Creating Value People to People. Another way to craft brands and do business.
“Bringing back purpose into business.” Ten years ago, it was a provocative statement. Today, it has become an incantation in every boardroom and the question has shifted from “whether” to “how?” How can purpose be something more than a CEO’s story to shareholders and become a genuine driver of meaningful growth? How can purpose, in one move, fuel the success of brands and create real value for the people and the planet around them? This book shares real experiences and inside stories of companies such as Unilever and Coca-Cola, and outlines the “people to people” approach that allowed them to gradually weave purpose and marketing together. Some of these stories belong to marketing history, like the Coca-Cola crisis of 1999. Others recollect recent journeys of growth in business. All of them offer practical inspiration for business and purpose engineers.
Read the afterword by Marc Mathieu, Former SVP of Marketing, Unilever & Current CMO Samsung
Looking back through history, more than 100 years ago, I get inspired by the vision of a few great men who — at least for me — were the fathers of our craft.
“If I had asked them what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”
“We will make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles.”
“Why does a woman get old sooner than a man?”
Ford. Edison. Lever. They saw the world not as it was, but as it could be. They lent their vision, their creativity, their name — and their brand — to help us believe in the progress and possibility of a better tomorrow… for everyone.
Freedom. Progress. Life. Their brands embodied their dreams. But how did that happen? And why?
I fundamentally believe that what enabled the Fords, Edisons and Levers of this world to be the pioneers of marketing was their innate ability to see people — truly see them — with a humanity that was empathic, intuitive, and authentic. This, combined with their passion to help improve the lives of the ones they served, made them the noble men of their time — the men who understood how an automobile, a light bulb or a humble bar of soap could make life better for everyone.
But towards the end of last century, following the golden decades of progress and possibility, we entered into a period that resembled more selling for the sake of selling, a time of status and stuff.
Gradually, we lost touch with our own sense of purpose and our own understanding of the real world — and the real people — all around us. The mothers striving to raise their kids. The fathers fighting to support their families. The teenagers struggling to find their identities. People — with emotions, with fears, with anxieties… with fundamental questions that today’s ever more complex world fails
People determine a great brand. Not you. Not me. Them. They decide if the brand is powerful, if it’s iconic, if it will stand the test of time. To create something that actually matters to someone — I mean really matters — something that’s more than a pretty box or a beautiful ad, you have to know them. The numbers, the reports and the analysis are necessary but not enough. You need to know what really drives these people — what are their hopes, their dreams, their fears? What keeps them up at night? What makes them smile? Oftentimes it isn’t what you think.
Now more than ever, we must listen to the people we serve and learn from them. Only by truly knowing them can we do what’s right for them.
And brands are our means to do so, our change agents. More than ever, confronted with massive change — and uncertainty all around us — brands with strong ideas are essential. They will guide our lives and become critical in shaping culture and society.
Marketing is a rigorous craft. It relies on numbers, yes, but also stories. And truly great stories have an emotional thread, one that takes the logic and mastery of a well-crafted script and brings it to life with the magic of ideas, of inspiration, of imagination.
The most beautiful thing about Christophe, Benoit, and the rest of Innate Motion is that they never forget this. They operate always as people for people. They remind organizations and brand teams each and every day of the importance of people. They engineer value, culture, purpose. They help us shape new behaviors, new rituals, working in a space that addresses strategy and moves beyond it… to a place of action, of co-creation, of realization.
People. Brands. Magic. At Unilever, these are the beacons on our journey of reinvention: we call it crafting Brands for Life. It embraces the challenge of Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan — to double the size of our business while reducing our overall environmental impact and increasing our positive social impact — and holds true to our original ideals, back to the times of William Lever, when we first crafted marketing to improve people’s lives.
For too long, we have tried to make marketing so predictable that we have lost the magic that makes it unique. Our craft isn’t just a mathematical field, it’s a social one too. Yet the drift from art to science, from right to left, from emotional to rational, has eclipsed the magic that made marketing so marvelous to begin with. We must rediscover our humanity, rediscover the magic of being people working for people, if we are to craft brands in this new era.
Ultimately, our goal is to make people feel something. Make them laugh. Make them cry. Make them something. But realistically, how can we do that unless we’re able to feel it ourselves? At the heart of any magical piece of marketing lies a human emotion. It might be pride, fear, happiness, humor. Marketing needs to touch people. And we, as marketers, are people to. If we can’t feel it, why would they?
To rediscover our humanity, we need to turn up to work as the real people that we are, with heart and soul. It astounds me that we find it so difficult to be human in one of the places where it matters most – the place where we make decisions each and every day that will affect thousands of people.
Can brands become real forces for good, beacons of positive change? And can marketers be the architects of a new culture where a great life and a sustainable lifestyle become synonymous? Yes, of course. We know that they can and should, that we can and should.
It’s the getting there that’s hard. With crafting Brands for Life, we worked with Innate Motion to put tools in place that could do just that — get us there — get us to a place where we are actually doing things differently, not just talking about it. We engaged them to help us turn strategy into action, to help us change our ways of working, with new tools and processes that today, I cannot imagine working without.
Our brands have an opportunity to play a positive role in people’s lives that extends far beyond the functional role they play as a product — to help them deal with the struggles in their lives in ways that really matter.
I have known Christophe, Benoit, and the team at Innate Motion for quite a while. I admire and share their passion and their belief in the positive power brands can play for business, for people, and for society.
We first met during my years at Coca-Cola where we worked together to revive the great icon of happiness, an uphill journey in a time when many had lost the belief in the power of the Coke brand. Today, we are in another journey at Unilever, changing the way we think as marketers inside a massive organization.
But in a world where it is so easy to become cynical about business and marketing, where it is so easy to forgo those tough and arduous journeys, they develop practices and tools to inspire your team, implement change, and make tough journeys a little bit easier.
They are my colleagues, my cohorts, my secret weapon, and my friends. We are lucky to have had the chance to affect so much change together, and we will keep climbing, uphill, always.
– Marc Mathieu