the Start). It could be to right a wrong, or save a life. Equally well it could be to raise hormone-free beef on grassland.

But assuming you are struggling with how to define your business in terms of meaning, you can use this grid as a way to test your own business and its products. It is not a ‘right or wrong test’, but rather a stimulus for your personal reflection.

The marketing message will be greatly facilitated by the conceptualization of what your business is all about, rather than simply being attached to the practical aspects of it. Though beware that the behavior of the business is likely also to define the meaning of the business, for good or bad.

The well-worn marketing nostrum of stressing benefits rather than features is taken one stage on by working on meaning. The message you want to convey about the business will flow very naturally from the meaning of the business. The Make Meaning Grid will help you to establish the meaning of your own startup and create bonds with customers that go beyond product characteristics and price.

The Startup Owl’s Make Meaning Grid

Meaning Match
example: a Toyota Prius–to make a smaller travel carbon footprint
Beauty example: an Apple computer–to appreciate high functional design
Community example: Patagonia clothing–to feel part of the eco-adventure fellowship
Creation example: a Betty Croker cake mix–to do your own baking
Duty example: a pack of Seventh Generation washing liquid–to lessen landfill
Enlightenment example: a subscription to National Public Radio–to support fair journalism
Freedom example: a cup of Equal Exchange coffee–to support 3rd world farmers
Harmony example: a Ford computerized key–to limit stereo volume for young drivers
Justice example: an Aveyda beauty product–to reduce unnecessary animal testing
Oneness example: a U2 CD–to feel connected to like-minded activists
Redemption example: a Nautilus machine–to restore personal fitness
Security example: a Dell laptop with fingerprint reader–to prevent data theft
Truth example: a ShoreBank account–to have a ‘transparent’ financial service
Validation example: a Rolex watch–to confirm that you can afford luxury
Wonder example: a pair of Tubbs snowshoes–to walk appreciating the snowscape

based on ideas in Making Meaning: How Successful Businesses Deliver Meaningful Customer Experiences.

There are, of course other kinds of meaning that your business and products may have. The Make Meaning Grid from the Startup Owl is intended as a model against which you can define your own meaning. Guy Kawasaki says, “Meaning is not about money, power, or prestige. It’s not even about crating a fun place to work.” The meanings of ‘meaning’ implied by the ones in the grid above, are to make the world a better place or give significance of non-material values.