My advice for brand and marketing leaders going into 2023
The shift to the stakeholder economy will be a lasting one, and should be a focal point in any organisation’s future strategy. Yet, we’re seeing examples where the pendulum is possibly swinging too far – for example, at Unilever, where under the leadership of Alan Jope, it’s been a mantra for a long time. In 2019, months after starting as CEO, Jope famously said, “brands without a purpose will have no long-term future with Unilever.” As a result, they faced shareholder pressure for potentially having prioritised purpose over business results. This is only natural, in my opinion, and especially if business performance – as it is in Unilever’s case – is lagging behind that of their peers.
Focusing on both purpose and profit will remain a balancing act and – with the huge impact of geopolitical developments (war in Ukraine, energy supply and disruption of supply chains) – be more challenging than ever before. For brand leaders, this means that re-assessing their brand’s positioning and orientation toward multi-stakeholder groups is crucial, and the role of brand in strengthening the relationship between an organisation and its stakeholders has never been more important.