Survival of the fittest is an axiom that applies to just about every one of life’s avenues. In business, however, things aren’t so black and white. Great companies and products have withered in the face of public indifference; fitness isn’t a guarantee of success.
Perhaps a more appropriate term would be ‘survival of the fittest for purpose’. Purpose is a vital organ for any business, but just as a brain needs a heart, purpose alone means little.
That’s the top takeaway from a 2021 McKinsey report that declared the winning combination for building a company is the "growth triple play" of purpose, creativity and analytics. The study found that businesses using these three elements enjoyed growth rates of more than 12 percent, compared to six percent for companies using only one of the traits, and seven percent for companies with two.
The full combo is seldom applied; according to McKinsey, just seven percent of surveyed companies were employing all three.
The pandemic effect
The reticence to fire on all cylinders may have something to do with post-pandemic nerves. The COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses into the digital frontier, with ecommerce taking the place of brick-and-mortar stores. In the aftermath, online marketing has taken on the lion’s share of driving growth. CMOs and marketing departments have found themselves busier than ever as they fight for eyeballs in the world’s most crowded marketplace.
"Individually, purpose, creativity and analytics have merit, but they’re much better together."
With the usual customer service channels in disarray, analytics weren’t able to provide the most accurate figures in the wake of the pandemic. Nearly three years into ‘the new normal’, these numbers are telling a fuller story.
The pandemic also pulled purpose into sharper focus for businesses. The downtime gave companies pause to reconsider and refine their purpose. With a renewed sense of direction, many businesses used the time as a chance to ‘soft reboot’ and emerged stronger for it.
Individually, purpose, creativity and analytics have merit, but they’re much better together. The business with all three on hand is able to take full advantage of the growth triple play by using any combination of the trio.
The simple solution
Marketing is the perfect starting point. An unfettered avenue for companies to express themselves, marketing is a showcase of a company’s internal vision for a product or service before the public makes it their own.
And now is the time. McKinsey’s research shows that since the beginning of the pandemic, 78 percent of CEOs have tasked their marketing leaders with driving growth. To stand out in such an environment, creativity is an absolute necessity.
Customers want to know that businesses are still going strong after COVID-19. With a colorful and creative campaign, the medium becomes the message: an affirmation of ‘business as usual’ and a sign that lessons were learned during the pandemic.
Without purpose to guide it and analytics to shape it, however, the creativity inherent in your marketing department is simply raw power flying blind on a rocket cycle. There’s no telling where it will end up or what kind of impact it’s likely to have when it gets there.
"Without purpose to guide it and analytics to shape it, however, the creativity inherent in your marketing department is simply raw power flying blind on a rocket cycle."
Analytics in particular are experiencing a kind of renaissance. The ‘new normal’ demanded new numbers, and companies are churning out data at astronomical rates in order to get a handle on what’s going on in their industries.
But numbers, however fresh, won’t move inventory or generate clicks on their own. By infusing your latest marketing campaign with the latest figures, you can determine exactly where and how to target your next audience.
And so the value of the growth triple play begins to take shape. Two out of three ain’t bad, but adding purpose to that equation gives your campaign, and in fact your entire company, a north star.
The value of data
A data-informed ad campaign can win over the public and generate revenue untold, but if it doesn’t advance the business in any meaningful way, it can end up being a blip on the radar. The launch of any new product or initiative should be part of your business’s greater narrative, the next chapter in your story.
Involving your audience in that story, in your purpose, is a surefire way to guarantee their buy-in. Simply knowing your purpose alone isn’t helpful, though; your wares are a call to action, a way for your customers to advance your cause. Powered by analytics, the triple play is a slam dunk.
"For all its chaotic power, the pandemic presented an opportunity to businesses ready to drive a new growth agenda."
Purpose also has power internally. Prospective employees are attracted to companies with a narrative, particularly if that story is creatively told and backed up by detailed figures. The best and brightest will want to advance their careers with you, strengthening your overall position.
For all its chaotic power, the pandemic presented an opportunity to businesses ready to drive a new growth agenda. The growth triple play – creativity, analytics and purpose – has never had as much power and potential as it does at this moment.
McKinsey highlights three essential actions for those imbued with the growth triple play. First, make the CMO a featured partner in major decisions affecting your business’s direction. The CMO is a unifier. Through their understanding of a company’s capabilities, they’re able to bridge all departments and stakeholders and direct them toward a strong purpose.
Second, use that purpose to inspire a better outcome. Purpose and vision are inspirational, and have the power to align disparate stakeholders, both internal and external, into a cohesive unit. McKinsey says this is particularly true when recruiting and retaining top talent; the study shows triple-play companies are twice as likely to have a more robust talent acquisition strategy than the competition.
Purpose also has the power to shape your portfolio, with your brands and products each a part of the bigger picture. According to McKinsey, triple-play companies will review and refine brand strategy 1.6 times more than their peers. In doing so, being precious with your company’s legacy is a strategy to reconsider: triple-players are three times as likely to throw away legacy products and brands that aren’t driving growth.
"With this trinity beneath your wings, it’s possible to rise above and cut through to customers waiting to discover what the new world has to offer."
The ease of implementing the triple-play strategy depends entirely on your company’s capabilities. The triple play must be core to company culture, McKinsey insists. Purpose sets the direction; analytics and data drive insights; creativity combines both with new ideas and messaging.
The ‘new normal’ leveled the playing field for many industries, and that ground level is now a chaotic maelstrom of sound and fury. With this trinity beneath your wings, it’s possible to rise above and cut through to customers waiting to discover what the new world has to offer.