Rethinking Business, Branding & Life with Jim Stengel, Digital Retail & Digital Marketing Transformation Assembly Keynote

You are widely known for leading innovation and being committed to building leading-edge marketing capabilities for all types of businesses. How did stepping down from your position at Procter & Gamble in 2008 prepare you for this role of helping others in today’s unpredictable environment?

P&G was a hothouse learning environment.  The company deeply believed in human development and training, with a variety of on-the-job training opportunities, immersion experiences, and formal development programs. But the most powerful part of the P&G experience was the huge range of career experiences for high-potential leaders, as the company had on-the-ground operations in nearly 100 countries and marketed brands in 40 categories. Over the course of my 25 years at P&G, we grew from a $10 billion revenue company to $80 billion plus. I worked on dozens of brands, lived in four different countries, worked with leading clients, learned from an assortment of acquisitions, and eventually had the C-Suite experience as P&G’s Global Marketing Officer. That combination of experiences, plus a healthy curiosity, helped prepare me for what I do today.

You have a mission to “rethink business, branding, and life.” To some, that is easier said than done. How are able to simply follow this philosophy when working with clients from across all industries?

Can you name a category in our world that is not somehow being disrupted?  If you are not rethinking your business, brand, and life constantly, you will stumble. I am not advocating a constantly shifting set of priorities (that will drive your team crazy), but I am suggesting you need a strategy to ensure your brand stays relevant as customers shift how they live, shop and consume. And I use those three words deliberately – brand, business, and life are remarkably interconnected. You cannot be fresh, innovative, and engaged with your brand and business if you are not also living a full and happy life.

Have you always followed a specific path, or in other words, have had similar end-goals for businesses when approaching new marketing and branding tactics?

With every new assignment in my career, and with every new client, I certainly have a path or process to follow.  It is always rooted in fully understanding the total situation and taking the time to listen to a variety of people and points of view.  No one cares more about a brand or business than the people who are working on it.  They are too often not tapped into enough.

You recently released your new book, “Unleashing the Innovators: How Mature Companies Find New Life With Startups” to great success. The theme of the book describes how today’s established companies must find new ways to reignite their entrepreneurial DNA and jump-start revenues or risk losing their way. From your experience, how does the partnership between a legacy company and a startup help the older companies renew themselves?

The key is to have a process to share the best and most relevant learning from how startups operate back into the larger enterprise. There need to be people in the larger company who are accountable for that.  Companies like Unilever, GE,  Motorola Solutions and Toyota are benefiting from that.

Is there a secret to success looking to learn how to better innovate in today’s evolving marketing landscape?

Take a page out of the Amazon playbook: be relentlessly focused on making customers happier in large and small ways and truly empower your entire organization to do that. Mistakes are fine if the goal was to make a customer’s life better. No individual will have all the innovative ideas in marketing or anything else – but when a large organization is rewarded for trying new ways to help customers,  watch out!

With many changes undergoing in marketing, all thanks to new technologies disrupting how marketing is viewed and done, what do you think is the biggest challenge for companies looking to tackle these new technologies in the age of digital disruption?

Inertia.  So many companies are getting by – doing okay – but they are not building the necessary capabilities to win in the future.  They are still too focused on their current business model, with too little resources in testing scenarios and ideas that will help them better understand and prepare for the future.

What are the biggest changes you have seen in building a brand today vs. 10 years ago?

The massive change in how people get information, shop, and what they value. The purpose was critical 10 years ago and that has only gotten more intense.

We are very excited that you are attending and keynoting at our Digital Marketing & Retail Transformation Assembly in Dallas this week. What did you look forward to most at our event?

Meeting new people!  And learning – we are all on a constant learning journey.

What do you think are the benefits of attending a small, intimate C-Level event like ours?

The opportunity to step out of your own fast-paced world to slow down – and think.


Jim Stengel is President/CEO of The Jim Stengel Company. A prolific writer, speaker and advisor, Jim is the author of Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World’s Greatest Companies, and Unleashing the Innovators: How Mature Companies Find New Life with Startups. Jim is widely known for leading innovation and for his commitment to building leading-edge marketing capabilities. In 2011, he was named to the first-ever Fortune® Executive Dream Team, has been named multiple times by Advertising Age as the number one “Power Player” in marketing, and is a 2017 American Marketing Association Hall of Fame inductee.  Jim has served as Dean of the Young Marketers Academy at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity since 2011, and in 2013 pioneered the CMO Accelerator program at the Cannes Lions Festival. Jim is the former Global Marketing Officer of Procter & Gamble, and a former member of the Board of Directors for AOL and Motorola.

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