16 Years on a Mission

By Sean Carton \ November 17, 2021

When we started idfive way back in 2005, we knew that we wanted to do things differently. All of the founders had worked at larger agencies and we’d all been struck by how often we saw creativity driven more by whim than by knowledge. Sometimes it worked. Often it didn’t. Rarely did it age well.

We didn’t want to do that. We were united by a belief that great work could only come from great understanding gained from the hard work of learning everything we could about our clients, their current and desired customers, and the forces in the world that influenced all of them (and us). We wanted to do work that was informed by this understanding. In other words, informed design. In fact, we believed in the idea so much that we made it part of our name. That’s where the “id” in “idfive” comes from.

That was the approach we agreed on, but as for a mission…well, that took a little more time to form. We all had a lot of experience in higher ed marketing, and we knew we wanted to continue working in that space. But as much as we all loved higher education — most of us who founded the company had certainly spent enough time there as students, not to mention all the work we’d done for dozens of schools but we weren’t sure what our mission should be. At first.

We all knew we wanted to continue our work in higher ed, but we also wanted to expand into other industries as well. When we started to list the kinds of organizations that we wanted to work for, they all seemed to have one thing in common: they were working every day to make the world a better place. And then it dawned on us: our mission would be to help organizations who were trying to make the world a better place.

It was a simple, but powerful, idea.

We’d come to a point in our lives where doing something meaningful was becoming more and more important to all of us. Not that we were wizened old sages at that point — the oldest among us was 36, an age that sounds younger and younger to me every day — but we wanted to do work that mattered, not just work that was going to make us a bunch of money.

It seemed idealistic then. It still does. But we think that’s a good thing. It hasn’t always been easy — sometimes we’ve had to turn down lucrative opportunities that didn’t meet our mission, and sometimes we’ve had to part ways with talented people who didn’t share our vision. But it’s always fulfilling to bring talented, like-minded people together to help organizations we believe in have an even greater impact in the world than they had before they worked with us.

I don’t think it’s possible to choose any one of our clients as the perfect example of what I’m talking about. We’re proud of all of them. Whether it’s helping a school of public health to improve the lives of literally millions of people, helping a local organization raise money to feed the hungry, or helping a local animal shelter to place a pet with one more forever family, working with brands on a mission has driven idfive through some difficult times, not the least of which we’re all still struggling with as I write this.

Over the years, we’ve worked to infuse our mission in everything we do.

We live our mission by volunteering at our Annual Day of Giving, sharing perspectives and new-found knowledge at lunchtime learning sessions, and working through problems at impromptu gatherings The most tangible example of our mission in action: an office vending machine whose proceeds are donated to local charities (totally justifying those morning chips and afternoon M&Ms).

There are plenty in the business press who will tell you that it makes good financial sense to be a mission-driven company, that finding and adhering to a mission helps drive innovation, and can help attract and retain talented people, but we know that it starts with great people working together for a common goal they believe in, especially when that common goal is to help others who want to help others. Get that down, and everything else follows naturally.

Sean Carton
VP of Growth + Innovation
Sean Carton
VP of Growth + Innovation

Sean leads our Discover360 engagements, gathering data and research to develop the insights necessary for crafting effective strategies for our clients. He has a perfectly varied background for our higher education and nonprofit partners: He’s served as everything from a dean to an adjunct professor to the co-director of a high school cybersecurity summer camp to the leader of a university 3D printing lab. Sean also has an uncanny talent for creating the perfect meme faster than you can search for one.