The impact hope has on a business

One of the ideas that had most impact during this year's Marketing Leaders Programme was that marketing leaders should leave people feeling 'more hope'.

Steve Langan, Managing Director of Hiscox, and Ian Crook, Marketing Director of, both used this thought to explain the positive impact they have seen great leaders have in their businesses.

In line with the words of Napoleon, one of the key roles of any leader is to create an inspiring vision of the future that lifts people's spirits and gives them a sense of a better tomorrow. And there are some unique and important ways in which marketers can bring this energy to a business.

By identifying exciting new market opportunities and providing insights that open up innovative sources of competitive advantage, new paths to business growth and success can be generated. Greater purpose can also be brought to the lives of employees throughout the company by finding ways for their brands to serve customers in more meaningful and responsible ways. An extreme example of this can be found in Unilever where the people working on its Pureit water purifier brand have posted charts on their walls showing the number of lives they are protecting as their business grows.

Keith Weed, Unilever's Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, believes strongly in the contribution marketers can make in bringing to life a view of the future. One key goal he has established is for Unilever to be the world's best marketing company. By setting out its stall to 'make sustainable living commonplace', it is in the vanguard of a movement to create a more socially and environmentally responsible role for marketing and for business as a whole. In addition, its marketing strategy of 'crafting brands for life' also provides an inspiring manifesto for Unilever's marketers and the role they need to play in practice.

Visionary strategy of this type can have a transformational impact in galvanising people at a big picture, cultural level. But it is equally important for marketing leaders to leave people feeling 'more hope' in the interactions they have with them on a personal, everyday basis. Their behaviour in making people feel valued and listened to has a vital impact on their spirit and motivation from a bottom up perspective.

It must be stressed that hope alone is not enough. Making grand promises and raising people's expectations to an unrealistic level can be counter-productive in the longer term if not backed up with authenticity and delivery in practice. Hope will only be a precursor to disillusionment unless leaders pay as much attention to how their vision will be delivered as to the creation of the vision itself.

Managing people's energy and spirit in this way is not necessarily something that marketers would see as central to their role. But if they can work to inspire the business strategically, as well as the people within it to realise their potential personally, then new heights of business and personal performance are likely to be reached. And that seems like something worth hoping for.

Originally posted on the Marketing Society Blog here.


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