A growth engine built from within

Stephan Gans

To keep growing, companies have to constantly improve the ways they work on the inside, with their own people. The world’s biggest and best brand marketing teams have this understanding at their core. It starts with making sure you meet the fundamental needs of your assorted teams to unleash their potential for your business. Your business is made up of real people and the relationships between them. Your employees have needs, and their needs also shape the needs of your business.

Maslow’s Hierarchy is a well-known illustration of the needs that motivate human beings, from the most fundamental at the bottom to the most complex at the top. If this full range of needs isn’t met, our ability to be happy and successful is impeded accordingly.

Happiness and success are crucial to people’s natural development—and the same applies to your business. When you think of a marketing organization as a group of individuals and apply Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to them, something interesting happens:

To fully leverage the potential of your employees for growth, they need to have all of their needs met. Tools and clear processes are as essential as food and water—it’s impossible to even do work without being equipped with the basics. Then come the skills that give them the confidence to use those tools. Without these, your employees are lost in the wild, unsure of how to even be successful. Then comes a clear role on a team—the feeling of belonging and security that comes with fitting into a defined community within your organization.

Understanding the brand means that your employees believe in the organization’s goals and its purpose; they are inspired to be part of your brand’s journey. As in Maslow’s hierarchy, the final stage is the most difficult and complex to attain: the empowered feeling of being able to make decisions and having a real, personal impact on brand success and business growth.

Over the past decades, it has become clear to more and more leaders that investing in employee brand engagement correlates with expanding and improving business outcomes. And it certainly does, at least when done well.

But in reality, engagement efforts are too often limited to training programs that aim to explain to employees what the brand stands for and how that meaning applies to their individual or team’s daily work to create a growth mindset. Investing in these programs alone only addresses the top two levels of the pyramid, appealing to employees’ drive to make a difference in their work lives, without addressing foundational needs.

Maslow and Marketing Capabilities

 

A short-term surge of inspiration then collides with the hard reality of the actual workplace. In large, global brand and marketing organizations, lack of clarity around processes, roles, and responsibilities—and the resulting mismatches between skills and roles—are the rule, not the exception. As a result, the investment in internal communication campaigns and brand training—under the assumption that employees will “sort out the rest” with each other—have a very low return on investment and often lead to cynicism instead of a renewed energy.

To ensure the power of your brand to drive growth and foster integration across company silos reaches its full potential, internal communication, and brand training need to be accompanied by building marketing capability: creating the role clarity, tools, ways of working, and processes that people need to be successful, feel grounded, and be effective in their work.

Maslow and Marketing Capabilities

 

Nurturing and leveraging your brand as a growth driver for your business is crucial. Doing this in a sustainable way requires you to address the needs of employees at every level of Maslow’s hierarchy. Investing in only the top of the pyramid and assuming those efforts will trickle down is not enough to meet the thorny challenges of the daily life of a brand leader or marketer in today’s complex organizations.

Chief Strategy Officer, North America