Global C-suite Survey Reveals Companies Not Investing in Key Factors for Growth

NEW YORK, February 15, 2012 —
A survey of 500 C-suite executives worldwide conducted by global brand consultancy Wolff Olins has revealed that, although companies recognize the important factors required to generate long-term growth, many are not investing resources and energy into them.

“Traditional ways of doing business are not generating growth and global economies are suffering without it,” said Karl Heiselman, CEO of Wolff Olins. “We believe there are very clearly identifiable actions or behaviors associated with high-growth companies such as Amazon, Google, Nike and Paypal that other businesses can use to thrive. Change is daunting, but the opportunities for businesses that adopt these new ways of doing business are enormous.”

Wolff Olins identified five key behaviors associated with high-growth companies, which the consultancy calls “Game Changers,” who are successfully responding to rapid changes in consumer demand and technology-driven services. The survey was designed to determine whether other leading organizations recognize the importance of these characteristics and if and how they are adopting similar behaviors within their own companies.

These behaviors include:
Purposeful: having a clear purpose that is shared with customers

Useful: enabling customers to do things better

Experimental: constantly innovating and being comfortable living in perpetual beta

Boundary-less: fostering collaboration internally and externally

Value-creative: adds value by creating new business models and businesses

The survey results showed:

On average, 42% of respondents said that each Game Changer behavior would deliver significant growth (of 11% or more). Twenty-two percent thought they would deliver growth of more than 20%.

Useful (enabling customers to do things better) was rated by respondents as potentially making the biggest contribution to growth. Forty percent believed this activity would contribute more than 20% growth. Twenty-four percent said that it would contribute to growth between 11-20%. Companies that are Experimental (constantly innovating) were seen as having the next most significant contribution to growth. Nineteen percent said it would deliver growth of more than 20%.

The perceived value of behaving like a Game Changer varies greatly across sectors. Banking, energy, FMCG and hospitality sectors are the most enthusiastic. Professional services, non-profit and property companies are least likely to associate Game Changer behavior with growth. Others are divided. Tech and telecoms see growth in creating new value and experimenting but less in being Purposeful or breaking down boundaries. There is a gap between what people believe is important and what they are actually doing. This is shown in several ways. Across all behaviors most likely to be associated with growth, the top three were all in the category of being Useful to customers:

‘Enable customers to create personalized versions of your product’ was the behavior/action most associated with growth, yet only 22% said their business was doing this

‘Enable your customers to use your product in flexible and adaptable ways’ came in second, with only 32% stating their business was doing this

‘Involve your customers in your product development process’ was the third behavior/action most associated with growth, yet just 31% thought their business was doing this

Most respondents did think, however, that their companies were acting in a socially responsible way, although they are not connecting it to strategic growth. For example, ‘Consider transparency to be part of your business’ was perceived to be the least valuable to growth, but 47% stated their companies did this anyway, followed by ‘Participate in social good’, which 46% said their business did.

In follow-up qualitative interviews with respondents, Wolff Olins found that the global economic uncertainty is affecting growth projections for companies in the short-term, with the majority only willing to project single-figure growth this year. As one respondent commented, “There is no such thing as a company being too big to fail.”

There was also significant emphasis placed on the importance of building a meaningful relationship with the customer: “If you become a more valuable business to your customers, you become a more valuable business generally.”

Innovation was recognized alongside customer-focus to be a key driver of growth. Having the right people in place to drive innovation was identified as critical: “You can have the best people and even if the market is heading the wrong way, you’ll be growing.” It also presents a challenge: “You can’t force people to be innovative. You have to allow them to take risks and fail. When things are going down, people just want to protect their jobs. Ask them to take risks and they won’t.”

Heiselman adds, “Game Changers emerged from our desire to understand the new generation of companies enjoying phenomenal success. If these companies and organizations act differently, what is it that they do and are they signs of a healthier future for other companies who want to copy their success but aren’t necessarily in a position to replicate their business? By identifying the activities in which high-growth organizations invest, we can help businesses embrace totally new ways of thinking and doing business so that they not only survive these challenging times but find growth.”

The following companies are recognized by Wolff Olins in the Game Changers report as exemplars of the five behaviors of high growth companies who are successfully responding to rapid changes in consumer demand and technology-driven services:

(RED), charitable giving pioneer
Amazon, multinational online retailer
Apple, multinational corporation that designs and markets consumer electronics
Facebook, social network and website
Google, multinational internet search engine
Grameen Bank, pioneer of microfinance in Bangladesh
Intuit, US-based accounting software company
Lego, construction toys
M-Pesa, a branchless banking service available in Kenya, Afghanistan and Tanzania
Nike, sportswear and equipment retailer based in the USA
PayPal, online transaction service
Tata Docomo, cellular service provider
Tesco, global grocery and general merchandise retailer
Zipcar, vehicle sharing company
Zopa, UK-based company providing an online money exchange service

The full report outlines case studies and practical guidance for companies on how to be Game Changers and will be available at as of February 15, 2012.

About Wolff Olins
Wolff Olins is a global brand consultancy that is ambitious for clients and optimistic for the world. Its clients are leaders in all categories including technology, culture, media, retail, industry, and non-profit organizations. Wolff Olins helps clients to create game-changing work by developing unique brand experiences, products that drive demand, and creatively-led business strategies. (RED), GE, Mercedes-Benz, New York City, London 2012, Tate, Unilever, Target, Hero MotoCorp, Tata Docomo and AOL are all examples of the positive impact of Wolff Olins’ work.