Leading for a higher purpose

The recent publication of the GROW study by Millward Brown and Jill Stengel, featured in this quarter’s edition of Market Leader, highlights one of the most impactful leadership roles marketers can have in driving the growth of an organisation.

The study identified 50 brands with extraordinary growth rates, together achieving a shareholder return of nearly 4 times the S&P 500 average over the past 10 years. The core conclusion was that these brands were similar in one key respect – they were all driven by a clear brand ‘ideal’, a higher purpose to improve people’s lives in some unique way. Examples include IBM’s aim to build a smarter planet, Red Bull’s to energise the world and Method’s to ‘be a catalyst in a happy, healthy home revolution that improves people’s health’.

The central role of marketers in any business is to identify how to create better value for customers in ways which drive sustainable, profitable growth. This involves a combination of insightful market segmentation and smart commercial thinking.

But it also requires that the primary differentiating benefits the business will offer its customers are defined and expressed in ways which will inspire, engage and provide direction for everyone involved.

Not only is this vital to generate interest and demand from customers for the company’s brand proposition, it also helps drive greater engagement and commitment from people within the business itself to actually deliver the benefits promised to customers in practice. By creating brands that are based on ideals, everyone has more to buy into – customers and employees alike.

We have just completed the first phase of this year’s The Marketing Society's International Marketing Leaders Programme 2012 run in partnership with Brand Learning, the leadership development initiative run by the Marketing Society in association with Brand Learning. In this year’s discussions, the role of brands in providing an inspiring purpose for organisations came up several times. Ian Crook, Marketing Director for Tesco.com, spoke about the importance over the years of Every Little Helps as a translation of their core value – “No One Tries Harder For Customers”. Kerris Bright, former CMO at Akzo Nobel, also described the galvanising impact of Dulux’s mission to use colour to transform the environment in which people live.

Stephen Lehane, Corporate HR Director at Alliance Boots, talked of the need to “excite people in the organisation to higher performance”. His colleague, Torvald Veale – International Brands Development Director – explains further: “Boots has re-energised its retail business using the idea ‘Feel Good’. It’s about people feeling good about themselves, looking good and having confidence. The idea has captured that internal sense of ‘that’s what we stand for’. In an organisation with so many thousands of people who are themselves really passionate about the business, giving them a clear sense of purpose has been transforming.”

If marketers are to play a strong leadership role within their organisations, they have to be clear about what they are leading for. By choosing to lift their game to a higher level and create brands that stand for things people really care about, the world will be a richer place. And if the evidence of the GROW study is anything to go by, their businesses will be richer too.


For more information about how Brand Learning can help you lift your organisation’s customer-centred leadership capabilities, please get in touch or contact me directly @AndyBird_BL. You may also like these films, perspectives and resources on Customer-Centred Leadership.

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