Can a thing have a soul? I believe the answer is yes. The greatest products, services and organizations all have a soul, one that is representative of the people that create them. In a world of great competition, me-too products and similar service offerings your soul is the only thing that truly differentiates you. It determines why someone picks Nike over Adidas or Coke over Pepsi. Why they watch Leno instead of Letterman or Fallon instead of Kimmel. It creates the special emotional connection with the audience, customer or employee. Some people call this brand essence, personality or voice (Fred Wilson has a great post on Minimum Viable Personality). I prefer to call it soul since I think it is a combination of these things that makes something special.
Soul is defined as 1) the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life, 2) the spiritual principle embodied in human beings, all rational and spiritual beings, or the universe, 3) a person’s total self, 4) the moral and emotional nature of human beings.
While these definitions focus on soul being tied to a person with the use of words like, “individual life” or “rational beings” I think you can argue that things can inherit the soul of their creators. Below are some of my favorite examples of this.
Soul in Product – iPhone 4S: This phone clearly has a soul. It is a symphony of wonderful features, technology, services, design and utility. The brand clearly stands for something and it attracts a certain person.
Soul in Service – Southwest Airlines: Every aspect of this service screams soul. They have a deep love for their customers and it shows in their overall brand personality. On-time flights, bags fly free, bags rarely get lost, cheerful crews.
Soul in Organization – Zappos: Delivering Happiness. A poster child for great culture. CEO, Tony Hsieh outlines his process for finding happiness. What are you passionate about and what is your purpose? If you answer these questions the profits will come naturally.
What are some of your favorite examples of soul in products, services and organizations?