Playing catch up a bit with the book reports. Am through the second of the year, which was Jim Stengel’s Grow. It’s a book all about how businesses that use a ‘brand ideal’ or higher order purpose can out perform other businesses that don’t.
It’s something I’ve written about on here a few times and it’s even something I wrote a long old essay (back when i was young and naive) about so I was keen to see what Mr. Stengel had to say on the matter.
Like most Business and Marketing books – you can largely get away with reading the first 50-100 pages and the last 50-100 pages; dipping in at will to the middle third to find good examples. By and large the brands he references (Innocent, Apple, IBM, Google) are standard fodder for this kind of thing. The crucial difference with most other pieces on the value of values is that he has linked this to the respective companies performance on the S+P 500 index. So a link between being purpose driven and shareholder return. This is the most compelling part of the book, for me.
He gives a nice new model for how you can create a brand model – a tree – but ultimately, it is the fact he has tried to link back to the outcomes of such a business ethos, is important. In some ways it feels like a quantitative companion to David Hieatt’s book Do Purpose: Why brands with a purpose do better and matter more. Hieatt approaches the subject with the same rigour – but from the perspective of a man who is living and breathing what he preaches; he is building his company according to the books message. It is inspirational, focusses on gut and emotion and doesn’t try to search for big, chunky investor lead ways of justifying his thoughts. Hieatt’s book is less marketing manual, more a call to arms for wannabe entrepreneurs, people just looking for a brief nudge or push to get them out of the warm blanket of a 9-to-5 and out into the real world, blazing their own trail – encouraging them to build something that will matter.
They make a good companion for one another, in a funny way.
The biggest watch out is that these books – by which I mean, Grow – is that they are designed to sell: in order to do that they have to take a position and argue it and prove it. It is, to some extent rhetoric. The brand’s he mentions are the brands that almost every brand and marketing text book highlights as being a good business. We must remember that correlation and causation are not the same thing. Purpose or values or ideals, may indeed be the root of these companies success, or indeed, they may not. It’s a way of cutting the data, not the only way – and that we must always remember. Even Byron Sharp’s revolutionary How Brands Grow favours a certain kind of proof in his data set.
These theories are good but, no amount of text books will act as a substitute for real world learning – for testing the work of academics and gurus on your own projects and clients and seeing what works.