University of Arkansas

Walton College

The Sam M. Walton College of Business

Ep. 2 | Purpose-Driven Leadership in Client-Focused Business with Jim Stengel

Jim Stengel
January 11, 2021

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What kind of marketing leadership competencies will be most useful in the future? What does customer-centricity mean for marketers of the future? What advice to give students and those early in their careers in business today? 

Renowned marketer, thought leader, and author Jim Stengel, takes on these questions and more in episode 2 of It’s a Customer’s World podcast. Jim is the president of the Jim Stengel Company, host of “The CMO Podcast,” and bestselling author of “Grow.” He also works as an adjunct professor, a speaker, and an advisor. He and Andy discuss such topics as the role of the CMO, purpose-driven leadership in a challenging season, and what great leadership looks like. 

The conversation begins with lessons from Jim’s recent sabbatical before turning to the subject of client-focused business. After considering the global nature of client centrality, the need for a total ecosystem, and shifts in shopper marketing, Andy and Jim look to the future. Using the cardinal directions of the compass for guidance, Andy asks Jim to explain how he imagines the future will look. As he covers the compass poles, Jim details what parts of the present business space he expects to see either maintained or left behind, how business finances and purpose will develop, the age of creativity to come, and his hope to see government and business foster stronger complementary roles. The conversation concludes as Jim fields questions from Molly Rapert’s Walton College students and shares closing thoughts, and as Andy explains, what’s next on the horizon for him. 


Episode Transcript

Andy Murray: (00:05)

Hi, I'm Andy Murray. Welcome to It's a Customer's World podcast. Now, more than ever, retailers and brands are accelerating their quest to be more customer centric. But to be truly customer centric, it requires both a shift in mindset and ways of working, not just in marketing, but in all parts of the organization. In this podcast series, I'll be talking with practitioners, thought leaders, and scholars to hear their thoughts on what it takes to be a leader and today's customer-centric world.

Andy Murray: (00:43)

In this episode, I spoke with Jim Stengel, on the evolving role of the CMO and the leadership characteristics that will be important as we navigate a difficult and uncertain future. Probably nobody engages with more top-level CMOs than Jim. He's a highly respected thought leader in the marketing industry, and widely known for innovation and for commitment to building leading edge marketing capabilities.

Andy Murray: (01:08)

After spending 25 years in marketing at Procter & Gamble, seven of them which were spent as the Global Marketing Officer, Jim decided to focus on a new mission, a new quest, to share his passion for growing businesses through a focus on higher ideals. Jim is president of the Jim Stengel company, host of The CMO podcast. He's a best selling author with his book, Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World's Greatest Companies. He's also an adjunct professor at Kellogg, Northwestern, a [inaudible 00:01:39] speaker and an advisor to several companies.

Andy Murray: (01:42)

To me personally, Jim had a profound impact on the direction I would take with my agency when he was at P&G. His approach and authentic sense of caring about his partners left an indelible impression on me for what great leadership looks like. Jim and I covered a wide range of topics, including how customer experience is broadening the role of the CMO, and how purpose driven companies are faring much better in these difficult times. We also talked about what great leadership looks like, and how our society and culture is calling forth for a new way, a new kind of leadership. Let's take a listen.

Andy Murray: (02:27)

Hi, Jim, welcome to It's a Customer's World. I'd like to ask you a question right out of the box. You shut down your entire team for the month of August and went on a sabbatical. I'd like to know one thing you are carrying forward that you did in August that's going to stick?

Jim Stengel: (02:45)

Lots of things, Andy, and it's good to see you. Lots of things. I'd recommend it for everyone to take some time to just shift. Because I think it helps us think differently, it kind of recharges, renews. Certainly one thing I did more reading of long form stuff.

Andy Murray: (03:02)

Oh, fantastic.

Jim Stengel: (03:02)

I think we have trouble concentrating on long form stuff in our daily life, so I just read a couple remarkable books. I sort of deliberately trying to eat better and exercise more. And of course, we always try to do that, sometimes more successfully than others. But I'm kind of carrying that forward now, I am carrying the reading forward. I just think the other part of it is to not be so scheduled, to allow some serendipity in your life, to allow some thinking time.

Jim Stengel: (03:33)

So anyway, we're going to do it again next year. In fact, we're even going to think about doing it a bit in December. Not total shut down, but things get slow anyway. But just deliberately, intentionally try to do different things with our life. I just think it's important.

Andy Murray: (03:49)

I think that's fantastic, and I think at the agency world, they tend to shut down the last two weeks in December as part of that creative rejuvenation. And I just think it can be a challenging to get work done, but at the same time, it's really, really necessary. I tell you, one of the reasons I was so excited to get you on this podcast about customer-centric leadership is because of what you did 20 years ago, at Procter & Gamble as the global CMO, you had that foresight to see that shopper marketing was something of a way to get closer to the customer. And I would probably characterize that as almost the first wave of what we call now customer-centric leadership and organization. But if you could take me to that moment when you realized that this was a global idea?

Jim Stengel: (04:36)

Oh, Andy, it could be a long story, but I'll make it short. I came in as CMO, the company was not doing well. 75% of our brands were losing share, organization, lack of energy, creativity. We forgot why we joined the company, right? So we did a major reboot of the marketing organization. And I established for the first time a global marketing leadership team, so I wasn't in an ivory tower, we actually had everyone involved. And we made a real deliberate choice on where we wanted to build competitive advantage for P&G. And if you don't do that intentionally, it doesn't get done. And we picked three things. Now, I guess, they're still relevant, right?

Jim Stengel: (05:19)

One was shopper marketing. We wanted to be as good at understanding people in the store, as we were understanding people in their homes, where we spent more of our resources, how did people clean, do laundry, take care of their skin, we wanted those same tools to be brought to the store. So that was number one.

Jim Stengel: (05:36)

Number two, which we won't talk as much, we wanted to improve our innovation hit rate. Let's become a better innovation company by focusing on the process. And the last part was we wanted to be better at reaching people where and when they were receptive to our message. So those are all three, still pretty good. And you never get complacent on those. And P&G built a really, really strong muscle, as you know, in customer marketing.

Andy Murray: (06:02)

Yeah, and at that time, it wasn't a thing yet. I mean, it really was a forefront, it was really regulated almost to the sales function as something that they needed to do versus something marketing embraced. And so the fact that that came alongside brand marketing was pretty novel approach at that time, so.

Jim Stengel: (06:19)

It became part of our career path, part of our rewards and recognition, part of where I spent time. When I was named CMO and publicly announced, in my first week, I went to Bentonville to visit our customer-marketing team there, and to talk to them about how they run the forefront, how what they did will affect the entire company, they're having a global impact, they're establishing the capability. I wanted them to know that this was on the top of my agenda.

Andy Murray: (06:46)

Well, it's interesting, not only were you doing that with the marketing team, and helping them understand that, but I remember a phone call that I got from you when you shared your thoughts about going global with shopper marketing. And you were concerned, quite frankly, about the implications of what that meant for the agency ecosystem that needed to support that. And so you were willing to help me think through next steps and created some introductions that changed the whole trajectory of my life. What made you think so intentionally about the rest of the world that you have to work with, the agencies as well, because that is something you don't always see, the easy way is to just tender that and say, "Okay, we'll find whatever we need." But you were very intentional in building the total ecosystem.

Jim Stengel: (07:28)

Well, I think one reason P&G has been so successful for so many years, really up to now, is they have leveraged external partners in a very, very powerful way. And they always have had the humility to say, "We're good at some things and not good at others. And we can't do anything alone." And so if we're going to be great brand builders, we have to build a network and an ecosystem of partners who compliment us really well, who challenge us, who think differently, and who have different capabilities.

Jim Stengel: (08:00)

We didn't have that in shopper marketing. And we certainly had it in media, we had it in design, we had it in advertising, but we did not have it. So you were part of that, Andy. You were part of building out that capability for the company, and taking P&G to a whole different level, which has paid out very nicely for the company, and I think for shoppers and consumers.

Andy Murray: (08:24)

Yeah, and as I look back at that time period, I think it wasn't just the way you looked at the agency relationships as a key business partner, but I would say throughout your organization, whether it was [Dina Howe 00:08:35], who showed tremendous leadership and commitment to me, personally, and to the organization to get better, to go through thick and thin, don't give up, keep trying. Julie Walker fell in behind her and many others. That was a real ethos in the culture that I think reflects well on your leadership at that time, because it does make a difference. And going through some areas that you're pioneering, and you don't really have all the answers, even as an agency, we were in a real discovery mode together.

Jim Stengel: (09:03)

And it took leaders like Dina and Julie to pioneer, right? They were not to be stopped, they believed in it passionately, they brought data to it, they brought energy, they brought ideas. And just part of my role as CMO is to elevate them and elevate that. That's what every leader needs to do, right? Find the people in the organization that are passionate about the right things, and get out of their way, help them be successful.

Andy Murray: (09:31)

Well, it was an exciting time. And I can tell you that I really appreciate the leadership that you guys provided, you specifically, and Dina and others to shape this industry. And I feel like this now new customer-centric leadership that we're seeing emerge, probably from the omni-channel connection that's happening so intensely, it probably is a reshaping of what shopper marketing was to get even closer to the customer through technology, and insights, and redesign that customer experience, so it doesn't look like it's moving away from what a brand marketer needs to be thinking about, right?

Jim Stengel: (10:03)

No, not at all. In fact, COVID certainly has accelerated all of that. But it was happening before. And if even look at how top marketers define their jobs these days, it has shifted, and we are becoming more integrated. And we are becoming... Look at Kellogg's now has a chief revenue officer, chief growth officer, she has many, many disciplines under her, including shopper marketing. Look at how AB InBev has organized, look at how P&G has organized. It's recognizing that the shopper and consumer are no longer two different people. I mean, they never were, but we sometimes put them in different thought processes in our companies.

Jim Stengel: (10:48)

But now, in an omni-channel world where people want to get involved in what delights them and be able to buy the product or service so quickly, so easily, and have it come to them in a way that is not a hassle. So the principles through which we establish it are as relevant as ever, it's just kind of shifting how we deliver and how we interact.

Andy Murray: (11:11)

Yeah, for sure. Well, I'd like to tap into your experience and instincts about the future, because clearly, you saw it coming 20 years ago regarding that customer integration. But I'd like to maybe move at it a little non-traditional. Everybody's thinking about what's coming next, every marketer is thinking about that. I know you talk to many, many top leading marketers as part of the CMO podcast. And from what I've seen, there's no map, we're not going to get a map to the roadmap to the future. But because maps are great for what you've already been or seen or done before, but not necessarily for unchartered areas. What you really need is a compass, what I like about the compass, and if we could walk around the four directions of a compass as a way to maybe hear your thoughts, a compass has a lot of ancient mythology around the meaning of those symbols that gives us some really interesting places to look. So are you up for that, to help me build [crosstalk 00:12:05]?

Jim Stengel: (12:04)

Sure, let's go. I'm all in.

Andy Murray: (12:06)

Excellent. So let's look west, first. West is typically symbolized sunsets, and looking into where today becomes yesterday, you've probably seen a lot of sunsets from where your place is in California, but when you look west, and see the things that have happened yesterday, or the recent yesterdays, are any of those that you see will take forward into tomorrow, as a directional piece, are any of those probably not coming forward?

Jim Stengel: (12:36)

Well, to go with your metaphor. I mean, I think we, I hate to speak a lot about COVID, but COVID is an enormous thing going on in our life that is going to stick with us for the rest of our lives. I think what COVID has done, it has sunset a lot of how we used to work. And one of the really positive things coming out of this sunsetting of how we used to work in COVID, and I know this because I've spoken to about 30 CMOs in the last 30 weeks about what's different during COVID, and how are they leading differently? This is a reasonably good database, of really, really top level people and great companies and great brands.

Jim Stengel: (13:16)

The first thing they all talk about is the agility in their organization, the decisiveness, the lack of bureaucracy, the focus on the customer, the focus on being of service and being useful, the focus on creativity, the focus on humanity, and being themselves with their people and bringing everyone's full potential out in how they work. So great leaders have always done this, this is just kind of put this massive amplification on that.

Jim Stengel: (13:47)

And people like Michelle Peluso at IBM and Pedro Earp at AB InBev and Shelley at Ulta, kind of saying, "There's no going back. We will never work the way we used to again." So we have no idea where that's going, but it's positive.

Andy Murray: (14:04)

That's a very positive thing. And probably what I've seen, too, is the leadership objectives that were formed at the top have gotten whittled down to very few, which makes you wonder, did we have too many objectives in the first place?

Jim Stengel: (14:16)

For sure.

Andy Murray: (14:16)

I mean, it's so hard to focus and get energy against eight complex things that we feel we must do to transform, but in reality, is it really eight? I mean, when you get to two or three of survival mode of what COVID's brought, it is refreshing to see that energy.

Jim Stengel: (14:31)

Yeah. Mandy Rassi, who leads Kroger's marketing, I had a really good interview with her about how things have shifted for her. And she just used this incredibly powerful language. She just says, "My mind is so much clearer. I am just so much more focused on what matters, and all the static and crap that was in my head is out of my head." I mean, it's pretty powerful.

Andy Murray: (14:58)

That's very powerful. Well, let's cross our fingers that that trend continues because I think that has trickled all the way down through the organization not just at the top. Now, if we turn north and look at north, symbolically in ancient mythology, north meant that trek to the frozen tundra, where you got to have provisions and provisions determine how far your quest is going to go or not, and probably the metaphor for us to link into is that provision of marketing's spend, how much money do we see having and how accountable on the return on that money, how will that provisioning take us forward in that journey?

Andy Murray: (15:37)

So as you look north, do you see budgets getting bigger, smaller, post COVID? Do you see a change in the way that media and marketing is measured in any different significant way, and how we use those provisions? Think about it from that macro perspective, what are your thoughts on that? Because that's really a key point on what fuels the energy for the marketing organization.

Jim Stengel: (15:58)

Well, to state the obvious, Andy, and you know this better than anyone, so many brands just realized how deficient they were in getting their product and service to people in COVID. So call it omni-channel, call it e-commerce, call it whatever you want. But when they had to shift quickly to a different way of helping people, a lot of companies realized how slow they were, how siloed they were, and how ill-prepared they were for this shift, which had already started, it just went faster.

Jim Stengel: (16:30)

So money is going there, because people realize, "Wow, this was painful." So I think we're going to continue to see the capabilities to be there for people to deliver very, very quickly and seamlessly and to be not creepy, but to be useful. That's a powerful word I'm hearing from a lot of people now. So I think money is going... it's already going in that direction, which is a mixture of a lot of things. It's organization, its talent, its infrastructure, it's a lot of things, as you know.

Jim Stengel: (17:01)

I think the other area is measurement's always been an issue, it was an issue 20 years ago, it's still an issue today, it's dynamic, it's changing. But there are technologies, there are companies, they are entrepreneurs who are inventing things to help us do this better. And you're going to see still a relentless focus on that. And I think we're going to get rid of, I think, these terms, performance marketing, and brand marketing. I mean, they're just weird.

Andy Murray: (17:32)

Well, and what's really hard, the financial model that I've had to live with, as well, is the return on investment and how you measure that. And conceptually, everybody wanted to move to something more holistic, like lifetime value of a customer and understanding that, but it took still a leap of faith because we don't have the multi-touch attribution to capture all the data points, especially if you look at customer journey elements and investing in a customer experience where you change toward an app, and fighting those things forward.Business cases weren't there yet.

Andy Murray: (18:03)

But it's interesting through this COVID period, that we kind of put some of that restriction or measurement aside, as we just did what's right for the customer, whether it was tell more stories about how our colleagues or associates were working with customers to help. And it seems... and purpose. Many, many companies, I feel pivoted a bit more toward purpose-type communication. And that's your sweet spot. I mean, have you seen that?

Jim Stengel: (18:28)

Yeah, I thought with North Star you were going to go there, but you went to the tundra. So I'm going to warm it up and go to purpose, if you don't mind.

Andy Murray: (18:34)


Jim Stengel: (18:35)

No, I feel like this is... I heard one CMO say... the way that our purpose helped us during COVID was how quickly the supply chain pivoted on our purpose. And this was a food company. So it's about getting really good, safe, reliable food to people really, really quickly. So she said, "It just showed me the power of our purpose for how the supply chain just did remarkable things to keep that company helping people out." But I think whether it's Ulta or IBM or Peloton, or AB InBev or whoever, those companies that were already grounded in purpose, who knew what they were about, who knew what was important to people, who had a purpose that uplifted people, it impacted their life in a way beyond their product and service, they were ready to shift, the entire organization was ready to move more quickly, pivot a bit, and they're coming through this really, really well, and they're coming through it with even more energy.

Andy Murray: (19:35)

It's interesting. I kind of see there's two different types of companies that were caught in this moment. One were, if you go using a different metaphor, grasshoppers, that when they molt, they just get bigger, faster, and they'll go through seven seas of moltings. But a caterpillar to a butterfly, if you get caught in the chrysalis, where you're neither one, you're not a caterpillar or a butterfly, because you maybe haven't done that hard work already, it's a very different experience. And so you feel these companies that are caught in the chrysalis, or they are actually just going faster to become the faster, because it was already there. Is that metaphor resonate with you?

Jim Stengel: (20:11)

Oh, for sure. Absolutely. And if you're in that mental state, get out of it.

Andy Murray: (20:16)

Yes. Otherwise you'll become a soup. There's no place there. [crosstalk 00:20:20]-

Jim Stengel: (20:20)

The other thing I would say relate to the North Star and purpose. I think there's been a lot of confusion about purpose over the years, about is it a philanthropy idea, a cause marketing idea, is that a marketing idea, is it a public relations idea? And I think we move beyond that. I mean, it's a company idea. But I think this crisis we're going through, which has so many facets to it, economic health, social, racial, I think you are finding companies that their employees and their customers are expecting them to be activists in the right ways.

Andy Murray: (20:57)

That's right.

Jim Stengel: (20:57)

I was talking to a tech company last week, the CMO of a tech company, and the person said to me, "Our employees, they are upset by what is going on, and it's not okay to be on the sidelines." So this element of acting to do what is right for equality, on many, many different levels is with us to stay. I think it is, we're in the early days, but companies are stepping forward and its actions, its commitments, it's not just statements, and this is getting to a different level of urgency. And I think that's another positive thing coming out of these dark times. And I think that's going to shift purpose a bit, and it's going to shift, I think, what people work on, what they look for, and at the end of the day, what they bring to consumers.

Andy Murray: (21:49)

Well, it's such a powerful narrative of what purpose can do, which has been brought to light now, it feels like that. And the reason I had it kind of connected to provision is one of the barriers to being more purpose centric, is the financial modeling all the way through that you might get it, that some share stakeholders would say, "Does that really drive the bottom line or not?" It feels like that's been parked a bit, because it's such a visceral moment we're in, that it's one that you feel and you know. That doesn't mean that eventually at some point, the financial connections to purpose and financial performance won't be asked again. But it's almost a non brainer, now, that's not even a question we should be asking. I know you're doing a lot of work about how to connect those dots even tighter, right?

Jim Stengel: (22:33)

Yeah, that's where I'm spending a lot of my personal time, and my team's time. We had an off site, Andy, about two years ago, when my company hit the 10 year anniversary. And we got together for two and a half days, and we just really probe what we're proud of, what impact we've made, and what's needed. So we felt pretty good about getting purpose on the radar, about helping people do it, bring it to life in the organization. But we felt the world needs better measurement, they need better measurement of purpose, actions and activation to financial results. And why can't we do that in this world of big data and AI?

Jim Stengel: (23:10)

So we went on a search. And we talked to lots and lots of different clients, companies, brands, blah, blah, blah, we charted a team, then we found a company about six years old that was doing work on real-time measurement and correlation of brand equity data to financial results. We said, "Well, it's not too big a leap to go into purpose." So we started piloting with them for 9, 12 months, and we eventually said, "Let's form a partnership." So the company's name is BERA, B-E-R-A be, I mean, I'm not pushing them, but I believe in them. And I think they're doing really, really interesting... In fact, there's a very geeky financial article coming out very soon that I previewed about the BERA data and what happened to brands during COVID. And showing those brands that acted on their purpose, are achieving better financial results in COVID, than those who have not. We've got to crack this. We have NPS which is okay, but it's not really linked to results. So-

Andy Murray: (24:08)

It's hard to move the needle as well. [crosstalk 00:24:10]-

Jim Stengel: (24:10)

Yeah. And we need something that when you move the needle, you know this is going to help your customers and help your business, and I think we have the potential to do that.

Andy Murray: (24:19)

I'm looking forward to hearing more about how that evolves with BERA. Let's turn south and look south. South, symbolically, has often represented where the warm air comes in the winds and where labor and workforces thrive. As you look at the workforce, and the workforce meaning those in marketing and the ecosystem agencies together collectively. I heard the retiring Facebook (of) CMO recently talk about, we're going to enter an age of golden... a golden era of creativity is coming. Now if that's true, that post COVID at some point in 2021, '22 will see this golden era of creativity, it presupposes there'll be a supply of that creativity within the workforce.

Andy Murray: (25:02)

But as I look south, a lot of our workforce, especially since the Industrial Revolution has been that discretionary time that you enjoyed in August of creativity and think time has been a bit challenged as we get more and more KPIs focused on efficiency, scaling efficiency. And then if we're going to really need to scale creativity to meet this golden era, well, first of all, do you believe that the golden era of creativity is in front of us? And secondly, how do you feel about where we are today in the workforce about having that head space and discretionary thinking time to be creative?

Jim Stengel: (25:38)

Yeah, I think the table's being set for that, and I appreciate Antonio saying that, and I think it... If you look at history, the long view, so many, I hate to use the word, but paradigms are being blown up, right? On so many levels, personally, people feeling vulnerable, their families. So, so many things have changed, and so I do think things are going to come out of this that are highly creative, in terms of ideas, in terms of urgency, intensity, the polarization of our politics is awful. But I think it's also pushing people to be ever more committed about what they believe.

Jim Stengel: (26:21)

So I do think we're going to have new companies coming out of this, new services, new expectations from people, as employees and as consumers, we are going to have more diverse people in our companies. So the elements of it are all going to be there. And so I think he's right. I don't know, well, none of us know what shape that's going to take. But it does mean that an inordinate amount of time by our leaders, and especially marketing leaders, is going to have to be spent on nurturing and challenging our organizations.

Jim Stengel: (26:55)

I think this whole area of talent, potential motivation, connections... And all the CMOS are talking about it. Someone said that the best leaders are rising up, and the poor leaders are being seen more quickly in this era of COVID. So-

Andy Murray: (27:14)

Well, that's interesting-

Jim Stengel: (27:15)

I think he's right, I don't know where it's going to go, but I think he's right. And that's, again, that's another positive coming out of these times.

Andy Murray: (27:24)

One of the positives I see, because the space has been pressed against to the brick and mortar traditional space, what comes with it is agile. When you work in an agile environment, there's a demand for creativity, because you have to test and learn, you have to create that space and empowerment. And that's a new thing that's really starting to hit... A lot of marketers, I don't think, really have worked in a pure agile environment, but that's now becoming a way of working everywhere. And as such, that will, I think, create more head space and processes that let you think creatively as part of your day job.

Jim Stengel: (27:56)

Yeah, I mean, we go through lots of waves, right? It was total quality for a while. But I think agile is, if I did a word cloud of the year and a half I've been doing podcasts, agile would be in the top five.

Andy Murray: (28:10)

Yeah, unless you're the [crosstalk 00:28:11]-

Jim Stengel: (28:11)

[crosstalk 00:28:11] the most dramatic cases, Michelle at IBM, who's moved 4,000 people to agile working. But I see it in some way, shape, or form in nearly every CMO I talk to.

Andy Murray: (28:22)

That's fascinating. And I'm seeing quite a bit in the customer experience space, because it's also one of the most misunderstood spaces. A lot of people see agile as just another word for velocity, when actually it's using a scientific method to test and learn and create, so lots of probably misnomer. It's like they were in shopper marketing when people didn't understand it, is coming along that.

Andy Murray: (28:41)

So you might have touched a bit on looking to the east, but the east is the funnest part, because you're looking out toward the sunrise and what kind of promises you see coming that will indicate the future we're going to have. And so when you look east, what gives you hope?

Jim Stengel: (28:56)

I think what gives me hope is so many of these issues that we've had in society are being exposed. And yes, it comes with dissension and, unfortunately, violence sometimes, but they are being exposed, there is passion about changing them among many people. So I think this surge in a civil society, of all... it sounds like we're not living in a civil society. But I think there are a lot of people unhappy about that. And how that's going to impact business and employees, and what we focus on, and what consumers are expecting, is going to be pretty profound.

Jim Stengel: (29:35)

So my hope is that we act on all of this, and I think we are, and my hope is businesses are shifting and businesses are the force for positive change, now. My hope is government understands their role in this. And I and I think it's a complimentary role, but I think we've lost sight of what government's role is in a civil society. Businesses are picking up the slack, and they're doing remarkable things, and they're innovating. And that should happen, and we need more of that.

Jim Stengel: (30:07)

But we also need, if you look at the most productive phases of society, of our history, in any country it's when government and business are working together with clear idea of what they're trying to create. And I think we've lost sight of that. So that's my hope. It's a big hope. And we'll see where it goes. But I'm very proud of what many businesses are doing to stand up and rise up. And that will continue. That's positive.

Andy Murray: (30:36)

Yeah, me too. And I would say that gives me more hope, and that's the era we need to put more hope in. Big data is interesting and helpful, the power of AI, there's lots of promises that may or may not have gold yet, at the end of that, but this is a much bigger conversation that I think as leading marketers are embracing and starting to talk to in every country that I've seen and had conversation, and so that's really, really helpful.

Andy Murray: (31:06)

Last area, I talk a lot to students and the students love getting a chance to interact on some of these podcasts. So Professor Molly Rapert, of the Walton College of Business has, with her marketing class, asked her students for what kind of question might you ask Mr. Stengel, and-

Jim Stengel: (31:22)

I love that.

Andy Murray: (31:23)

So, this first question is from Matt [Barber 00:31:27]. Matt is a marketing and business management major who watched your 2012 TED talk, let's listen to Matt.

Matt Barber: (31:34)

This question is for Jim Stengel, and Jim [inaudible 00:31:37], I watched your 2012 TED Talk called the era of higher ideals of business, very much enjoyed that, I thought it was really an awesome story. And my question was, in the TED Talk, you talked about mission-driven brands and provided evidence as to how they've outperformed some other companies, not just financially, but in other aspects. Why is it so difficult for companies to achieve the level of congruence needed to really transition to a mission-driven brand? And what is stopping or holding back companies from making that transition?

Jim Stengel: (32:10)

That's a great question. And I hope I can give you some wisdom, my experience anyway, from working with lots and lots of organization. What's holding it back, it's a different kind of leadership than many of us were trained in or brought up in. It's a leadership of listening, it's a leadership of empathy, it's a leadership of service, it's a leadership of engagement, it's more reflective leadership, a little bit more thinking versus doing. And so many CEOs and top executives get caught up in an activity system, and don't take the time to build a coalition of people in and outside their company who are trying to bring their higher ideal or their higher purpose to life. So to me, it's a way of leadership, that's a barrier.

Jim Stengel: (33:03)

And the second one is, we too often don't take the time to get everyone aligned on the same page, connected to the business. If purpose is not seen by the senior leadership team as a way to be a better company, and to be a company of higher creativity and higher customer engagement, higher passion and better results. It's not going to work. Purpose is not to the side. One CEO said to me once, "Well, I have the business to run, and then I have the purpose." And I said, "No, it's the same." And until we get that thinking, it will not work. So I think it's about one team at the top believing this is important for the company and important for success, and it's about how we lead.

Andy Murray: (33:53)

I would suggest the same thing is true with customer experience. It's not really a functional thing. It's not the bricks, but it's the mortar. And I would see purpose as the mortar between the bricks, which we don't have that all as sharp of focus on sometimes as the bricks, which would be the functional departments. But without the mortar, it's just not going to hang together. So I love that. A second question, this is from Jacob. Jacob is a marketing major, and let's listen to his question.

Jacob: (34:21)

My question is for Mark and Jim, in regards to different approaches to marketing today. As I've been learning about the different leading voices in the marketing world, it's evident to me that there are multiple paths to success in terms of marketing philosophy. So my question is kind of a situation, imagine that you are consulting for a brand, and through your research and such, you think that a different thought leader's approach might work better for that particular business. For example, Byron Sharp's approach might seem ideal in maximizing this business's potential.

Jacob: (35:04)

I choose Byron Sharp just because it seems like he has a very different way of thinking than you two, but anyways, in this situation, would you take a page out of Byron Sharp's book and possibly apply his approach to that business? Or would you stick to your guns and move forward with your classic strategy that you know has worked for you in the past? Thanks.

Jim Stengel: (35:27)

Yeah, Jacob, good question. Hey, if we ever reach a point where we stop individually learning and developing and challenging ourselves, it's not good, it doesn't go to good places. So I am always trying to be curious, self critical, expanding my knowledge, and Byron Sharp has brought a lot of good stuff to our field. And I agree with him on almost everything, actually. And I think this idea of higher reach, and bringing more people into a brand franchise, and creating awareness, and having kind of cues for your brand that trigger something, I mean, that's all great marketing. And too often we walk past that stuff. So I think Byron has brought a lot of good stuff to our field.

Jim Stengel: (36:16)

Your example of walking into a client, I never walk in... I didn't do this at P&G, I don't do it since I left P&G. Every time I work with the team, I try to figure out where they been, what's important to that brand, that company, that team, what has worked, when were they at their best? So we always have to understand the history of something, because there's always insights in the history.

Jim Stengel: (36:41)

So I don't go in with a preconceived notion that, "I'm going to pound you in the head with purpose in business will be better," I go in with, "What can I learn about this team and this brand? And how can I bring what they're trying to do, with what I can offer, to come up with something that will help them?" My team and I are not people to pull something off a shelf, we go in and we're anthropologists, or sociologists, or psychologists, we try to come up with something. Our philosophy is we're grounded in purpose, but every company does bring that to life in a different way, because every company is different. They're all unique.

Andy Murray: (37:22)

That's a great answer. And really, every category you might have to approach quite differently. From a travel, hospitality, looks very different today than a CPG company.

Jim Stengel: (37:30)


Andy Murray: (37:31)

And so what works for them is going to have to take a lot of deep dive understanding. So, great answer. Thank you, Jim. And then one last bonus question. This is a lot easier, I hope.

Speaker 5: (37:41)

This question is for both Mr. Stengel and Mr. Ritson, what has been the most important lesson in your career?

Jim Stengel: (37:48)

The most important lesson in my career, that's a good one and a tough one. And I should have thought about this before I came on. I would say it is to be self aware enough, to be sure you are doing something that plays to your strength, and that you really are thriving, most of the time, you are in that work. And that is certainly what drove me to leave P&G, when I did, I had a great career at P&G, I still love the company, it's very much a part of me.

Jim Stengel: (38:19)

But I realized that I wasn't doing... the percentage of the time I was spending on what I'm passionate about was not high enough. So I tried to build a career and a life where I was working on things that really turned me on most of the time. And bringing my strengths to the world in a way that was helpful, was useful. And I think for every one of you, whether you're starting your career, or making a big career change mid career, as I did, that you take the time to think about and be explicit about when you're at your best, and what are the characteristics of when you're at your best, and how can you find something where that's happening most of the time? That is such a simple line of thought, but so hard to do. And so many people don't do that and end up in careers and fields, where they're frustrated, or they're not reaching their potential. And along [inaudible 00:39:14] away, that was my most important lesson.

Andy Murray: (39:15)

But that's great, and it really speaks well to the last question overall, which is anything to say to the students who are getting ready to graduate in May, perhaps, and looking at a world that might look a lot different than what it would have looked like a couple years ago, any advice or thoughts to them? And what you just shared was super, so I don't know if there's anything more to add to that. But that was really good.

Jim Stengel: (39:37)

You're never going to forget these time, right? I'm not sure I remember the year I graduated and what was going on, I mean, I remember a little bit, but this is an indelible year in all of our lives. And I would just realize that you're living in a special time, and for all the ups and downs of that, and to approach that with confidence. And I use that word very carefully. I think when people start to lose their confidence, it's bad. And times in my career where I felt like I was losing my confidence, it was not good. And this is not easy to do sometimes when you've had a bunch of job interviews, or some rejections or whatever it might be, but deliberately keep your self-confidence.

Jim Stengel: (40:23)

Whatever that takes, you got to where you are, you're graduating for many, many good reasons, and you ought to be proud of that, and all of you bring something to a company, to the world, to society. So just keep your head up, keep confident, this is a difficult time to be entering the workforce, but it's also unique, and it's interesting. So just keep your swagger, keep your confidence, and things will work out for all of you, I really hope, and I think they will.

Andy Murray: (40:54)

Wow, fantastic. Fantastic, Jim, that's such a great word. And probably also to look at uncertainty as a gift sometimes, because sometimes [crosstalk 00:41:05]-

Jim Stengel: (41:05)

[crosstalk 00:41:05] probably come up, Andy, that would happen in normal times.

Andy Murray: (41:09)

Absolutely. And it actually, if we get comfortable with more uncertainty, we might find we have a more creative life in front of us. And so that's a great word. Any questions for me? Or any last thoughts, Jim?

Jim Stengel: (41:22)

What are you looking forward to in the coming year, Andy?

Andy Murray: (41:24)

Oh, wow. Well, I'm looking forward to what this next year is going to bring for me, personally, on a big quest, which is a brand I'm launching in April of next year, which gets into a lot of what we're talking about, is just trying to help people find a thing that lets them come alive and take on some bigger ideas. It's just as much work going for a small idea as a big one. So you might as well go for a big idea that challenges you to grow and help organizations do that with more clarity.

Andy Murray: (41:50)

So I'm excited about getting that off the ground. And I'm also scared to death because it's a big step for me. And you and I've talked about that, and you've had great advice on how to think about building a platform and a launch, but it's one of those challenging things I put myself out there to do, I'm excited about that. Hopefully it will make a difference in people's lives.

Jim Stengel: (42:09)

I love it. Go for it. Let us all know how we can help.

Andy Murray: (42:12)

Absolutely. Well, thank you, Jim. It's been a real pleasure. We'll talk again soon, I'm sure.

Jim Stengel: (42:17)

Great, Andy, all the best, great being with you.

Andy Murray: (42:24)

That was my conversation with Jim Stengel. Jim is such an experienced but fresh voice for both leaders in marketing and those just entering into this dynamic and challenging world. Jim shared many great thoughts around how we need to evolve as leaders and to learn a more influential and engaging style of leadership. He also spoke very candidly and with wise words of encouragement to students who are about to enter the workforce who are early in their career, to see this time and place as an indelible year and the importance of keeping our confidence high.

Andy Murray: (42:59)

That's it for this episode of It's a Customer's World. If you found this helpful and entertaining, I would be so grateful if you could share our show with your friends. And I'd be super happy if you subscribed, so you can be updated as we publish new episodes. And if you really want to help, leave us a five star rating and a positive review on Apple podcast or wherever you listen. It's a Customer's World podcast is a product of the University of Arkansas, Customer Centric Leadership Initiative, and a Walton College original production. 

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