The CMO Show:
Professor John Roberts on Better...

John Roberts, Scientia Professor at University of New South Wales Business School, sits down with Mark Jones to discuss quantifying the impact of marketing and the role marketers play in corporate social responsibility.

“Profits will continue to be essential and basic to corporate survival, but the major challenge to business today may be to meet the societal needs of a changing environment.”

The above quote was not remarked by this week’s guest on The CMO Show, but it certainly could have been. This observation was noted way back in 1951.

50 years ago, the academic Journal of Marketing released a special issue on Marketing’s Changing Social/Environmental Role. It posited, among other still relevant concerns, that many contemporary marketers were concerned about the role marketing plays in creating a better world. 

While it feels like the world has changed since the 1950s, marketers are still asking the same questions.

Professor John Roberts, Scientia Professor at University of New South Wales Business School, has researched marketers’ concerns for a special edition of the Journal of Marketing: ‘Better Marketing for a Better World (BMBW)’.

But how exactly do you research marketing, and measure the impact it can have in a broader context? 

For Professor Roberts, the academic consideration really emerged when looking at sustainability practices. 

“If we look at, for example, corporate social responsibility, there’s a lot of work in that area which is pretty much greenwashing and ‘we have to have a corporate social responsibility statement because everyone does’,” he says.

“But there’s also a lot of wonderful work that’s being done too, asking “How can we belong to the community, and by belonging to the community do better for the organisation?”

Professor Roberts stated there was also significant research into the conversion between long-term and quarterly thinking when it comes to businesses implementing sustainability practices.

“Companies that do engage in corporate responsibility, sustainable practises, actually do better financially as well,” says Professor Roberts. “Their shareholder value goes up, their market capitalisation increases.”

To hear more from Professor Roberts and discover the impact of marketing and the role marketers play in corporate social responsibility – tune into this episode of The CMO Show.

Resources

You might also like…

####

The CMO Show production team

Producers – Charlotte Goodwin, Candice Witton & Stephanie Woo

Audio Engineers – Tom Henderson & Daniel Marr

Got an idea for an upcoming episode or want to be a guest on The CMO Show? We’d love to hear from you: cmoshow@filteredmedia.com.au.

####

Transcript

Host: Mark Jones

Guest: John Roberts

Mark Jones:
Can marketing change the world for the better? It may seem like a tall order, but marketers have a unique position – they’re able to tell the story of the positive impact of businesses. We’re living in a world where consumers are increasingly looking at the bigger picture, and the long-term benefits of sustainable, socially-responsible behaviour. So how can we quantify the good that marketing does in the world at large? And how do we measure the impact?

Mark Jones:
Hello friends! Mark Jones here. Great to have you with us again on The CMO Show. It’s actually our 151st episode – it looks like we streamed through another milestone – if you’ll forgive the pun…

Mark Jones:
In this episode, I’m joined by Professor John Roberts. He’s a Scientia Professor at UNSW Business School – one of our amazing clients here at ImpactInstitute – and he has a really diverse marketing and academic background. He is also Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and has been awarded the Australian Marketing Institute’s Sir Charles McGrath Award for lifetime achievement in marketing. John’s here with us to discuss a very special issue of the Journal of Marketing titled: ‘Better Marketing for a Better World.’ We had a great conversation about the intersection between creativity and science, corporate responsibility, and what marketers can bring to the boardroom. So let’s go to my conversation with John.

Mark Jones:
John Roberts. He’s a professor at UNSW. Thanks for joining us, John.

John Roberts:
It’s a real pleasure, Mark.

Mark Jones:
We don’t get professors on the show all that often. And also someone who is a Scientia Professor. 

Mark Jones:
What are the sorts of things that you work on? What do you think about? What’s your passion?

John Roberts:
I have a few passions. I obviously have a passion for branding because brands are the most important, exciting signals we send. I started off life working as Telsta’s Market Planning Director and I’m a quantitative marketer, so big data – and obviously I’ve come into fashion in that respect. And I’m very interested in the social welfare that marketing’s got the opportunity to contribute, as well as obviously doing well for the organisations.

Mark Jones:
Right. A special issue of the Journal of Marketing, which is of course, the profession’s leading journal, put out this theme – it was ‘Better Marketing for a Better World.’ Give us a quick overview of how this special issue came about.

John Roberts:
Well, marketing doesn’t always have a great name with a lot of people. A lot of people see it as being manipulative or leading to obfuscation and lying. My personal belief is that most marketing is incredibly socially useful. By understanding what people value and aligning the resources of the organisation to give people what they value, that’s got to be a wonderful thing for the community that we actually make and provide stuff that people want.

John Roberts:
So, we were quite keen, the Editor in Chief at the Journal of Marketing, to try and think about, “How can we emphasise the good that marketing does in the community?” A, by merely rating the dark side of marketing, if you will – the manipulative side of marketing. And B, much more interestingly, by creating positive sum outcomes for consumers, societies, organisations.

Mark Jones:
Okay, so how did you unpack that in the issue then? What were the topics that you touched on?

John Roberts:
We sent out what’s called a call for papers. So we said, “Look if you’re a scholar working in this area, we’d love to hear from you.” And the call for papers identified a number of areas. In fact, four major themes emerged. One of them was sustainability, which is getting the attention of a lot of CMOs at the moment.

John Roberts:
Another one of them that emerged was emerging markets and engagement – and I mean all of the growth globally is coming from emerging markets. For most companies emerging markets represent a very important opportunity. So, “How do we add value in emerging markets with marketing?”

John Roberts:
And then the other two that came about were health with ageing populations and then, not so important for commercial organisations, but charitable giving and other forms of philanthropy.

Mark Jones:
So, it’s interesting. You really have covered some very big territories there.

John Roberts:
Absolutely.

Mark Jones:
What was the academic aspect of this? Because we’re familiar with those topics at a broad level.

John Roberts:
So, the academic aspect really was, “How can we calibrate the effects of activity in those areas?” And there’s been quite a lot of work in marketing. If we look at, for example, corporate social responsibility. There’s a lot of work in that area, which is pretty much greenwashing and, look, “We have to have a corporate social responsibility statement because everyone does.” But there’s also a lot of wonderful work that’s being done to, “How can we belong to the community, and by belonging to the community do better for the organisation?”

Mark Jones:
So, really being able to define and understand what’s working and what’s not working is part of that conversation. I’m interested in tapping into some of your passion here. So, this love for brand and the role of marketing to have a positive influence. What was your reflection going through this process? How have you come out on the other side? Changed in some way? Or different perceptions that you didn’t have before?

John Roberts:
My reflection is pretty positive and one of the reasons why is that one sees a lot of these organisations now really getting behind this idea. So, if one looks at Unilever, for example, Paul Polman, who’s just retired as the Global CEO of Unilever, said, “I can’t run a sustainable organisation,” – in other words a profit making organisation, – “over the long term unless I’m operating in a sustainable environment and therefore, out of pure self interest, I’m going to try and make sure that I’m operating in a sustainable environment so I’ve got a sustainable organisation.”

John Roberts:
People are beginning to live that. They’re beginning to think about what that means and there’s some quite nice research, which shows that those companies that do engage in corporate responsibility, sustainable practises, actually do better financially as well.

Mark Jones:
And I think that’s probably the big ‘aha’. We’ve seen in recent times, in last year, in fact, the amount of money flowing into ESG investments has been astounding. And as a former journalist, you follow the money. So, the investors have got the idea and what you’re saying is, CEOs are understanding this, at least at a global level.

John Roberts:
There’s obviously tension because if you add another dimension, and that’s time, there’s obviously a tension about time. We’re spending money today to engage with the community. But we’re expecting the benefits tomorrow. And of course, that’s what branding is about. No one expects brand investments to pay off in the month that they’re expended. People expect branding investments to pay off over the long term.

Mark Jones:
So, there’s a couple of things going on here. We’ve had this shift, if you like, you mentioned CSR and a longstanding push for sustainability going from the peripheral of an organisation, if you like, right to the centre of a strategic view – and particularly as it relates to shareholders and profitability. 

Mark Jones:
Then we have the marketing role itself, which is going from, if you like, amplifying an existing strategy, to really taking a bigger role in terms of leading, articulating the narrative and really addressing that tension that you unfold or discussing there.

Mark Jones:
How should marketers be approaching that? How do they best position themselves as leaders in that context?

John Roberts:
I’ve also done quite a lot of work in marketing in the boardroom and I think marketers really have to understand the language of the boardroom. And so, I’ve sat on quite a lot of boards over the years, and if you’d listen to the conversations in the boardroom they’re different to the conversations we have as CMOs. The language is different, a lot of the issues are different. If we don’t listen to the language of the board, then how can we possibly expect to be taken seriously by the customer, in this case the board?

John Roberts:
And so, the first thing I think about that is, we have to understand the board talks about risk. The board talks about growth, the board regards marketing as an expense, not an investment. That’s fine. That’s a marketing job and if we can’t get the board to realise the importance of what we’re doing and do it in such a way that makes sense to them, then we’re not very good marketers.

Mark Jones:
Right, or business professionals, for that matter.

John Roberts:
Exactly.

Mark Jones:
And ironically, not thinking about your target audience. In this case, the board.

John Roberts:
The board, exactly.

Mark Jones:
So, how much of a challenge is that in your experience for marketers to make the leap? Because it’s a bit of a test and learn, to borrow another marketing phrase, when it comes to engaging with the board.

John Roberts:
Yeah and I think it’s becoming less of a challenge and the reason why I think it’s becoming less of a challenge is that if you look at advertising, for example, as one important part of marketing. It used to be that advertising was like, “If you don’t give me $40 million then you won’t have any sales tomorrow and you better believe me.” So, the CFO thinks, “Oh maybe, I better actually. It worked last year. And if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

Mark Jones:
Which remains a problem in terms of the number of channels, the complexity, the technology and so forth, right?

John Roberts:
Yeah. It remains a problem on two bases. One basis is as you say, with omnichannel marketing it’s suddenly become incredibly difficult to attribute the final sale to which touch point you used. It also becomes a problem, I think, because it emphasises the things you can count, and Einstein is reputed to have once said, “You can’t count everything that counts and everything that you can count doesn’t count.” And I think he’s right.

John Roberts:
So, we’re focusing much more today on the countable, and the good old days of creative marketing. We’re in danger of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Mark Jones:
What do you mean by that?

John Roberts:
What I mean by that is that there are lots of things that one does that are exciting, interesting, creative – but not very easily calibrated. If you look at Apple’s advertising, for example. When Apple launched the iPod and then subsequent products it was exciting and it was interesting and it was in your face.

John Roberts:
So, the scientific method in marketing has got a huge amount to contribute, but once we believe that that’s the only way to address marketing, we lose something very valuable.

Mark Jones:
Yeah, and I guess at a very simplistic level, the role of data forming insights for creativity and you’re sort of inferring to this broader, if you like, the thrill and the pursuit and the unique creativity of just a creative idea in and of itself.

John Roberts:
Right.

Mark Jones:
Those two things have always been a bit intentioned and you’re saying that we can’t actually lose that tension. Is that right?

John Roberts:
Yeah, we don’t want to lose that tension. So, if one thinks about data are perforce, tautologically data are historical. Data are the past. Now, a good way to understand the future is by looking at what’s happened in the past. But we’ve still got to look to the future. The past can’t tell us everything about the future.

Mark Jones:
So, what about predictive analytics and AI in these emerging spaces?

John Roberts:
That’s all my gig. I do that stuff but I do that stuff with my eyes wide open in the sense that I think, “Well, if we can combine analytics, AI, learning neural nets, et cetera. If we can combine those detailed insights with understanding how we can push the boundaries further out, because they’re looking at existing boundaries. They’re looking at what’s happened. We have no data on what hasn’t happened. So, our imagination can envisage what might happen and without that second bit, we’re mechanical.”

Mark Jones:
Correct. What you’re doing is arguing also for the humanity, the creativity, the not connected to data thing. I didn’t see that coming, to be honest.

John Roberts:
I see that as very exciting and that’s why marketing’s such a wonderful profession because it combines the systematic, the scientific, the measurement with the creative, the new, the different and that marriage, that intersection, I think is a wonderful place to play.

Mark Jones:
Oh, fantastic. I love it. Let’s go back to the leadership level for a moment, because there’s one thing that it said that marketers really do bring to the boardroom, to your point, is creativity. That ability to conceptualise, to think both left and right brain, all those sorts of ideas, right? And having a really strong intuitive sense of the customer and to advocate for the customer, right?

John Roberts:
I love it. Yeah.

Mark Jones:
And so, that’s a particularly unique thing. I think it’s increasingly being expected of CEOs as well.

John Roberts:
Yes, and not just CEOs. Information systems department. So, if you look at who’s doing the data mining in a huge number of organisations, it’s not marketing anymore. It’s the information technology department. It’s the information technology department and if you look at the publications in a lot of our top journals, a lot of the stuff that’s coming out is coming out in information systems journals, not in marketing journals.

John Roberts:
And the question therefore arises, are we going to be librarians? Are we going to go the way of the dodo? Because the problems are still there and important but other people are stealing our lunch. And what have we got to offer that someone in information systems can’t offer?

John Roberts:
What we’ve got to offer is we’re the only people who can put themselves in the shoes of the customer and have this empathy with the customer and that customer rotation. I always said in marketing classes, “It’s by far the single most important thing I know. How to feel and think and live like the customer.”

Mark Jones:
The CIO – or Head of Information Systems – and CMO, that tension and also collaboration is a well worn conversation topic and understood quite well. But I think what you’re highlighting here is how can they best work together? Do you have any suggestions as to how that relationship’s unfolding?

John Roberts:
Well, one of the good things that information technology’s been very quick to grasp hold of is experimental testing – AB testing, for example. We can join that conversation and contribute to that conversation quite a lot by making sure we measure some of the indirect effects of what’s happening.

Mark Jones:
What do you think has been holding boards and CEOs back? Is it a fear of loss? What’s the emotive drivers, do you think?

John Roberts:
In America, quarterly reporting is the gold standard. Now if you’re being judged on quarterly reporting and you could get kicked out any quarter or lose your bonus any quarter. We know that behavior’s full of rewards. And so in some sense I think reward structures have been pretty myopic about the sorts of behaviours we want to encourage. That’s on the negative side.

John Roberts:
On the positive side, CEOs are people. So, the CEO’s got a family and she’s got her kids – and so she wants her kids to grow up. So, the emotional, non-strictly professional areas. That’s where I think we’re getting quite a lot of traction. I’m a father, I’m a grandfather. I want my kids to grow up on a planet that’s habitable.

Mark Jones:
That’s a really important insight, I think, and there’s been a number of different studies over the years that I’m aware of. One in particular, I’m thinking of Google, which did a study of 9,000 B2B executives. If they can see personal interest in a transaction at a business level, they’re 50% more likely to choose that course and more likely to advocate for it because of that interest and pay more for it. So, that’s an interesting trend.

John Roberts:
About four days ago I emailed the Director of the world’s biggest B2B marketing institute – the Institute for the Study of Business Markets, which is at Penn State. He’s a good friend. A guy called Stefan Wuyts and he told me that the biggest issue that our member companies have is sustainability. We sent out a survey and we didn’t have it listed and the write-ins – the people who wrote we have ‘other’, and the people who wrote in ‘sustainability’ – actually outnumbered any of the other issues that we put.

Mark Jones:
That’s remarkable.

John Roberts:
It is. And that’s B2B marketing.

Mark Jones:
But what do you think is the emotion under that? And I think this is an important conversation to highlight because the sentiment that’s actually driving this almost seems to be outweighing some of the logical, rational, financial reasons that have driven this space.

John Roberts:
And I think one of the things is what was a long term benefit from sustainable, socially responsible behaviour is becoming more and more of a short term benefit. So, Walmart, for example, insisted all of it’s suppliers now use sustainable packaging, sustainable logistics. It’s supply chain management is such that they won’t deal with you if you don’t pass this.

John Roberts:
So, I think the social pressure within the B2B community, and of course the B2B community’s a very strong community of businesses relating to businesses. The social pressure in that is becoming, I think, quite immense.

Mark Jones:
Right, enough that you can’t ignore it, mostly.

John Roberts:
Exactly.

Mark Jones:
And to your point, we’ve gone out from the long term horizon, which has traditionally been the sustainability narrative, to a quarterly horizon where it’s, “If I have sustainability practises, it will positively affect my numbers.”

John Roberts:
Yeah, and there’s a very, very nice paper in the Journal of Marketing, a number of years back. In fact, there are a few papers now – where it’s been shown that those companies that do do this actually do better financially. Their shareholder value goes up, their market capitalisation increases.

Mark Jones:
How well understood do you think that point is in the broader marketing community?

John Roberts:
Probably not as well understood in the business community as it is in the academic community. And as academics, we’re very guilty of writing for ourselves, not writing for businesses. So, a lot of this stuff is not immediately accessible and that means, I think, we haven’t had the influence that we ought to have had.

Mark Jones:
Right. Well, there’s something we need to work on.

John Roberts:
Absolutely. That’s why I’m here.

Mark Jones:
I was just about to say that. I think that’s what we’re doing today. That’s amazing! So, maybe just to take this a step further, another related area of interest to me is the intersection between the not-for-profit sector – or the social sector – and corporates. In this same paradigm, which is obviously social sector organisations are clearly driven by impact on humans, on positive change. And the theme of ‘Better Marketing for a Better World,’ this special issue of the journal we’ve been discussing obviously has that broad perspective.

Mark Jones:
It seems to me that corporates are looking to borrow from the narratives and the lessons from the social sector as they bring their foundations, for example, into the core of the business as they start adopting these practises. What’s your view on either how separate or possibly becoming interconnected these two worlds are now?

John Roberts:
I think they are becoming more interconnected. Especially organisations which have a large geographic footprint – whether it’s a McDonald’s, for example, whether it’s a bank with branches – I think those corporations are beginning to realise that engagement at the local level is not just, at least, as effective as engagement at the mass media level, but also is much more sticky. It gives much longer, more robust results and leaves them less vulnerable to competitor’s changes in regulatory climates, et cetera.

Mark Jones:
So, for example, do you mean like in the McDonald’s, local suppliers of food product that are sustainable? Do you mean? Or –

John Roberts:
I mean that and I also mean engagement with the community and things like Ronald McDonald and-

Mark Jones:
So, local charities.

John Roberts:
Yeah, employees going out and volunteering at events that are specific to the community. And if you look, for example, at the positioning of IGA in the grocery market relative to Woolworths and Coles, one of the things that IGA’s been trying to do, I don’t know how well, is it’s been trying say, “Look, we’re the community’s grocer.”

Mark Jones:
Yes, independently owned.

John Roberts:
That’s quite a romantic and emotionally attractive proposition if you can provide the points of proof to the consumer that that’s indeed true.

Mark Jones:
How do you think consumers are dealing with some of these narratives? And the reason I ask is that particularly in Australia we’re inherently if you’re almost, it’s in our DNA to by cynical. Don’t believe anyone – and getting back to the dark side of marketing.

Mark Jones:
Back at the CEO level and the board level and just thinking about directors around the table, balancing risk, opportunity and reputation, in particular – this question of, “Is our brand trusted? Does it have credibility to speak into this space? This is one of the core issues at stake here is how well do we think we can do this?” Many industries are actually inherently compromised. So, a lot of the messaging does come across as greenwashing, if you like.

Mark Jones:
I’m thinking about – energy is a great one, right?

John Roberts:
Absolutely.

Mark Jones:
So, are there principles or approaches that you’ve seen that will best work in highly controversial sectors?

John Roberts:
We’ve got really two things, one of them is walking the walk, and the other one is talking the talk. And those organisations that really want to be seen as sustainable – and therefore are focusing on how they can talk the talk without spending as much time thinking about how they can walk the walk – to be honest, I think they deserve all they get.

John Roberts:
Those organisations that are recently sincere. Then walking the walk is about option generation. What are some of the things that we can do that are exciting, compelling, resonate, are credible, will persuade the consumer that this is not just talk? Once we’ve got the walking the walk right, then we can think about talking the talk and how we communicate that to the consumer.

John Roberts:
But the idea of, “How can we communicate to the consumer that we really care?” Before we stop and think about, “How can we take actions that are consistent with this really caring?” That’s not going to work in the long term.

Mark Jones:
Well, consumers have never been silly and that remains the case. We can see straight through it, right? So, in other words, don’t lie.

Mark Jones:
So, just staying at the high level, I’m really fascinated by some of the macro trends that this is feeding and being fed by and I just wrote an article for Which-50 publication. And I make the case that we’ve now entered the impact era. So, in terms of the modern age, we’ve been through the information age and that will continue but we’re now entering an era where judging organisations, and in fact governments and all sorts of structures on the basis of positive or negative impact, as the primary mechanism of understanding what’s working well in the world.

Mark Jones:
In other words, “Are you delivering long term sustainable, positive change?” Or, “Are you actually contributing to problems that we all know?” It seems to me that seems to be the world we’re hitting. What’s your view on the centrality of the marketing profession in that context?

John Roberts:
I think you’re absolutely right, and I think that’s a good observation. 

John Roberts:
Marketing’s got two things to offer. One of them it’s got to offer is listening to the customer. So, it’ll give us feedback on how our stimuli, our advertising, our products, services, how our stimuli are being received and perceived by the consumer so we can listen to the customer and we can give feedback to the organisation, which says, “We’re aiming with our rifle, with our targeting, we’re aiming a bit too far to the left, a bit too far to the right.” So, marketing can provide an ear to the marketplace for the CEO and the board.

John Roberts:
And the other thing it can do, as well as inbound, it can help outbound by saying, “If we’re going to be doing these things, this is the best and most effective way in which we can express that and in which we can communicate that.” 

John Roberts:
If I could just add to your observation that we’re moving to a world where the consumer’s looking at a bigger picture, we’re also moving to a world of ecosystems – economic ecosystems and platforms. So, whereas, I used to buy a computer from Dell, Compaq, Lenovo. Now, I buy a computer from Dell but with an Intel chip and Microsoft operating system and some internet service provider and Adobe and maybe Zoom or maybe something else. So, these ecosystems – driven particularly by the FAANG brands, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google – these ecosystems are going to have a big impact on how socially responsible the offerings that consumers get are because we’re actually buying, we actually get into an Apple ecosystem or an Amazon ecosystem or a Google ecosystem. And that’s increasing dramatically.

Mark Jones:
To extend that analogy out, I think we’re also acutely aware of the environmental ecosystems that we’re part of and we’re evaluating those systems that you spoke about on the technology side within that broader context.

John Roberts:
And I think there’s going to be a big clash between the community and the regulators that look after the community and these multinationals. We’re already seeing it, of course, with things like tax, where the amount of tax that organisations like Amazon and Google and Facebook pay outside America is scandalously low.

Mark Jones:
Yes, and has been the case for a long time, by the way.

John Roberts:
It has indeed and not just them but they’re the most visible manifestation of it.

Mark Jones:
Correct.

John Roberts:
But that’s also true with respect to labour practises, which we’ve seen in sweatshops in Asia and I think there’s going to be a much greater holding to account of these organisations, which is why CMOs want to get ahead of the game.

John Roberts:
The Distillers Industry Group in Australia saw that alcohol regulation was coming and it preemptively set up its own advertising regulatory body to look at TVCs and other print ads before they were put to air because it knew if it didn’t the government would.

Mark Jones:
I think one of the things that’s happening in that context is just quite simply that the power dynamics have changed.

John Roberts:
Yes.

Mark Jones:
And I’ve seen this firsthand in terms of the introduction of blogs in the early 2000s. It’s where we started understanding that individuals could become publishers, brands became publishers but more importantly the voice, if you like, of the people continued to grow. So, it now seems we’re actually at a critical tipping point where for boards and leaders, ignoring the customer voice and the customer agenda – ie, sustainability impact – it’s actually not an option.

John Roberts:
I think that’s right. And it’s particularly right for market leaders. So, if you think of it, the Commonwealth Bank can’t afford to alienate 20% of the market because to get it’s 25% of the market or whatever it has, it needs to address the whole market to get 25% of 100% of the market.

John Roberts:
A little niche brand, I used to sit on the board of a company called eChoice, a small mortgage broker. We could survive very happily and make a lot of money with one percent of the market. So, it didn’t matter if we alienated 50% of the market. As long as we got two percent of the market we didn’t alienate.

Mark Jones:
Yeah, the joy of a niche, by the way.

John Roberts:
The joy of a niche. So, in some sense, market leaders are really going to have to step up to the plate because not everyone cares about sustainability. But they can’t afford to lose the 25% or 50% that passionately do care.

Mark Jones:
Yeah, which by the way, neatly loops back to walking the walk, right?

John Roberts:
Exactly.

Mark Jones:
They actually can’t avoid accountability for doing this. I think it’s a fascinating space. Where do you think all this is going? What’s your view on the make or break moments that are coming for large organisations?

John Roberts:
50 years ago in 1971, the Journal of Marketing had a special issue on better marketing for a better world. It’s kind of interesting that 50 years later we look back and we say, “What happened? Will that happen again?” I don’t think so and the reason why I don’t think so is not because I think everyone’s better. I think the world is in a more dangerous place, dangerous politically, dangerous scientifically and with respect to climate change, dangerous in a lot of ways. The environmental pressures – and I don’t just mean the environment as in the planet – the environmental pressures, the competitive environment, the eco environment, the economic environment, military environment. Those environmental pressures are actually going to make these issues more and more important to people’s daily lives and therefore they’re going to demand solutions.

Mark Jones:
So, in other words, 50 years ago marketers had a clearly defined role to make a positive difference. Maybe haven’t done quite as good job as you would’ve anticipated.

John Roberts:
True.

Mark Jones:
Right. So, casting forward another 50 years is just, we really need to get it right this time as marketers.

John Roberts:
Yeah, because if you think of the other period, 1971 to 2021, that’s been a pretty comfortable period by and large. In lots of ways the world’s coming apart at the seams a bit at the moment, and we’re going to have to address those issues.

Mark Jones:
Well, in my view and it’s no surprise to fans of our show, storytelling is my favourite thing in the world. But it would seem to me that the narratives that we tell – the stories that we create to support these long arc narratives – become really, really strategically important, “How can we consistently put the right messages out in the marketplace that are true, that reflect who we are?” And then also take a leadership position inside those narratives. Understanding how we’re different, understanding what needs to happen, knowing just how far ahead of the curve we can push – all these sorts of things become actually very strategic considerations and perhaps push us necessarily beyond the day-to-day, real-time marketing, digital world that we get preoccupied by, right? That’s the dilemma here.

John Roberts:
I think that’s right. Related to that is that if Company A starts moving in that direction and if they’re able to resonate with the consumer – then Company B has to.

Mark Jones:
Yeah, no choice.

Mark Jones:
Well, John Roberts, it has been an absolute pleasure to have you on the CMO show. I think you’ve brought some really, really important conversations to the table and I’m actually very happy that we were able to contribute to getting some of the ideas from the journal out into the world.

John Roberts:
Absolutely.

Mark Jones:
And I look forward to speaking to you again. Thanks so much for being on the podcast.

John Roberts:
That would be great. Thank you very much, Mark, and thank you for the opportunity to talk to you and your listeners. I’ve enjoyed it a lot.

Mark Jones:
I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Professor John Roberts. It was great to break down those ideas and research from the Journal of Marketing with him in our conversation. I was pleased to hear that companies that do engage in corporate responsibility and sustainable practises, perform financially as well! So I’d like to challenge you to consider how you can measure the positive impact of your brand story.

Mark Jones:
Before I go, a quick reminder – if you haven’t already, search for The CMO Show on your favourite podcast app and subscribe so you don’t miss out on a brand new episode every fortnight. Thank you for joining us on The CMO Show. As always, it’s been a pleasure. Until next time.

Get in touch
I want to Filtered Media.