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09 Apr. 2020 | Comments (0)

Jim Stengel, 2017 American Marketing Association Hall of Fame inductee and former Global Marketing Officer (GMO) at P&G sat down with The Conference Board’s own JP Kuehlwein to discuss how to translate purpose into powerful brands and profits, partner with startups, and remain helpful during the COVID-19 crisis.

Question: How did you bring purpose to life as GMO at Procter & Gamble?

Answer:  P&G was in the middle of a business crisis; a couple quarters of bad earnings, a new CEO, and 70 to 80 percent of brands were losing market share. We had to begin with the issue at hand—taking P&G through a massive transformation. We reached out to the organization to ask why employees joined and why they stayed. Most shared they wanted to be among the best, become great leaders, and change the world in some small way. This level of aspiration became the company’s North Star and helped facilitate the cultural push necessary to become a more creative communicator.

Question: How far have brands, organizations, and marketers come in the purpose journey?

Answer:  I asked 150 senior marketing leaders to grade themselves and their organizations in three areas: 1) how well they identified their purpose, 2) how successfully they activated and lived said purpose, and 3) how well they could measure purpose and establish KPIs. The first question received roughly an A- from those in the room while grades dipped closer to a C- for the second. By the time these leaders responded to the third question there were Fs all around. Until we can identify, live, and measure our purpose in one full cycle our journey won’t be complete.

Question: Is measuring purpose possible? How can we implement metrics in the short term?

Answer: KPIs have proven difficult to establish in measuring something as effusive as “purpose.” However, with advances in big data and analytics we can begin to make sense of how using this emotional leverage leads to causality with financial results. One thing we can do in the short term is bring the topic into performance reviews to ask how employees are bringing purpose to life with their own actions. Any shift in a brand’s mission begins with discussion, engagement, and individual behavior change.

Question: What are some best practices when partnering with startups to get closer to goals around purpose?

Answer: The first thing to do is to ask yourself why you’re approaching a company. Don’t dabble because it’s fun. Intentionally seek out interesting organizations who share similar purposes and can challenge the way you work. Quantitative studies show that the most successful partnerships exhibited one characteristic—they put the startup leader in charge of the initiative. These partnerships also often practiced “ring fencing,” or allowing the startups to continue with their traditional operations to preserve the DNA of the brand and shield it from influence of the larger group.

Question: How can brands be purposeful in the COVID-19 era and beyond?

Answer: When we communicate externally we need to be human. Communicate with generosity and an appropriate sense of optimism. Be caring, empathetic, and honest. Don’t push yourself where you don’t fit. Most products can be helpful, just take the time to reflect on your purpose and priorities before chiming in.

In terms of our internal practices we need to pause and ask what we’ve learned about working creatively and with agility. Things won’t go back to normal—normal will be something else and some categories will be changed forever. Even if we could go back to what we did before it means we would have wasted the learning. Make the time to reflect and see what worked for us and our teams. It’s all about leadership.

This blog is based on the April 2, 2020 webcast: A Conversation with Jim Stengel, Former Global Marketing Officer at Proctor & Gamble, hosted by The Conference Board. Some responses have been edited for this format. To view the entirety of the webinar or download the presentation click here.

Don’t miss the next one! Register here to join us on April 16th for Beyond the Metrics: Creating Meaningful Engagement Through Communication. Live participants can ask questions and are eligible for one CPE credit.

  • About the Author:Kenzie Kline

    Kenzie Kline

    Kenzie Kline is a Manager of Executive Programs in the Marketing and Communications Center at The Conference Board. Her previous position was with Ogilvy & Mather as a brand strategist working for…

    Full Bio | More from Kenzie Kline


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