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Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World's Greatest Companies
Book Review of Jim Stengel's Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World's Greatest Companies by Hazel Jackson

I first experienced Jim Stengel’s work at the Growth Summit conference in Atlanta; he was an engaging speaker and shared some ideas that resonated with me and the rest of the audience. I eagerly ordered his book to learn more. Unfortunately I was disappointed. It was a hard slog to read and although I still think he has well formulated ideas and insights we can apply, he made heavy work of the book.

The overriding concept of his research and career experience (he was the Global Marketing Officer for P&G) is that companies who have centered their business on improving people’s lives have a growth rate triple that of competitors.

Stengel studied 50 brands over a ten year growth period, connecting their financial performance to their impact on fundamental human emotions, hopes, values and greater purposes. Throughout the book he does ‘deep dives’ into specific products and companies and how they have purpose to brands and performance.

He calls the link ‘brand ideals’ and a viable one cuts through the clutter and clarifies what you and your people stand for and believe. Your role is to establish what your company or brand ideal is (purpose) and then connect it to improving people’s lives.

Through the research they established that there are five fundamental human values that improve people’s lives by:

Eliciting Joy - Activating experiences of happiness, wonder and limitless possibility
Enabling Connections - Enhancing the ability of people to connect with one another and the world in meaningful ways
Inspiring Exploration - Helping people explore new horizons and new experiences
Evoking Pride - Giving people increased confidence, strength, security and vitality
Impacting Society -Affecting society broadly, including by challenging the status quo and redefining categories

Your brand might cross over two or three, but you should find your dominant human value and then center your marketing activities and brand building and whole company culture behind this. In the keynote address he focused on just five words from these values and that helped me see how I could apply them to our own business:

Joy, Connect, Explore, Pride, and Impact.

Stengel provides a framework he calls the Ideal Tree – a series of steps to identifying, using and evaluating your brand ideal:

Discover an ideal in of the five fields of fundamental human values
Build your culture around your ideal
Communicate your ideal to engage employees and customers
Deliver a near-ideal customer experience
Evaluate your progress and people against your ideal

The model is simple, perhaps overly so, but the examples he provides are rich in content and insights. One of the struggles I had with the book is he starts with a detailed case study of the company Method. As I had no personal experience or knowledge of this brand, 30 pages on how they have bought their brand ideal to life really switched me off. 

I felt I was reading a story about Method – which was actually quite interesting but I got lost in their company. Stengel takes you through all five steps with Method and then does it again with deep dives into each step, highlighting some of the other 50 brands.

What I got from the book:

Continue to build your business focusing on your purpose – the reason why you are in business, and hopefully you can link it to one of the 5 human values. I can immediately think of local brands or companies I work with in the UAE do this – e.g. THE One – is about saving the Planet and investing into communities.

Get into the minds of your customers, you need to help change their lives for the better – what do you offer that will do that. Then pull all your marketing efforts and communication in line with this offering. Every communication should start with your ideal in mind.

Great brands or companies that want fast growth should begin with their people and culture – get that right from the inside out, and the rest will be possible.

Measure your progress and be prepared to say no to something that doesn’t fit with your brand ideal.

From the list of Stengel 50, their Brand Ideals and the link to Human values – I selected a few brands to share:


Ideals Statement (from Stengel’s Judgments and research – not generated by the companies)

Link to the Five fields of Fundamental Human Values


Accenture exists to help people accelerate ideas and achieve their dreams

Impacting Society


Airtel exists to enable people in India and Southern Asia to enjoy and benefit from local, regional, national and global conversations

Enabling Connection exists to enable freedom of choice, exploration and discovery

Inspiring Exploration


Apple exists to empower creative exploration and self-expression

Inspiring Exploration


Blackberry exists to connect people with one another and the content that is most important in their lives, anywhere, anytime.

Enabling Connection


Coca-Cola exists to inspire moments of happiness

Eliciting Joy


Emirates exists to connect people with the world through a new lens of perception

Eliciting Joy


FedEx exists to deliver peace of mind to everyday interactions

Enabling Connection


Google exists to immediately satisfy every curiosity

Inspiring Exploration


MasterCard exists to make the world of commerce simpler and more flexible

Eliciting Joy

Mercedes Benz

Mercedes-Benz exists to epitomize a life of achievement

Evoking Pride


Pampers exists to help mothers care for their babies’ and toddlers’ healthy, happy development

Inspiring Exploration

Red Bull

Red Bull exists to energise the world

Inspiring Exploration


Visa exists to provide the freedom to people to follow their passions by providing better money for better living

Inspiring Exploration


Zappos exists to delivery happiness through “wow” service.

Eliciting Joy

If you are a brand or marketing professional, this should be added to your ‘must read’ pile. From a business owner’s perspective, I felt he reinforced some fundamental principles we learned from other authors – however he had the evidence to justify the thinking from some great brands.

- Hazel Jackson, CEO of biz-group

Listen to the podcast of Hazel Jackson on The Library, Dubai Eye 103.8 reviewing Jim Stengel's Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World's Greatest Companies
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