Best Brands Built on Ideals

Business lessons sometimes come in strange packages.

March 26, 2013
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Jim Stengel

Great brands and businesses aspire to change peoples’ lives—and they benefit financially by doing so.

That’s the lesson author and speaker Jim Stengel imparted Monday during the 20th Annual CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council Conference in Anaheim, Calif.

The former global marketing officer for Procter & Gamble (P&G) confirmed this premise when writing the book that would become the best-selling “Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World’s Greatest Companies.”

Stengel recalled working on the troubled Pampers line of diapers which, during the ‘90s, was the company’s “biggest problem,” he says, due to poor branding.

“All we measured or advertised was dryness, and we were losing badly,” he says. “What we stood for was important, but not good enough.”

When a team of P&G employees approached Stengel about changing the brand’s focus to one of an advocate for babies, Stengel approached senior management—some of whom promptly pooh-poohed the idea.

“That was a radical thought at the time,” he says, recalling how he was “kicked out of the room” when he suggested the idea. “The initial response was, ‘how do we measure that?’”

The idea eventually won out, and Pampers has grown into an $11 billion a year enterprise due to its rebranding efforts. These include efforts such as partnering with the relief agency UNICEF to provide tetanus shots to babies in developing countries.

This, Stengel says, illustrates how “brands with higher ideals tap into rich areas of our brains, leading to preference and higher sales. Great businesses and brands seek to improve peoples’ lives.”

This is a lesson with particular relevance to credit unions, whose mission is to help members. “The financial industry is extremely damaged,” Stengel says. “Not a day goes by without a bad report. Credit unions can benefit from that. You create stories people remember.”

Other branding lessons credit unions should embrace:

  • Lateral learning—applying successful practices from other industries to your organization—is where breakthroughs often come from.
  • Great brands and businesses are led by artists who care. That’s because artists “create things others can’t see,” Stengel says.
  • Culture is the only thing that counts.
  • Coherence is critical to establishing a great brand.

“The best brands are built on ideals,” Stengel says. “Discover—or rediscover—your ideals, and build your culture around them. We need to touch the brain and the heart.”

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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