Influencers 2010

Influencer: Jim Stengel

It Might Not Seem Possible, but This Purposeful Exec Has Arguably More Influence Than He Did Under P&G's Wing

By Published on .

Most Popular

BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- It's been awhile since Jim Stengel was a card-carrying master of the marketing universe, directly influencing the nearly $9 billion global advertising outlay at Procter & Gamble Co., or gracing a stage at the annual Association of National Advertisers' conference.

Jim Stengel
Jim Stengel
And yet, in some ways, it's like he never really left. The "purpose branding" message he began preaching in his first address to P&G marketers in 2001 was remarkably similar to themes echoed by top marketers from Coca-Cola Co., Dell and P&G at the ANA in 2010.

Indeed, Mr. Stengel's second act as a former chief marketer is playing on more stages than perhaps any since former Coke CMO Sergio Zyman's consultancy. Mr. Stengel has yet to unleash a small army like the Z-men (and women) from Mr. Zyman's group, who are known to delve deep into client marketing operations. But he is out there pushing the purpose-branding message at clients that include Pepsi, Yum Brands, Dell, Brown-Forman and Luxotica among about 20 he's worked with in the past year.

He's also on the boards of AOL and Motorola (while Apple may figure prominently in Mr. Stengel's forthcoming book on the most powerful brands of the past decade, he's personally quite happy with his Droid X).

As adjunct marketing professor at UCLA, Mr. Stengel is sending 144 new purpose-driven marketers into the world one class at a time each year. And his speaker lineup could easily draw many times that number as an industry marketing seminar.

Last year's edition included appearances by BBDO North America Chairman-Chief Creative Officer David Lubars, a session taught at TBWA/Chiat Day in Playa Del Ray, Calif., featuring Chief Creative Officer Rob Schwartz and others taught by marketing executives from P&G and Dell.

Year two may up the ante. Besides appearances expected from executives of Intel, Zappos and Method, Mr. Stengel tentatively has scheduled for the second week of class -- Jan. 11 -- an appearance by former Unilever CMO Simon Clift for a debate.

No hard feelings from those days when Mr. Clift was Mr. Stengel's foil in one of marketing's storied rivalries, when Mr. Clift once referred to Mr. Stengel as "a bigger media whore than Madonna." The planned UCLA appearance dovetails with a ski trip the two have planned along with Marc de Swaan Arons, another former Unilever executive and chairman of the consultancy Effective Brands, and former top Diageo marketer Rob Malcolm.

Scheduled to come out in October is Mr. Stengel's long-awaited tome from Crown Books, "Grow: How the World's Best Businesses Use the Power of Ideals to Outshine the Competition," complete with a list of the top 50 businesses of the past decade based on an analysis of how well they've built brand equity and delivered financial results.

"I'm trying the content out in every full-day consulting event I do," Mr. Stengel said. "And it's really testing out extremely well. It's making people think, step back."

He began talking to P&G marketers about linking brands to the company's purpose "in a more hardwired way in [the brands'] own voice" from close to day one as global marketing officer there. Today, it's fair to say P&G Chairman-CEO Bob McDonald, with whom Mr. Stengel said he recently had breakfast, rarely speaks anywhere publicly without bringing up P&G's purpose (which, for those who haven't heard it recently, includes "touching and improving more lives in more places more often"). And a whole lot of other companies are hammering home the purpose message, too.

"I'm very happy to hear what's happening," Mr. Stengel said, citing recent purpose-driven presentations by his successor Marc Pritchard and Mr. McDonald, "and I think I had a role in catalyzing that. ... Asking people why am I here and what difference am I trying to make just gets people thinking, and it's what I'm doing with clients now. And you see transformation when you do that the right way."