***Industry leader, voice of reason and friend of the show, Derek Walker, has been given an unexpected cancer diagnosis. If provided proper treatment, it should be fully recoverable. If you are able, please join us in contributing to this fund to cover the costs of his treatment.***

Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer at co:collective, Neil Parker joins Adam to talk about his experience in corporate strategy and how it’s informed his thinking about brands. As context changes, brands change. As the meta context changes, the needs for brands to exist change. His perspective as a consultant provides an outlook unique in the world of brand strategy, as he considers how brand managers can shift from the pure focus on ROI metrics to more meaningful outcomes.

You can find Neil at co:collective or on Instagram. You may also like our episode with co:collective’s Kit Krugman, one of Adam’s favorites.

Find your host, Adam Pierno at www.adampierno.com

The Strategy Inside Everything is the podcast for people who thinkfor a living. If you have an idea, a question or you want to push back on something you hear in this episode, go to https://thatsnotaninsight.com and leave a message or a voicemail for me. The best and most interesting messages will be added to future episodes, and I can’t waitto hear from you. Music for The Strategy Inside Everything is by Sawsquarenoise. Host Adam Pierno is an author, speaker and strategy consultant. Learn more atadampierno.com.

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Transcript of this conversation:

Adam Pierno 0:02
This is The Strategy Inside Everything. I’m Adam Pierno. The Strategy Inside Everything is the podcast for people who think for a living. If you have an idea, a question or you want to push back on something you hear in this episode, go to thatsnotaninsight.com and leave a message or a voicemail for me. The best and most interesting messages will be added to future episodes. And I can’t wait to hear from you. All right, welcome back to another episode of the strategy inside everything. I’m looking forward to today’s conversation with Neil Parker. He is the co founder and chief strategy officer at co collective that’s an agency or a company that I admire very much, Neil, how are you today?

Neil Parker 0:28
I’m doing well, doing well. Glad to be here.

Adam Pierno 0:30
It’s really great to meet you. And I’m looking forward to our conversation. It’s funny, I just I just kind of stuttered over whether how to describe co collective How do you describe it?

Neil Parker 0:41
We see ourselves a transformation partner, basically.

Adam Pierno 0:44
Yeah. So not not agency,

Neil Parker 0:47
not agency. We sweat over that term. Right? We’re kind of somewhere between an agency and a consultancy. And we don’t like either term. So fundamentally, what we’re partners to our clients.

Adam Pierno 0:56
Yeah. And the both of them come with baggage, both of those terms.

Neil Parker 1:00
Absolutely. That they’re both one of the past, right. And we’re trying to build something for the future. But I don’t know that we have the word for it yet.

Adam Pierno 1:07
We’ll still we’ll still be working on that. I guess. Before we get that does kind of touch on, I think where we’re going with this conversation. But before we jumped into that, would you tell people a little bit about, you know, your career and how you got to where you are now.

Neil Parker 1:21
Yeah, well, you know, the topic of this, this party strategy. And in terms of how I got here, it was a very weird route. Because growing up as a kid, I think, like any kid, I had no idea what strategy was, I didn’t want to become a strategist, really, at any formative point that kind of stubbed my toe on strategy. I was doing English Language and Literature at college and loving that, and I thought I was going to be an academic. That was my initial idea of future and you know, it was like, I would be, you know, a dawn or something in the halls of academia. But I needed a summer job. And my Anglo Saxon tutor connected me to her boyfriend who just bust out of McKinsey to found his own strategy firm. And he offered me a job for the summer, I was like, Okay, I’ll do that. And to my complete surprise, I loved it. This was business strategy. So like classic McKinsey style business strategy, but I found that I was able to work on stuff that had consequences. I love the problem solving. And I built my initial career there as a business strategy consultant, I started to get itchy at a certain point, like I was missing the poetry and like, what was the role for imagination and creativity? Because, you know, classical business strategy, consultant, consulting is so analytical and linear. You’re extrapolating the past into the future. And so I started to feel like, well, you know, how do I get a little more of that serendipitously, it’s one of those random events. IBM bought the company that I was working at. And I took a detour into corporate strategy in IBM, in that case, doing new business creation based on things that IBM Research was inventing text analytics, an early version of the current AI, being one. And then then left IBM because I wanted to get even more creative and took a job at Wolff Olins as chief strategy officer there. And that got me into the really into the brand game for the first fully for the first time. Bringing a business sensibility to it, but fascinated by you know, will fall into the high priests of graphic design, you know, back then, and still, you know, today to an extent and bringing that notion of creativity and business together. And then that kind of propelled me into a founding CO, because that I started to feel the limits within visual identity of like, that wasn’t really how brands were being built at that time. You know, like, Google, in its earliest incarnation had like, literally the worst logo, like

Adam Pierno 3:49
it was just kind of crapped out.

Neil Parker 3:52
I think it was done in Word, right. It was like done in Microsoft Word and different colors. And then met Rosemary Ryan and Ty Montague, who just bust out of JW T, and we’re starting their own thing. And we had a meeting of minds around how to build a new agency consultancy partner fully in the space around how do you build brands in a post I didn’t post visual identity post communications, you know, environment that was the founding premise of, of CO to do that in a new way together.

Adam Pierno 4:22
Yeah. And part of CO was was built around the idea of action. And it wasn’t just, you can’t just say this is who we are. You have to prove it. You have to take action. You have to do things in the world. To put that that premise, bring that premise to life for your brand versus look at this app. It’s in our But trust us.

Neil Parker 4:42
Yeah, it’s the notion of action and experiences. It was clear. Thank you. This is 2010 it was clear that the new generation of brands was being founded in action and experience. So like I mentioned Google Starbucks was another neither of these brands advertised at all in their early going right We were fascinated by this, you know, phenomenon. And I think one of the to put it really simply one of the, the early ideas behind starting CO was all the companies from a professional services standpoint, the companies that were good at branding weren’t good experiences, right? The classic delight agencies, and the companies that were good experiences, like let’s say, you know, IDEO frog, or even, you know, venture backed startups with industrial design weren’t good at brand. And so it’s like, how do you bring those two together into a shared thought. And that became a new, I think, a new kind of strategy discipline that was thinking both about action and experience, as well as brand and communications and culture. Simultaneously, those two things hasn’t historically, you know, bumped into each other in the same merch shop in that kind of way.

Adam Pierno 5:49
When you got engaged in brand, at willful, and you obviously, were exposed to brand prior to that, but when you when you took that position there in hip deep, you know, you really kind of started there in a little bit in the deep end there. What was your exposure to brand at IBM, you know, how much of a part of your work was a

Neil Parker 6:13
brand was kind of alongside what I was doing. So I was in the IBM very siloed. You know, at that time, I was in the corporate strategy team. Now, John water was who’s, you know, since become both the client and now, the mentor was running, you know, a really iconic Marketing Communications Department on the floor below. But we never communicated. And so I was creating new business ideas under the IBM brand, you know, all up. And I think, hopefully, adding a little to it in terms of patient wasn’t a discipline that I engaged in, I was more kind of an active consumer. And I thought about it a lot through the lens of the semiotics that I’d learned, you know, doing English at college. That was kind of one of the ways that I was processing it. But it wasn’t a thing I was really doing at IBM, I was really doing business creation. Well, I

Adam Pierno 7:06
think semiotics is a great place to start, because especially if you think about traditional approaches to brand, it is about figuring out the roots of words, figuring out the sentiment of the intent of the words, and then trying to pull those as a through line through any kind of communication. And it was always through packaging, or broadcast that we were trying to get people to see those words. And it’s like, Oh, these are all action verbs. This must be a fitness brand, or, you know, a lot of branding did come from that place. Where did you talk a little bit about how you see the past of bread, excuse me, the past of brand, and some of the foundational stuff that that we’ve seen going by the wayside a little bit?

Neil Parker 7:50
Yeah, I think it’s been on my mind a lot is that it’s clear, I think, to everyone that this is a moment where brands need to step up in new ways. And I think the problem that we have centrally is the theories and practices of how brands are built, and businesses are run were all created in an earlier age, and don’t work in this age. And we need an all new theory and practice that is still being built and doesn’t exist yet. Yeah. And it’s there, for instance, if so, look at that earlier agency. Okay, so what were the codes that were built into this practice of brandy that we’ve now you know, inherited? When you look into the deep past? It’s interesting, because branding has been going on like, since forever. In fact, it’s pre human. I had my team think about like, one of the earliest instance of branding that you can think of one of my team members said, Well, you know, bees and Hornets, like yellow and black is a code of danger in nature, it’s kind of it’s like,

Adam Pierno 8:45
very helpful,

Neil Parker 8:46
right? Very helpful, you immediately spot it, you read the code, just as you would, you know, read a pack of Lucky Strike. And there are even, you know, insects that don’t stink at all that are adopting that branding, you know, as the cover. And, you know, branding is ancient in human history. I think the Romans are obsessed with this, this wine brand for learning, you know, there are markings on bottles that are showing their origins. So branding is the thing that we do like attaching signifiers to objects to understand them right and acceptable set

Adam Pierno 9:19
them apart. Yeah, that little part, right. That’s all.

Neil Parker 9:22
I think. The era that we’re inheriting, though, is something very different. It was one that really started with pain medicines were suddenly the packaging became the value it wasn’t somehow as a signal of the inherent value the packaging became everything. So in the you know, 19th century you get pain medicines are rising especially in the US but also in the UK where it’s all about the bottle and the label and the claim what’s inside is largely worthless or generic. But then that you know, literally came Kellogg’s Coca Cola. They were kind of pain medicine brands in their in their early going Kellogg’s Yeah, totally right, like a health resort. Cornflakes were a thing that people were, were phased out of that history, you get some of these iconic packaged goods brands. And but that logic of it’s the wrapper, that is the value. And therefore the packaging and the communications are where we put the majority of our efforts, right to co opt consumption. And then that became turbocharged, as I, you know, look at it in the post war era, there was this amazing era of economic abundance, there was kind of a cultural mass center that, by the way, excluded a lot of people who now need to be listened to, but there was much more homogenous culturally. There were, there were mass platforms, like you could get, you know, you know, God knows how many millions of eyeballs by just taking an ad in I Love Lucy. And there was a lack of consequences for consumption, there wasn’t a sense that we’d kind of, were really damaging the world around us and the environment. And in those conditions, this notion of branding, being, you know, the turbocharger of consumption ran riot globally, as we all know, and now we’re hitting, you know, the problems that I led to, but along the way, I think it professionalized this notion of branding is communications. Branding is positioning. It’s not the thing itself, it’s how do I position, you know, this, how to position this phone to you to put it in the best rhetorical light, all of those practices back to what you said about language. We’re born in that era. But they don’t help us in this new era, because they’re all about, let’s call it psychological manipulation, rhetoric, share gain and shareholder value as the things that we’re doing. Not genuinely meeting people helping people understand them delivering value for broader constituencies. So I think that the past has tracked, as you know, what’s being taught in MA programs, MBA programs today is that older technology, and it doesn’t really work in today’s era.

Adam Pierno 11:59
Well, does it not work? Or is it? Or is there a place where it will bump into, you know, it won’t be sustainable anymore?

Neil Parker 12:09
Yeah, that’s a good point. It’s it kind of runs out of gas. And it can, you know, it can eat itself, you can end up just being irrelevant. If you only follow that. I think what we experience our clients facing or a lot of companies face is that they know that they need to be purpose driven. Right. I think that there’s a consensus around that right when the Business Roundtable announced in 2019. And these were like some of the biggest companies in the Fortune 500. Site. Okay, we’ve all said, we need to be purposeful. But that’s a statement of intent that I think has as much value as we’re going to be carbon neutral by 2040. It’s a how do I actually do it? And I think what’s happened is, alongside this massive edifice of the shareholder value business machine, a few little tents have been camped of light, how to do purpose driven business. On the side, right, it’s a hobby for the business. Now, it’s a good thing. I’m not dissing it, please, you know, we need more of it, some things better than a tends to, right. But it tends to be a departure from the business system, and therefore, it can be defunded to the extent that it funded. You know, the next step, I think, would be to figure out how to actually bake purpose activation into the business itself and have that be the operations rather than the operations funding, the altruism, that enacts the purpose. And that’s the step that I think hasn’t quite been taken.

Adam Pierno 13:35
Yeah, I like, I like the analogy of runs out of gas for the current method in the, in the environment that we’re in, and where it looks like we may be heading with, you know, environmental change, or water. So, as as we leg that out, and as we think forward a few years, have you been thinking at all about how brand building or approach to brand might adapt? You know, when it’s not, by, by by but, you know, we’re we’re adapting to a more turbulent world around us.

Neil Parker 14:14
Yeah, that’s been, you know, on our mind a lot, but a COA, which trying to build that and develop it, and we’re not there yet. But I think that we have some, you know, some clues as to how that can, you know, can and should evolve. I think that the first one would be just taking the step of of including more needs in decision making that the classical, limited that you’re talking about ROI, you’re talking about enriching shareholders, right, because it’s a return on investment and the return goes where and broadening that lens, you know, to take the business roundtable this word and say we need to think more broadly about a more constituents, more participants in the impact of this brand, the communities that are adjacent to the brand and the culture that The brand contributes to the environment that the brand both pulls from, and then pushes outputs back into all of those things need to be considered. So and that sounds great, okay, let’s think about those things. But the problem is, is much harder to measure them, right? It’s pretty easy to measure shareholder enrichment. It’s hard to measure positive or negative cultural impact and to get the feedback loops in place.

Adam Pierno 15:24
How do you even where do you start?

Neil Parker 15:28
Yeah, it’s so you know, because we’re CO and collaboration is core to what we do. We’re having conversations with, with people who were researching these things, one collaboration that we’re engaging in, is with John water, who’s at the Yale School of Management. And it’s interesting that that school is called the School of Management, not the School of Business. Because he’s really interested, like, what are the new managerial practices that aren’t just business, right? They’ve become bigger, societal, and environmental. And John, has been working on really building a toolkit for stakeholder capitalism, and how you think about what that is that’s in progress. And we’re resisting with that. And there’s, there’s a whole toolkit that needs to be built out. That’s one thing that’s happening. Another one that I think is crucial, I pointed out how it’s hard to measure things. There’s a firm called bluetest, that does really detailed supply chain measurement. And we’re starting to partner with them on how we can think about baking those metrics into how you look at brand. Branding, not just thinking about the environment as a dimension in the abstract, which is never going to win an argument. But you can actually look at measures of how, for example, just to pick one case study from them. sustainability efforts are usually usually their value is under measured by a factor of between 10 and 100. Because things like for example, the benefit of on consumer preference of sustainability efforts isn’t calculated. It’s just looking at media, you know, cost. So there are new valuation techniques and metrics that need to be built on the report is that ability that there are new managerial tools that need to be built. And we have partners that are looking at that, but it’s going to be a multidisciplinary effort. And my conviction is we need to kind of replace the toolkit, right, that actually strategy consulting, that I used to do out to build, right, all of these matrices and ways of making decisions. Yeah, yeah. That rebuilt in fundamentally involves more people, including, by the way, you know, design thinking, right? So human centered design, who’s the human, which humans get to participate in that?

Adam Pierno 17:40
How do we include more a wider array of voices that are impacted by these decisions than just the fate of the shareholders or the core customer?

Neil Parker 17:49
Exactly. So it’s a whole set of new habits and behaviors. The toolkit is still being being built to do that.

Adam Pierno 17:56
That’s amazing. It’s so how much of the the old technology and the original toolkit do you think will be turned upside down? Or you as you’re built, as you’re looking at the new toolkit? Is it adding too? Is it a yes? And like, all these things are good plus all these new things? Or is it this has to go? You know, are there elements that your thinking will get turned off? Well, as you add some of these new pieces.

Neil Parker 18:24
So far, it’s just been additive. Right, Adam? And I think that’s in the early going, that’s probably the only way that you can do because you can’t tell a company that is listed on an exchange to ignore the shareholder dimension. You can’t do that. And you

Adam Pierno 18:41
have a 20 year longitudinal study, you can’t be like, stop that. And we’re going to do this new thing today. Yeah.

Neil Parker 18:46
So it needs to start by being additive. I think the fundamental point I would make is that we want to build these tools that Add to add perspective, to how companies make decisions when thinking about valuing, think about the impact of their brands. But the hope would be that they evolve to being actually in harmony with the earlier profit based model, rather than acting against it. Because if they’re not in harmony with In other words, if you can’t make money off these new practices, to put it really, bluntly, you’ll probably not keep on doing them. Or they will one of the traps that we’ve been in is that a lot of businesses have been forced to think about purpose as an investment, a drain of resources that they have to make for cultural reasons, because their employees demand it. We’ve got to do this, as opposed to thinking about purpose as something that can to the point about sustainability, generate value into the business, or thinking empathetically about people can also be thought of as a concession. You know, we’re allowing employees to limit hours or being flexible with with, with work location, but again, that reaps benefits in terms of a more committed and engaged and less exhausted workforce. So the vision that we have, and we’re playing with calling this being a generative company, is that profit and purpose. And people actually help each other, right? That profit can fund purpose. But purpose can create new constituencies of allegiance and loyalty, that fun back to profit. Both of those can connect to people because people are motivated by engaging in a purpose. And because profit can reward those people. So from the little tent that we discussed on the outside of the edifice, right, that like purpose is somehow this ancillary thing to being part of the business system. Yeah. I think is the trick. I gotta be honest, we haven’t. We’re building that. And we’re trying to figure out what that means that it is additive, but it’s additive in a way that synergistic not additive in a way, that is, you know, intention with the profit motive, we believe,

Adam Pierno 20:54
yeah. And in a lot of cases that that purpose gets treated as a PR piece that is at optimally, you know, self funding and not a cost center, which is a disaster, and then it just means it loses $1, and somebody wants to cut it.

Neil Parker 21:10
No, it’s I think we’ve all seen, right? The the Instagram participation in social justice, for example, have so many companies or the Instagram participate in moments like Ukraine, and it’s just, it’s eye rolling, my younger team members would call it cringe. The issue is, don’t your cultural participation from the sidelines? And just like saying, yes, doesn’t cut it, everyone knows this. This leads to another tool, right? Which which is much needed, which is, how does a company understand where it does have the right to intervene? Where should it enact its purpose? And to us that should be the overlap between a real need and a constituency, but also accompanies, like, genuine ability to help? Like, how can this business, our business system actually make, you know, a contribution there. And those are places to start a great example is just a small one is Capital One, you know, a moment where you know, income inequality is rising, they’re handling people’s money, they cancelled overdraft fees. And that will create, you know, more longevity relationship for them, I’m sure they had a good business reason to do it. But it’s a wonderful example of financial services firms, using their business system to actually assist people to get wealthier rather than simply, you know, draining them on the sides and misusing it. You know, that’s just one example. You know, h&m has been, I think last year was offering a free suit rental for people who are applying for jobs that needed professional attire who couldn’t afford it. Right, we can contribute in a way that’s authentic to them, you know, Google, a client of ours, we help them in the in the pandemic, like the first pandemic summer, really communicate to small businesses, how they could use Google’s free tools to communicate new opening hours, new availability, curbside pickup, what the rules were for masking or not insight inside the business, all of this for free, but it really enabled businesses to present themselves in the right way, to a well turned upside down. But again, fully part of Google because of the Google Maps, you know, imprint and the fact that each business has its own, you know, place on Google map. So that idea of purpose not being philanthropy, but being a business action, I think is a fundamental,

Adam Pierno 23:38
it seems, you know, for those three companies you just mentioned, there, they have an experiential component, you know, the, the Capital One has, you know, the you are about as experiential as it gets, because it’s your money and your your blood pressure goes up, when you look at that, and you have to use the over gap, h&m, you’re in a store, or you’re using there, you’re eventually going to put those clothes on your body. And then Google Maps is very active product, despite being pixels, but going back to consumer packaged goods, or you know, the first patent medicines that you referenced earlier, and we don’t have to use any specific brands, when those are sitting on a shelf. And you’re talking to a CMO or a brand manager, that and I’ve worked on some of those brands, where really it is you said, then correctly, like the packaging becomes the value and the packaging becomes the brand. That’s hard to even owning it myself. It’s hard to come up with an idea that really makes sense for how they can engage in the world more broadly, that is not a PR stunt or not just a you know, some sort of, you know, brand activation and is genuinely enriching people or improving people’s value given to them by that purchase.

Neil Parker 24:59
Yeah, But that’s such a profound point. And is it’s interesting that the most powerful modern brands today are experiential brands. And as we discussed earlier, the technology was all built around packaged goods. I think it is hard for some of those. But even in categories like, you know, toiletries, right, I think that Duff has created has really made a cultural contribution to self esteem definitions of beauty self image, that has had a lasting impact and a beneficial impact. And even though you can say that is adjacent to rather than baked into what they make, it’s still I think, it’s created a new mindset with which those products are consumed, and a new purpose for consuming them not to hit an ideal for express oneself, that has moved culture forward. And I look at that work and that says, you know, that’s like a decade’s long effort. Right? What what Doug has been doing 20 years? Yeah. 20 plus years. Right. So I think in that sense, they move culture forward. And that I think, takes me to another thing that I bump into a lot, which is a lot of the traditional communications driven brand building has historically exploited culture, right? It’s looked at planners do this for a living like, well, what can we like using culturales? Or, you know, leverage point, or the Andrew Keller market when he was at CPB said we diagnose culture to manipulate culture?

Adam Pierno 26:30
Which is how he put whether we’re looking for soft spots, but I can we can brand into? Yeah,

Neil Parker 26:36
exactly. To me, like, again, like the bigger point is, instead of strip mining past culture, right, or looking at current culture, what you can Co Op, how can you move culture forward? Like what in culture? Do you want to be a solution to so even if you’re just making toothpaste, and it’s you know, it’s not an immersive business XP experience that where you can really shift people’s behavior, because probably the role of toothpaste in people’s lives is a relatively solved proposition. That there are still questions of how you can evolve culture. And think about contributing to the culture that we all bought and be a part of, and baked that into the work. So I think the cultural job of marketers shifts in this new era, to how do we move culture forward? Not what can we kind of grab as a sticky point for a brief, you know, in current culture that we can kind of glom on to

Adam Pierno 27:27
how how you’re dealing with leaders at these companies. How tough of a cell is that? too? You know, it’s one thing to get someone to commit to a new package design or a campaign or even a, a purpose driven effort. But to get them to get them to understand and comprehend like, No, we’re gonna get our arms around culture. And we’re going to decide together, what part of culture we want to improve or impact. Yeah, that’s a huge ask, is it not?

Neil Parker 27:58
We don’t find that. Adam, to be honest with you, we get an it may be that we, you know, self select a bit, because we’re so much into that end of the market that clients come to you for, you know, so we find it’s more that they don’t know how to do it, like, they’ll come to us with the willingness. We worked with an apparel retailer, who was all about how do we bake this evolving redefinition of masculinity into our brand, they wanted to contribute to that they didn’t know how to do it. And so often, were the agents of how, rather than the agents of what, as I said, I think if you speak to most relatively, you know, aware business practitioners today, they know that businesses have to follow a purpose. I think that that is sold, the question is how we tend to be more answering the how question and whether we should question whether that’s, you know, by luck, or because that’s the kind of business we get, or because the general climate has shifted that far, which I hope is the case. We don’t finally get into that argument is more the argument about the activation of the how,

Adam Pierno 29:03
which do you think takes more vision, the, the what, or the how? I used to think it was the what, but now in my, in this part of my career, I think someone who has the patience to look at the field and say, Ah, god, we can move this over here, and we can play over there. What is your experience? Where the who, how, where does the vision really live?

Neil Parker 29:26
I think that power is harder, I think visions or you know, visions are relatively, you know, cheap. And so that’s why, you know, partly our emphasis on action, you know, figuring out exactly how this intent cascades through into the business. And that’s actually interestingly, that’s led us to reorganize, you know, code because, given the purpose is at the core and most businesses now agree that you do purpose driven. The question of how you do it requires different kinds of actions. And so we stopped being one kind of offering and have now evolved into three. For that reason, Krugman who you spoke to a couple of years ago, founder of our organization, on culture practice, you know, the how of purpose becomes well, how do you actually get employees to fully believe it know what it is know how to act on it, engage with it and use that genuinely as a cultural touchstone. There’s an entire practice of organizational psychology, organization design, even structuring incentives, rewards, rituals and behaviors that you need to engage in to do that. Well. So we’ve actually created a practice that does that with specialists, you know, in that field, business on brand, how does purpose actually manifest in how you literally architect your, your brands for a major sports hotel that we’ve worked with, we’re building a new brand architecture that actually activates their purpose as the brand architecture so you can encounter it through the products and understand how it relates to baking it into business and brand practice. And that’s another of our offerings. And then lastly, you mentioned this experience, like how do you bake that into experience? So that takes intersectional design of digital design, you know, product design service design? How does the purpose actually manifest in the experience that you offer day to day, you need specialists in that? So it’s certainly pushing us to become more about the how than the white although we still do a lot of the what purpose definition is still part of it. Where I think we were really propulsive to our clients is in the how that manifests. Yeah. Inside the business with Oregon culture, outside the business with experiences and in the business on the brand itself.

Adam Pierno 31:44
Yeah, I think I asked you the question in an unfair way too, because not all visions are equal. And not all executions are equal either, you know, so the summer is definitely more complex or grander. Yeah. Well, I

Neil Parker 31:58
think that takes us to an interesting area around purpose design, because that’s another theories as though all purposes are both equal. I think I’m gonna misquote this, Adam, but I think the British American tobaccos purpose is something like to increase human happiness. I think it’s something like that sounds like amazing. It’s like, okay, good luck, you know. So there are businesses that have, they’ve called it at such a high level, that there’s no credibility, now they can achieve that. Right. It’s just, it’s just puffery, there are others whose purpose is to become the dominant provider of widgets in northeastern Saskatchewan or whatever that may be, that are too low level, the trick is the finding a purpose, that is something that you can actually achieve with the business system that you either have or want to evolve into, yes, on the right kind of altitude. And that is,

Adam Pierno 32:56
and I think it is fair for a company to say Our purpose is to make money and return shareholder value. If, if they want to say that publicly, I’m not really a libertarian, but the market will decide if that’s the best way to get or if this other organization has a different purpose is better for them. Yeah. And what what’s frustrating about the conversation around purpose, which, as a Twitter user, it gets distilled down to 280 characters is like it’s binary, it’s good or bad, right? Well, no, it’s obviously not, it is much more complex than that.

Neil Parker 33:28
But not all of the good or not all of them are fit for purpose, you know, a question we asked in the what we do, is your purpose fit for purpose? Because if the purpose is actually driving credible action and making a difference, you’ve got to picture that a certain altitude. Yes. And I think to your point about there are companies that just want to say, Yeah, you know, we’re here to make money, they absolutely should, should do that. I think where they’ll run into problems the soonest is with hiring. Because New talented employees, it’s a cliche to say, but they doesn’t make it not true. They want to work for purpose, like companies where they feel that they can actually have a hand in acting that purpose. And if you’re not offering that, as far as employee value proposition, your talent will be worse, you’ll have dumber people, you will in the long term, you know, sustained because you’ll lose the war for talent. That’s just the starting dimension of all of this that way, it’s actually self interest that would take you there.

Adam Pierno 34:24
Yeah, I want to go back to the very beginning of this, I introduced co collective rights, I stumbled over agency or consultancy, we talked about, and then we’ve just had this long conversation about brands and about what you’re building there or evolving code to do. So both of those words are loaded with baggage. And how do you how does that inform the decisions you make about how you’re building code and how you’re staffing it in those three areas that you’re building? Because it doesn’t you didn’t describe anything? That sounds like an agency to me.

Neil Parker 34:57
So yeah, the agency RT is that we deeply believe in creativity. It’s the thing that led me to want to leave strategy consulting, creativity, imagining what could be not extrapolating what is being done reasonably ambitious, believing in the ability of creative thought to shift things forward in completely discontinuous ways. We fully commit to that. We have creative teams working alongside strategy teams, we think that that dialogue is absolutely essential to what we do. So

Adam Pierno 35:31
those are the co creative teams.

Neil Parker 35:34
Those are more intersectional than that. So it’s a blend of graphic designers, service designers, you know, systems thinkers, copywriters, you know, so, creative directors, but it’s a motley, an awesome crew of like different skills in the creative realm. So we’re agency like in that, like dogeared belief in the power of creativity, we think it’s absolutely fundamental, because our purpose has to light people’s hearts up there has to be a creative dimension to that. Businesses need to be creative enterprises to fully deliver value will consultancy, like in that we believe in rigor, right? We believe in really grounding what we do, in fact, the fact base and that not only gives it a higher chance of being right but also is immensely, propulsive, in any C suite conversation, you can win the argument at the CEO and CFO level if you have that fundamental grounding, but it’s the two together and that leads us not to want to use either word, its transformation partner is how we, you know, think of it.

Adam Pierno 36:43
That’s great. Well, Neil, it was wonderful to spend this time with you. Thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate

Neil Parker 36:49
it. Thanks a lot. I’m yeah, really enjoyed it.

Adam Pierno 36:53
Where can people find you online?

Neil Parker 36:56
Neal Parker on Instagram will be the place. Got it. That’s

Adam Pierno 36:59
it. You’re a one. You’re a one platform person. Yeah, yeah. I love it. I love it. I will. I will add a link in the show notes. Neil. Thanks again for joining me. This is wonderful conversation. All right. Cheers. The Strategy Inside Everything is produced by me, Adam Pierno If you like what you’ve heard, leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts. Actually, I have no idea if that helps, or if it’s ever done anybody any good. If you really want to help the show, and you liked what you heard, share it with someone else who you think will dig it. That’s the best way to help the show and keep the conversation growing. New Music for the strategy inside everything is by Sawsquarenoise. If you have an idea, a question or want to push back on something you hear here, go to thatsnotaninsight.com and leave a message or a voicemail for me. If you want more information on your host Adam Pierno you can find it on adampierno.com and learn about my books, speaking and consulting practice. Thanks so much for listening.

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