Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

Growth is a perennial objective for marketers, who seek to create sustained, demand-led impact for their brands. But the days of assumed growth are over, and delivering it is more difficult than ever. In an era of continuous disruption, low barriers to entry for new competitors, markets reaching maturity, and savvy, demanding consumers, we need to work harder than ever before to find new ways to grow.

The truth is that there is growth to be found - but it lies beyond the comfort zone of business as usual. It requires courage, fresh thinking and new behaviours to win. To decode this elusive world, Kantar and WPP created the Institute for Real Growth, led by Frank van den Driest and Marc de Swaan Arons. The Initiative for Real Growth (IRG) is their comprehensive global study, which is designed to reveal a new architecture for sustained growth.

IRG revealed seven building blocks of real growth, illuminating the intentional drivers which set overperformers apart.

1. An abundant market view

Overperformers look beyond market share, narrowly defined categories and competitor sets. Instead, they adopt an expansive long-term view of how their category will evolve, with a focus on consumer needs. They make understanding the future a priority and consistently invest in big, long-term bets.

Telecommunications giant Safaricom embodies this abundant market view. It looked beyond its dominant share in telecommunications and understood the convergence of telecommunications and financial services. M-Pesa, arguably the most successful mobile money platform on the planet, disrupted financial services in Kenya, delivering smoother transactions, and then launched into savings and loans. Masoko, its latest e-commerce venture, is the next frontier in its disruptive view of market opportunities.

2. Multiple business models

In the world of continuous disruption, having only one business model and a rigid view on return on investment (ROI) is like putting all your eggs in the proverbial basket. Instead, overperformers pursue multiple business models. They empower employees to understand and unpack the assumptions that underpin ROI, leading to diverse thinking on new ways to make money.

Checkers is best known for its consumer-facing retail stores. It spotted an opportunity to service the hospitality and catering industry with Checkers Foods Services, an online business-to-business platform. This new business model now services an attractive incremental target.

3. Evolving customer experience

Chasing customer satisfaction is noble, except that customers will never be satisfied, always seeking better, easier and faster solutions. Overperformers embrace the always beautifully dissatisfied customer and continually seek new ways of eliminating friction in the customer experience.

FNB embodies this with its ‘’How can we help you?’’ approach to banking. The bank proactively tackles friction along the customer journey, easing the switching process, helping the customer with administrative tasks such as renewing licences, and providing an easy-to-use, value-added banking app.

4. Open culture

Corporate culture is a mix of beliefs and behaviours that determine how company employees interact and engage. At its best, it is the secret sauce of success. At its worst, it stands in the way of growth. Culture can feel like a behemoth, difficult to influence or change. Overperformers are unafraid of changing the cultural script and share cultural traits of connectedness, entrepreneurship and innovation. They value diversity at all levels and invest in training their people.

Under the leadership of Satya Nadella, Microsoft is embracing a cultural shift from being technology focused to customer-centricity, showing that even corporate giants can move the needle on culture.

5. Anticipative organisations

Change is certain, yet most companies react to it at a glacial pace. Overperformers anticipate change and organise themselves into small agile teams that move swiftly when needed. They break down internal barriers and collaborate more effectively than their underperforming counterparts.

Agile client-centricity is at the heart of Outsurance’s success. Staff are empowered to “bend over backwards” for clients; they can go off script if needs be and are agile in meeting customer needs.

5. Whole-brained talent

Using data to guide decisions is table stakes today. But overperformers unlock the power of data, pairing it with human insight and creativity, to create an integrated right- and left-brained view of business. They do this by attracting whole-brained talent or constructing holistic-thinking teams that fuse data, creativity and human insight to win.

Discovery’s pioneering insurance programme, Vitality, gathers data on the consumer’s health-related behaviour and transforms it into a tiered reward programme with a myriad lifestyle benefits. This whole-brain view has propelled outstanding business outcomes.

6. Humanised growth

We’re all concerned with the pursuit of top-line growth in business, but underperformers are disproportionately focused on the bottom line. Overperformers look at commercial metrics but also consider the human impact of their business. They carve out a meaningful role for themselves in the lives of consumers, employees and society.

Old Mutual has a clear human-centred purpose: “creating positive futures for clients, their families, communities and broader society”. This human view has helped it become the largest player in its category on the continent, and the recipient of awards as a superior investor, brand builder, employer and corporate citizen.

To embrace the seven building blocks of growth requires the humility to embrace change, the courage to act and the passion to make an impact on employees, customers, and society. Will your business be an overperformer, successfully navigating the new pillars of growth?

  • Marilyn Dutlow is associate director of Kantar’s consulting division.

The big take-out

To achieve sustained business growth requires courage, fresh thinking and new behaviours.