The calls for institutions to explain their purpose and show they are a positive force in the world have been growing louder and louder. I believe chief marketing officers have an instrumental role to play here, as I explain in my article in the latest edition of TCS Perspectives.
Why do I think this is the case? The CMO should own the company’s narrative while serving as an integral strategic leader. That narrative is the story leaders tell employees about how their work contributes to something greater than themselves and the company’s financial performance.
A company’s purpose is something that customers want to hear about, too. A 2020 Edelman survey of 22,000 consumers across 11 markets found that 80% want the companies they do business with to address society’s problems.
Several companies serve as examples for clearly defining a business’s core purpose in the world. The first is toy maker Lego Group, a company that was near bankruptcy in the early 2000s. A key element in its turnaround was realizing its purpose was not simply to make and sell toys to kids. Parents wanted something more from Lego: to inspire their children’s creativity. Defining its purpose this way, Lego developed a portfolio of products that would inspire children to use Lego’s plastic blocks to create their own imaginary worlds. This purpose-driven approach has served Lego Group well. Between 2010 and 2020, its revenue more than doubled.
Another good example is Unilever, the global consumer packaged goods giant. Keith Weed, the CMO until 2020, saw sustainability rise as a major concern for consumers in a world of climate change. He helped the company make green initiatives central to its purpose. Conny Braams, Weed’s successor (who has the additional title of chief digital officer), urged social media networks like Facebook and Twitter to curb online hate speech. As an advertiser, she knows she has the opportunity to shape the overall environment in which her company engages with consumers.
Conny is a great example of a CMO who is making sure her company’s purpose has actual impact. As we redefine so much about our priorities and relationships following a harrowing global pandemic, I expect more and more CMOs will realize the opportunity to help their companies define their core purpose and then take strategic action on it.
Chief marketing officers are uniquely positioned to help define and articulate a purpose that speaks clearly to all stakeholders – including shareholders, employees, customers, business partners and the public at large. The most powerful CMOs have also been instrumental in helping their companies determine a digital business strategy (markets, customers, product and service offerings and their value propositions). Many are also playing key roles in defining the digital operating model: the customer experience, the design of digital business processes, and more.
As you’ll read in my article, ‘A New CMO Role: Leveraging an Organization’s Purpose for Strategic Advantage,’ there is no better time for CMOs to help their companies take a purpose-driven approach to their business.