Jim Stengel’s powerful new book, "Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World’s Greatest Companies", is a clarion call for all those that ask and seek a lot from the companies they work for and the companies they buy from.
Stengel’s great credibility comes from both his remarkable career - where he rose through the ranks to become Proctor and Gamble's global marketing officer, arguably the biggest marketing job in the world with a $9 billion marketing budget responsibility for famed P&G brands like Crest, Duracell, Gillette, Pampers, and Tide.
And it comes from a study that he commissioned with the brand research firm Millward Brown where they sought to correlate a business’ financial performance with "the kind of bonds that people form with its brand."
Stengel and Millward Brown surveyed brand equity data on over 50,000 brands around the world and identified those with the highest "loyalty, or consumer bonding score."
They ended up identifying fifty brands, from Accenture, Amazon, and Apple, to Visa, Wegman's and Zappo's that scored highest on attributes like "eliciting joy,” “enabling connection,” “inspiring exploration,” “evoking pride,” and “impacting society."
With the caveat of letting skeptics dig into the numbers and methodology before getting overly excited, Stengel’s study found that between 2001 and 2011 these 50 high “human attribute brands” financially out performed the S&P 500 by 395%!
Whether these findings can be replicated or not, what certainly remains is Stengel’s inspirational message that great businesses - in their highest form – are about far more than the bottom line.
They are, for their finest and best practitioners, nothing less than noble causes that are better described in poetry than prose.
Google “immediately satisfies every curiosity,” IBM "builds a smarter planet,” Redbull "uplifts mind and body,” Moet “transforms occasions into celebrations” and Zappos' purpose is to “deliver happiness.”
Stengel’s overriding point is not that idealistically languaging and approaching your business will make you more money, but far more viscerally that doing so is the high value in and of itself toward which all organizations should strive.
And, of course, it can't be just words and platitudes.
Every day the leaders of a business are challenged to choose between their various dancing devils and their better angels.
But, to those that consistently stay on the high plane, or at the least, that catch themselves quick when they fall off...
…well they are the ones that deserve both our admiration and thanks for the inspiration they bring to our workday world.
And, if the results of Jim Stengel’s study hold up, our investment backing too.