Diversified businesses driving change with intelligence and precision

Andrew Martschenko

For brands with diversified businesses, sustained growth is driven by a focus on consistent performance. The ability to stay true to their core, scale, and execute flawlessly has never been more important in a world filled with constant disruption.  But to deliver successful growth, the ability to understand the human part of an equation and engage with customers is foundational.

Engaging talent

The iconic John Deere brand has earned decades of respect with a broad range of fans. Generations of families have had a relationship with John Deere products, and this deep connection to customers runs at the heart of the business. Whether it’s a John Deere employee or dealer, the ability to listen and continuously improve the products, services, and experiences is understood by every employee.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a motivated employee base would give their CEO a 95 percent Glassdoor approval rating, clearly reflecting leadership’s commitment to delivering a meaningful workplace experience. Those who work for John Deere are encouraged to pursue higher-purpose initiatives that are aligned to the organization’s goal of using technology and product innovation to help feed, clothe, and shelter the world. This commitment has helped John Deere stay profitable in difficult business conditions, while continuously laying the groundwork for a customer base that is expected to expand.

Telling a tighter story

For decades, 3M has built its business on innovation. But in a time where many younger consumers see 3M as nothing but the maker of Scotch Tape and Post-it Notes, 3M is connecting with a new generation. Leveraging its “Applied to Life” platform, 3M has been shifting its emphasis from being a scientific innovator to a problem solver. 3M wants to let the world know how its brand plays a significant role in our everyday lives—and, for aspiring scientists, that science and engineering can be fun and rewarding.

Reinventing and investing

The most successful multi-industry brands have global reach, with successful track records that have been supporting loyal customers for decades. To continuously grow, these brands have to drive a high degree of innovation and customer engagement. Big data and analytics are playing a large role in this category, while transforming the competitive landscape.

The commitment is significant. For Siemens, their R&D investments are 6 percent of revenue, translating into just under USD $5 billion. These investments have helped fuel a critical growth area around the digitalization of their service business with an impressive 15 percent increase in market growth, year over year.

GE is repositioning the company by focusing the brand on being the worlds best infrastructure and technology company. They’ve divested most of their financial services businesses and rebuilt those that remain. The recent addition of Alstom was the largest industrial acquisition in the company’s history, and a clear indication of a commitment to strengthening their core business. But their boldest action is in accelerating their transformation into a digital industrial company.

With the launch of “The Age of Smart Iron,” Caterpillar has signaled its commitment to digital technology designed to transform productivity, efficiency, and safety on job sites. Caterpillar launched Cat Microgrid technology, an innovative suite of power systems that adds solar panels and related systems to its traditional line of equipment. It also has a mobile app, solar InSight System, that helps customers better manage risks by sending them alerts before machine faults happen. Big data and innovative technology continue to be a key for staying relevant and differentiating the Caterpillar brand.

Operating agility and conviction

The challenge for industrial businesses that have dominated their markets for decades is to pivot in an efficient manner without the luxury of making critical mistakes. Investments must materialize quickly, and the workforce has to get even closer to customers. In a relatively short period of time, the Best Global Brands in the multi-industry category have demonstrated the courage and ability to transform their businesses with the right long-term strategies and necessary skills to execute with impact.

Senior Director, Strategy