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Global C-suite Survey Reveals Companies Not Investing in Key Factors for Growth

NEW YORK, Feb. 15, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- A survey of 500 C-suite executives worldwide conducted by global brand consultancy Wolff Olins has revealed that, although companies recognize the important factors required to generate long-term growth, many are not investing resources and energy into them.

"Traditional ways of doing business are not generating growth and global economies are suffering without it," said Karl Heiselman, CEO of Wolff Olins. "We believe there are very clearly identifiable actions or behaviors associated with high-growth companies such as Amazon, Google, Nike and Paypal that other businesses can use to thrive. Change is daunting, but the opportunities for businesses that adopt these new ways of doing business are enormous."

Wolff Olins identified five key behaviors associated with high-growth companies, which the consultancy calls "Game Changers," who are successfully responding to rapid changes in consumer demand and technology-driven services. The survey was designed to determine whether other leading organizations recognize the importance of these characteristics and if and how they are adopting similar behaviors within their own companies.  

These behaviors include:

  • Purposeful: having a clear purpose that is shared with customers 
  • Useful: enabling customers to do things better
  • Experimental: constantly innovating and being comfortable living in perpetual beta
  • Boundary-less: fostering collaboration internally and externally
  • Value-creative: adds value by creating new business models and businesses

The survey results showed:

  • On average, 42% of respondents said that each Game Changer behavior would deliver significant growth (of 11% or more). Twenty-two percent thought they would deliver growth of more than 20%.
  • Useful (enabling customers to do things better) was rated by respondents as potentially making the biggest contribution to growth. Forty percent believed this activity would contribute more than 20% growth. Twenty-four percent said that it would contribute to growth between 11-20%.
  • Companies that are Experimental (constantly innovating) were seen as having the next most significant contribution to growth. Nineteen percent said it would deliver growth of more than 20%.
  • The perceived value of behaving like a Game Changer varies greatly across sectors. Banking, energy, FMCG and hospitality sectors are the most enthusiastic. Professional services, non-profit and property companies are least likely to associate Game Changer behavior with growth. Others are divided. Tech and telecoms see growth in creating new value and experimenting but less in being Purposeful or breaking down boundaries.

There is a gap between what people believe is important and what they are actually doing. This is shown in several ways. Across all behaviors most likely to be associated with growth, the top three were all in the category of being Useful to customers:

  • 'Enable customers to create personalized versions of your product' was the behavior/action most associated with growth, yet only 22% said their business was doing this
  • 'Enable your customers to use your product in flexible and adaptable ways' came in second, with only 32% stating their business was doing this
  • 'Involve your customers in your product development process' was the third behavior/action most associated with growth, yet just 31% thought their business was doing this

Most respondents did think, however, that their companies were acting in a socially responsible way, although they are not connecting it to strategic growth. For example, 'Consider transparency to be part of your business' was perceived to be the least valuable to growth, but 47% stated their companies did this anyway, followed by 'Participate in social good', which 46% said their business did.

In follow-up qualitative interviews with respondents, Wolff Olins found that the global economic uncertainty is affecting growth projections for companies in the short-term, with the majority only willing to project single-figure growth this year. As one respondent commented, "There is no such thing as a company being too big to fail."

There was also significant emphasis placed on the importance of building a meaningful relationship with the customer: "If you become a more valuable business to your customers, you become a more valuable business generally."

Innovation was recognized alongside customer-focus to be a key driver of growth. Having the right people in place to drive innovation was identified as critical: "You can have the best people and even if the market is heading the wrong way, you'll be growing." It also presents a challenge: "You can't force people to be innovative. You have to allow them to take risks and fail. When things are going down, people just want to protect their jobs. Ask them to take risks and they won't."

Heiselman adds, "Game Changers emerged from our desire to understand the new generation of companies enjoying phenomenal success. If these companies and organizations act differently, what is it that they do and are they signs of a healthier future for other companies who want to copy their success but aren't necessarily in a position to replicate their business? By identifying the activities in which high-growth organizations invest, we can help businesses embrace totally new ways of thinking and doing business so that they not only survive these challenging times but find growth."

The following companies are recognized by Wolff Olins in the Game Changers report as exemplars of the five behaviors of high growth companies who are successfully responding to rapid changes in consumer demand and technology-driven services:

  • Amazon, multinational online retailer
  • Apple, multinational corporation that designs and markets consumer electronics
  • Build Your Dreams, manufacturer and supplier of IT, automobiles and new energy in China
  • Facebook, social network and website
  • Grameen Bank, pioneer of microfinance in Bangladesh
  • Google, multinational internet search engine
  • LEGO, construction toys
  • M-PESA, a branchless banking service available in Kenya, Afghanistan and Tanzania
  • Nike, sportswear and equipment retailer based in the USA
  • Paypal, online transaction service
  • (RED), charitable giving pioneer
  • SoundCloud, online audio distribution platform
  • Tata Docomo, cellular service provider
  • Tesco, global grocery and general merchandise retailer
  • Zipcar, vehicle sharing company
  • Zopa, UK-based company providing an online money exchange service


Zipcar's latest figures[1] show quarterly revenue has increased 24% to $68.1 million compared to $54.8 million in the prior year period, and total members grew 25% from the prior year period to approximately 650,000.

Mark Walker, General Manager UK for Zipcar, says: "Our business is built on providing a solution to a previously unmet need – giving urban commuters and businesses, with ad hoc transport needs, wheels when they want them. By obsessing about the member experience, we are able to provide convenient access to a car, which is less hassle than owning or renting one; and costs less too.  What's more, because our members drive less – so reducing congestion and pollution – everybody gets to benefit."


Revenue at Zopa was up 62% in the first half of 2011 versus 2010 and Zopa has now lent over 160m pounds Sterling in total, lending over 1% of new personal loans each month.

Giles Andrews, Co-Founder and CEO of Zopa, says: "The Game Changer behaviors resonate with us as a business. While people have been lending and borrowing amongst communities for years, we have harnessed social trends to create a new business model that offers people more control over how they save, lend or borrow money, while also offering better value to all parties. As an online business our growth will come from building our membership base, and this is driven by the quality and value of the experience we offer users, which is both flexible and transparent."

The full report outlines case studies and practical guidance for companies on how to be Game Changers and will be available at www.wolffolins.com on February 15, 2012.

About Wolff Olins

Wolff Olins is a global brand consultancy that is ambitious for clients and optimistic for the world. Its clients are leaders in all categories including technology, culture, media, retail, industry, and non-profit organizations. Wolff Olins helps clients to create game-changing work by developing unique brand experiences, products that drive demand, and creatively-led business strategies. (RED), GE, Mercedes-Benz, New York City, London 2012, Tate, Unilever, Target, Hero MotoCorp, Tata Docomo and AOL are all examples of the positive impact of Wolff Olins' work.

[1] Zipcar 2011 Third Quarter Results

SOURCE Wolff Olins

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