I’ve been reading The End of Competitive Advantage, a provocatively titled book by Rita Gunther McGrath, a professor at Columbia Business School. It’s ideas should inspire anyone involved in marketing and communications.
The central idea is that companies can no longer depend on finding and locking-in a sustainable position of competitive advantage, so they have to move from opportunity to opportunity, constantly developing, always looking to enter and exit markets.
What on earth has that got to do with marketing and communications? Well, the transience of products and services and the need to shift resources and people around makes a company’s values and brand central to its success.
Well performing companies will be those whose values are strong and embedded within both their culture and practices. Reputation and brand, two sides of the same coin, also become more important. A strong reputation and strong brand are needed to help companies shift into new sectors and move out of declining sectors.
In my view, the killer insight is: if a company’s products and services become transient, then the real constants in its history, and its future, are values, brand and reputation.
If you work in a marcomms discipline, think about that for a moment. What you do is the constant. Your role is to maintain the golden thread that runs through the company. You build brand equity, champion values and protect reputation because those are the assets that will outlast the current product range or even the sector you operate in.