March 11, 2004
This mini article rests its case on a definition which makes marketing core to value: helping everyone to look after and be motivated to identify with the most unique human purpose of the organisation. There is plenty of literature which proves this to be the focus around which the majority valuation of the corporation spins, though you may have to search terms such as goodwill or intangibles. What are the 4 tests to see whether leadership teams are supporting marketers in systemising true value building?
First, the marketer must be encouraged to take a stand so that nobody gets bullied too much by short-term metrics. We now know that purpose is governed by different kind of maths from short-term numbers. A management culture that is weak enough to be governed only by short-term numbers erodes its purpose. NASA had 3 main goals: scheduling and costs were contained by the numbers but safety was eroded by them. Purpose is an investment in the whole system and context. NASA failure of purpose lost its challenger’s crew; Andersen’s practice loss of True and Fair purpose destroyed all of the organisation’s value and destroyed far more when you account for other organisations and industry sectors which its non-purposeful measures weakened.
Second, the marketer must stand up for reality-making as well as image-making. I like a little bit of advertising amplifying the corporate brand’s mix but I see no future value in brands that get hijacked by advertising. Both because there is no end to the inflation of costs of being so addicted, and because its dangerous when global image-making takes over from local reality-making. Unfortunately, the same monopoly forces of accounting that believed that the backward-term of the last 90 days should be separated from everything else in the way that boardrooms rule measurements also did a deal in the late 1980s that defined brand valuation to be mainly about imagery. As globalisation and service economies accelerated, a company’s forward progression of human goodwill became more valuable than all the stuff in accounting books so they did a deal apportioning a large part of this goodwill to brand and checked with the advertising industry how they would like brand value to be spreadsheeted. It suited the communications industry to link brand valuation with image spends and short-term ups and downs in market shares; this was a definition which was in most ways opposite from purposeful reality-making. It may have chained increasing numbers of marketers to cost adding instead of value multiplying.
Third, the marketer must not get functionally positioned as representing only the customer interface. Purpose is valuable when it unites all stakeholders in relationship win-wins. Technically, the dynamics of goodwill can be modelled around the trust-flows that are systemised by detecting any conflicts emerging between stakeholders and then innovate resolution of such conflicts before they compound period after period eroding purpose. It is worth noting that any big stakeholder can be the vicious beginning of conflict unless a company’s purpose is united enough not to be distracted. For example, I once worked in a Big 5 accounting firm where framed above the senior partner’s desk was a message signed by Robert Maxwell: “I recommend XXX because they always do precisely what I say.” Although this particular customer endorsement was hurriedly taken down, with the likes of Ken Lay we can ask who in this sector learnt what over the next decade. In contrast, a very wise piece of advice on stakeholder integrity comes from a wholly different captain of British Industry. If you want to be a world leader, ask what risk or responsibility issue society depends most on your sector’s knowledge to transparently govern and make this the hallmark and accountability of all your stakeholder relationships. This is particulary salient advice, if you know that 51 out of the world's largest economies are now corporate not nations. As the most important movies of the new century helps us to imagine, the corporation has positioned itself as the big challenge to worldwide democracy being our local way to respect human diversity not terror as the 21st century's founding lifestyle.
Fourth, the marketer must not be positioned as only identifying purpose with stakeholder demands. He or she should be involved in running the organisation’s hotdesk which any employee can ring or email for confidential mentoring: our purpose is this but the activity I am measured on seems to be conflicting. Please help. If you feel such an internal value exchange task sounds idealistic, let me leave you with one more statistic. In conferences popularising the latest book to come out of Harvard’s Balanced Scorecard and strategy schools, an unusual soundbite catches my attention. Survey data shows that in many companies 96% of the workforce does not know how to execute the strategy. That is the internal scale of the communications crisis existing in companies that do not agree that marketing’s chief role begins and ends every valuation cycle by branding the Unique Organising Purpose (UOP).
We now have many taskforces benchmarking this perspective of marketing around human contexts of value building - ask me for our open listing or nominate one you need help in convening if you wish to give these 4 health tests of marketing's sustainability a whirl
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