There’s something about “culture” that everyone wants to own today.

Gigantic corporations are tasking their leaders and managers to figure out how to create genuine, authentic, and entrepreneurial innards, environments that will attract millennials who prefer to work in fast and nimble start-ups.

Ad publications claim, though a handful of case histories, that marketers should own the culture fit bit and make sure that brands reflect company values.  And vice versa. 

Even recruiter Egon Zehnder adds its two cents by revealing its 100-person survey results:  Ninety-five percent believe perceived culture affects the brand.  Sixty percent say culture supports the brand – and   20 percent say it’s an underminer.  Ergo, CMOs need to embrace that word.

Yet culture needs to be owned by the right individual(s).

The creation of culture – and its values – clearly belongs in the province of the leader.  It’s s/he who reflects the organization, shapes (or re-creates) its values, and acts to show the way.  It’s not marketing speak.  Nor solely developed by the CHRO.  And, for sure, not locked up in a wordy company manual.

Culture needs to live, to breathe, and to, if needs be, adjust to current realities.  Companies do, during crises or turnovers, rethink values … and re-cast them, with smart planning, to inspire, motivate, and transition to the new way.  After all, if culture is the way we work around here, why shouldn’t (eventually) everyone own it?


Some words go in and out of fashion.  Often.

Our latest is “purpose.”  Basic, simple, and oh-so-germaine to the marketplace, the word is being applied by many experts today to brands, as in ‘purpose-driven brands.’  Or some such. 

Actually, the Pepsi folks reinvigorated the word in its mid-2000s’ acronym PwP (performance with purpose, we believe).  Many followed the leader. 

Now, much of purpose’s usefulness in 2016 and beyond is to point consumers away from short-term thinking and toward the company’s higher goals and aims.  There’s much ado about ensuring that employees and other stakeholders believe that the business is true to its societal goals, and that it really and truly produces good for itself and for society.

Why the resurrection of purpose?   For any number of reasons:

  • Millennials’ need for Planet-conscious work, something to stand for
  • A very real talent void,  a/k/a the hole between retiring Boomers and up-and-coming Ms and Gen Zs
  • The cry for employee commitment that lasts longer than a job stint
  • Creation of positive, productive business cultures that do all of the above … and more.














Of course, a focus on purpose also manages expectations around profits and performance, reassuring investors that a longer-term perspective is being adopted (and yes, we are cynics).  It is refreshing, though, to hear of products that will share consumer views, help change behaviors, and deliver at least a miniscule part of the solution to world ills. 

Much like in the 19th and 20th centuries, when corporations built America’s first railroads, introduced cars to the masses, treated diabetes, and made air travel affordable.


Jack Welch was wrong.

But at least he admitted it.

The notion of shareholder value, espoused by this former CEO/chairman, was first ponied up in the early 20th century by two accountants, expressing that corporate books should be prepared from the perspective of corporate proprietors.  Milton Friedman furthered that idea in 1970, with his epic New York Times magazine headline:  “The social responsibility of a business is to increase its profits.”

The rest is, simply, old news.  Now many businesses are struggling to balance short- with long-termism, to weigh market demands with younger employees who no longer work solely for money but also for meaning and social value.  That change will take some time.

But why not begin to introduce, in concert with Cornell Law professor Lynn Stout, the concept that shareholders are contractors?  As are debtholders, suppliers, and employees.  In her viewpoint, the only special considerations to shareholders are during times of takeovers and bankruptcies.  In other events?  Take a card, please, and call us in the a.m.

Seriously, the employee value strategy is one we’d embrace, 150 percent.  Answer these questions:  With little or zero motivated employees, how likely are positive returns?  Given limited business understanding (and a tenuous link to the bottom line), could associates truly contribute to the best interests of any corporation?  As possible individual investors, do company workers also belong to the “shareholder value” class?

In these days, there are a number of companies who still slavishly follow the “owner is king” philosophy.  But not for long.


What do scotch, soda, and whipped topping have in common – other than belonging to the general class of food/drink stuffs?

Answer:  Psychologists and advertisers who’ve discovered that joy (or its lack) is big news these days.

Johnnie Walker claims that joy helps people achieve more.  Reddi-wip, that we don’t have enough of it daily.  And Pepsi, that it’s a great inducement to song and happiness.

All these brands and others capitalize on the state of our hearts and minds, hoping we’ll walk with joy and Johnnie, add whoosh toppings to our meals, and drink more contentedly.

Jaded?  Sure.  But there’s a good point hidden by the hype.  Which is figuring out how, exactly, to infuse this state of being into our everyday doings.  In other words, into our favorite four-letter word:  Work. 

These days, in our meaderings around the Fortunate 500s and others, we deal with executives, managers, and associates – and watch.  A lot.  There’s much earnestness.  Deliberate conversations.  Determination to meet deadlines.  Intelligent and often soul-searching questions. 

Yet, within all this busyness, there’s not much levity or laughter.  Rarely do we see folks smiling when they exit a meeting or town hall.  Leaders might throw in a joke or personal aside or two before moving into the main subject.  And in cafeterias and break rooms, people occasionally grin when engaged in a personal round-table dialogue.  But not much else.

Perhaps our consumer marketers are right:  Is it time to embrace the ordinary stuff, to celebrate small wins, and to nurture at-work relationships with joy?