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Sean Pillot de Chenecey chats with the inspiring Rita Clifton CBE, acclaimed branding and marketing guru.
Included in this highly informative chat:
- How to work with disruption
- The marketing world and how to work in it including data, and remembering the human touch
- How small companies can rise above the competition
- Apple v. Microsoft
- How clarity and consistency is key in branding
- What Rita learnt working at Saatchi and Saatchi
- Insights into the advertising business
- The importance of looking after your people
- Rita’s new book and how it differs from her previous books
- Books that are inspiring Rita at present
- Tips on how to make sure your brand presents you as the person you are and the company you represent
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (00:04): Hello, this podcast is care of Speakers Associates, the global speaker bureau representing a select group of the world’s finest thinkers and thought leaders. Founded in 1999, today Speakers Associates operate out of nine offices across seven countries covering the UK, Europe and Middle East. I’m Sean Pillot de Chenecey, author of the Post-Truth Business and Influences and Revolutionaries. In this series, I interview a range of fascinating individuals, proudly represented by the bureau. These change agents and industry experts give an update on their specialist areas of knowledge, and also on their motivations and viewpoints regarding the future of business. Today, I’m really pleased to be joined by Rita Clifton CBE, who’s been described by the FT as a ‘Brand guru’, as ‘The doyenne of branding’ by Campaign Magazine and as the ‘Brand leading the brands’ by the Day Telegraph. Combined with her experience of being a CEO, chair, board director, and a successful entrepreneur, Rita is able to inspire organizations of all kinds to find new ways to succeed in an uncertain world.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (01:15): She starts her career in advertising and quickly progressed becoming Vice Chairman and Strategy Director at Saatchi and Saatchi during its most successful period. She then moved into Brand Strategy where she became London CEO, then chairman of leading global brand consultancy into brand and led a highly diverse and talented team. She’s advised numerous leading businesses around the world, as well as startups and growth stage businesses of all shapes and sizes. In 2013, she co-founded and chaired the business and brand consultancy BrandCap, which now has offices in London, New York and Hong Kong, and which she successfully sold onto the populist group. She’s a regular commentator across all media, including CNN, BBC, Sky, and social channels, as well as a communist for national newspapers and trade magazines. She was recently a mentor and judge on the CNBC award winning business series, Popup Startup in association with Alibaba. She’s also the author of best selling books, including the Future of Brands and two additions of the economist Brand and Branding. Rita has just completed a leadership book, Like No Other Love Your Imposter, which captures her uniquely honest thoughts on what it takes to build your personal brand and become a business leader in the world today. So after that stunning array achievement, Rita, hello.
Rita Clifton (02:38): I truly feel like an imposter after all that, as you can imagine. A thank you very much, Sean Very
Rita Clifton (02:43): After all that introduction. Well, it’ll be interesting to explore a bit about, you know, some of those, some of those examples and also some of those roles, but I’m very much looking forward to talking to you.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (02:56): Well, I’m delighted to hear it. So, I mean, so here we are in 2020, and as someone like yourself who is quite frankly known that, seen it all from the point of view of key issues impacting businesses now. I’m not sure you can go through a giant endeavor ending list almost, but the ones that really intrigue you, what sort of ones, you know, spring to mind?
Rita Clifton (03:17): It’s interesting that you say that I might have seen it all. I’m not going to take that as an insult by the way.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (03:21): That exactly your experience.
Rita Clifton (03:21): As in, you know, I’m, I’ve been around for a long time, but do you know, I think one of the key things is that you must never ever feel as though you’ve seen it all and particularly not to feel as though, you know, it all. Because as we know, one of the key characteristics of staying successful in business these days is to stay nosy. Stay nosy about what’s happening in the world. What’s happening with people what’s happening with businesses. And you know, of course the world at large and relatively relating to that. If I had one theme that I’ve observed, I’ve spoken to organizations about of all kinds, it’s disruption, disruption, disruption. And it’s easy to say that, but what do we actually mean by disruption? Well, clearly, you know, that relates to economically, socially, and also of course, environmentally, there’s a much, much bigger story about that as you can imagine.
Rita Clifton (04:17): And it also relates to uncertainty. Uncertainty that’s happening again in the broader economic and political environment, let alone know the business environment and what’s happening in the digital world. So all of this is adding up to a highly disruptive, highly disrupted set of businesses that I’m obviously observing and working with and so on. And you know, the main thing that you can do in all that, I’m sure it won’t surprise you, that I’m gonna say that is that you’ve gotta have a really clear idea about what you stand for, what your brand offers, your customers and how are you gonna keep on innovating and refreshing that to compete, truly compete with all comers in this extraordinary fragmented digital world.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (05:07): Top answer has to be said.
Rita Clifton (05:11): Well, I’ll go back to school now and take the exam. Now you said I had a top answer.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (05:15): That’s fantastic. Say, just in terms of another angle on that from the point of view who is best placed to serve these issues, I mean, as someone like yourself, who’s, again, who’s led businesses of many types on an international basis. If you were looking now at almost say, you know, advising someone who’s going into the industry in general of marketing, which area should they be going into that you think is the most dynamic bit? Where are you looking now to think, oh, that’s where it’s all happening.
Rita Clifton (05:45): You know, it’s interesting, you should say marketing and obviously some extraordinary things are happening marketing in terms of your ability to collect data, to analyze it, you know, to target the right kind of consumers, uh, to understand exactly how they’re behaving and so on. I mean, there has never been more data clearly in marketing, but also frankly, there’s never been more competition and you need to make sure that you are getting through to the right people in the right way with the right imagination, because sometimes it can be really tempting to get data obsessed. And so data obsessed that you forget that you are dealing with human beings, you’ve got emotions and feelings and resentments and all of those other things. So you don’t just have to look at what it is that people do, but also how they’re feeling and how that means you need to really engage them and touch them.
Rita Clifton (06:36): But actually the broader point is that, you know, marketing is the engine for what actually the whole enterprise is all about, which is about the brand. And that doesn’t mean, you know, that doesn’t matter whether or not you are a startup business or a national business or a global business or whatever. And it doesn’t even matter by the way, whether you’re talking about yourself personally, if you are trying to build a sustainable enterprise, that’s sustainably influential and valuable, you need to be thinking about how you are being, how you’re building your brand. And that can mean stitching it in from the outset when you’re just thinking about the venture to renewing the asset that you’ve got later in your market cycle and also market existence. So I guess that, you know, there’s never been more opportunity cause you know, the barriers to enter in so many markets now have come down so much, you don’t have to build factories.
Rita Clifton (07:31): You know, you don’t have to physically be in every market that you want to serve. You can frankly open up a business with a decent transactional website and some fulfillment, you know, opportunities. And you can create a business if you’ve got the right story. If you’ve got the right proposition and critically, if you understand enough about your customers, where they are, what they’re doing, what they’re feeling. So it’s a very, very disruptor world, but it’s also a truly exciting world because if you are a great business, you can break through now, you know, at a cost that suits you providing you’ve got people who love you, your staff love you. They know what you are about and your customers of course love you too, and are prepared to tell other customers too. That makes big fat lazy businesses very sweaty and small interesting startup business full of opportunity and possibility.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (08:25): And are there any businesses when you are giving your talks that you would typically point to, that you find have really cracked, that you would say again of any type, any size you think that, or they have really, really nailed this one?
Rita Clifton (08:40): Well, there are obviously many, many examples of both huge corporations and also, little tiny ones. I mean, from the huge point of view, what’s really interesting. I think at the moment is what’s happening between Apple and Microsoft. Because if you think back 10 years, for example, it was very clear who was going in the right direction and who frankly, you know, was having a real struggle because Microsoft 10 years ago was a fragmented business. It was a technology and sales driven business, not a brand based business, whereas Apple was the opposite, absolutely brand obsessed, brand based business. And now I think what’s interesting is Apple is becoming a bit more complicated, a bit more fragmented. Maybe hasn’t got that real clear, simple beauty that it had at one point, when it had Steve Jobs in charge. Whereas Microsoft, I think is interesting.
Rita Clifton (09:33): It’s sort of going the other direction. I mean, they’ve got a CEO now who is a, you know, one Microsoft kind of guy. And with that kind of no clear thinking, they’ve developed this extraordinary, you know, Cloud based services business that now actually I think that, you know, the market, the share price has tripled since Satya Nadella took over. So I think it’s really interesting to see those two, those two businesses and their stage of development. But if you look at actually some interesting smaller businesses, I remember several years ago, I was asked to speak at a conference and it was a, an accounting software conference. Can you believe? And sometimes you think, oh, you know, this doesn’t sound too exciting. I show up at the conference and it is vibrant. It is huge.
Rita Clifton (10:24): It has all kinds of fascinating technology and really, really beautiful setting styling at a great scale and scale and scope. And this was for a business and a brand called Xero, X E R O. It was a Kiwi or New Zealand based business. And what was fascinating about this business that they had created something truly interesting. And well-branded outta something that sounded as unpromising as accounting software and the way they did that was utterly clear thinking from the outset. This is about beautiful, beautiful business. This is a beautiful way to do business beautiful accounting. I mean, this is a way of helping smaller businesses really, really get to grips in a very appealing way with all of the, you know, the usual drudgery of running a business with your accounts and expenses and things like that saying I’ve really admired how they pick that proposition up of made interesting, beautiful accounting software.
Rita Clifton (11:27): And now it’s broader into beautiful business. And they’ve done that by stitching the brand in from the very beginning. And that’s, what’s made it as powerful as it is now, and to have as much potential it is now. Whereas I know any number of exciting little startups or people who come up with ideas for apps and things like that who think they’ve got a great product, but you know, the thing about products they become obsolete or someone else comes up with a better product. If you’ve got a better customer understanding, if you wrap yourself around your customer and really think through the whole brand experience, that’s what gives you a long and profitable life.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (12:05): And in terms of a long and profitable life just on my side, I’ve always found it interesting. I’ve always used a couple of superb statements from real interesting leaders and one was Francis Fukiyama with his famous fear, uncertainty and doubt mantra that came out with about 20 years ago. Another one, yourself with the clarity, consistency, and leadership thing. When everyone is stuck in a corner, you bring out clarity, consistency, clarity, consistency, leadership, and it’ll start many people out of the hole. So thank you for that.
Rita Clifton (12:36): Well, it’s an absolute pleasure. And do you know it still as true now as it ever was? I mean, clearly the way that the way that you bring brands to life, the way you engage with your customers, the way frankly, you organize your company and all the assets in your company, clearly these things have changed over time, but the principles in my view are as relevant, if not more so now, because if you don’t have clarity in this ridiculously fragmented and disrupted world, you are in danger of having compound vision and your business will spin off into a very, very ineffective, downward spiral. If you’ve got real clarity about what you stand for, who your customers are, what they’re doing, what they’re feeling, and really think about how you engage with them, you develop products, you innovate, you take every opportunity to use the asset that you’ve got to really build your business. That’s how you succeed.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (13:34): And so in terms of how you succeed, so yourself, so how you succeeded. So, you know, going back, so how did you basically get going? What was your a, how to get going? And then did you have a lucky break?
Rita Clifton (13:48): Well, do you know, people sometimes ask me, could you talk through your journey to CEO or something like that? And honestly, it’s quite difficult for me not to laugh when they say journey to see it as though, somehow I decided at the age of seven that I was going to again, be CEO of some big organization and I strode up the mountain to stick my flag up there. It hasn’t been like that my career, but what I have noticed though, is that, you know, you have to open yourself to opportunities. You really have to listen in and really, really look out for, you know, roots where you think, do you know, that sounds interesting. Sometimes you might not feel like going for something you might not feel like going to a networking event or something of that kind. But do you know, those have been the moments where I’ve often met some people or someone or a company where things have happened because you bothered to get out and connect with people and so on.
Rita Clifton (14:43): So I think that’s been quite an interesting lesson, but if I would think about my, you know, big breaks, I mean, you know, I was at State Girls Grammar School and I was lucky enough to be taken under the wing of a teacher. She helped me to get into Cambridge University, which I hadn’t considered going to advertising because I was nosy about people that was, I guess, another interesting break. And I had a job, I guess the two other very important moments in my life was going to Saatchi and Saatchi in its maddest baddest, but most successful period where I just saw what the ambition and determination can do. And a really clear sense of who you are. Nothing is impossible was the, was the motto. If you like, for Saatchi and Saatchi that really lifted my sight on what was possible if you put your mind to it.
Rita Clifton (15:36): And they helped a load of British based businesses at that time to succeed on a global stage. And I managed to work with a load of very, very interesting, ambitious global businesses during that period and found out a lot about myself and indeed branding and personal branding. Morrison Charles Saatchi had a very, very clear sense, not only of the Saatchi and Saatchi brand itself in those days, but also about their own personal brands. And that’s why I understood that it wasn’t just about, you know, the face and the name and the clothes. It was also about, you know, who you are, how you behave, what do you know, in a way that really does give substance to what you are saying that you believe in. And, you know, I remember walking to Saatchi reception area all those years ago, and I’d worked for a rather nice, but quite sleepy agency before that.
Rita Clifton (16:34): And the metabolism of people just even walking quickly across reception rushing across, because again, the pace of that business was just so high. So that was a, that was a really a big moment, I think for me when I realized that, and of course later becoming Chief Executive because there weren’t that many female chief executives at that time. And frankly, there aren’t nearly enough right now. That’s a whole other subject that I feel very strongly about. But, so becoming CEO and realizing that you can make the changes that you believe in, you can make the decision. And even though it’s a relentless job, a really relentless job being chief executive, the upsides are that, as I say, you can make the decisions and the changes that really, you know, meet or match your beliefs about what’s important, about the values and about priorities and so on. And, if you’re able to do it, I really wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (17:38): I mean, on an exact point, I think it’s often said, in the trade press or whatever, or anecdotally that, you know, advertising of the, whatever the eighties and nineties was a fantastic time, it was all just, you know, charging around and everyone, you know, nonstop partying and the rest of it. And now dumb mantra goes, there’s just so much more to do with far fewer people in the building to do it. That actually it’s a far more onerous job now, nor you wouldn’t advise someone to go into advertising. Do you buy into that? Or,
Rita Clifton (18:07): Well, the advertising business, obviously in itself is a fascinating business because of course it needs to understand people and how they’re responding to what you are saying and how they’re using different channels and different experiences, et cetera. In my view, the, you know, the broader creative business is a more exciting place because you can do more things. And of course, you know, advertising is different from brand strategy. So advertising is about what you are saying about yourself. And sometimes the advertising tale can wag the corporate strategy or the business strategy dog, but actually that’s why I moved into brand strategy because of course, brand strategy and business strategy need to be all of the same coin. If you like, you know, you need to make sure that you are building a distinctive business. And that means thinking about how your brand influences everything you do inside and outside people, assets, operations, and so on.
Rita Clifton (19:08): You really need to think about how you are stitching this distinctive idea and experience into everything that you do, whatever size of business you are. But frankly, you know, the advertising business, I think is an exciting place. And in fact, my younger daughter started in her career in advertising. So I must still quite like it, but clearly it’s a com, it’s a very, very different sort of business. I mean, it’s a business that has a lot of, you know, data opportunities now than a way that it didn’t. But you still need to make sure that you are engaging with human beings and with people, and that needs both analytical understanding, but it also needs real creative imagination.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (19:46): And so you mentioned they gave back, you know, jumping from Saatchi into brand and then running that, and that was obviously is incredibly successful. And along with all the other, the vast list, if you were to point to one thing and think, you know, that’s what I really, I have genuine personal pride in. What’s the, could you just drag out of all those, something that you think yeah. That’s the,
Rita Clifton (20:08): Well, obviously apart from having my children, I think
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (20:11): that’s exactly, yeah,
Rita Clifton (20:11): I’m really got a lot of pride. And do you know, actually it’s, there is something a bit biased about that, which is, and it does relate to the professional at sphere too, which is, you know, what do you hope when you have children? Is that, you know, you help them be as brilliant as they can be. You want them to be as happy and healthy and successful as they can be. And, you know, I take exactly the same parallel into business. So the thing I’m most proud of is actually all the people that I have seen and I hope helped to be as successful as they have been. I mean, it gives me enormous pride when some of the people that I recruited into my team, for example, at Saatchi and Saatchi, indeed later into brand have gone on to run companies themselves or, you know, have been fulfilled.
Rita Clifton (20:58): So that has always been the thing that has motivated me. And when I think about the client, businesses too, I think that the impact that you have on the motivation, the ambition of some companies, that’s the thing that I find wo very rewarding. Because when you look at the analytics, when you look at the benchmarks, when you look at what’s possible from a company to be better, then of course you can just go off and come up with a strategy on some pieces of paper or an even a PowerPoint presentation. And that analysis is obviously crucially important as indeed are some of the creative ideas that will might come up with, but do you know, what’s really important unless you can get people to believe that’s the right route, that it’s gonna help them, not only professionally, but also personally, unless you can really get people enthused and engaged and motivated about that.
Rita Clifton (21:57): It’s not going to work. And, you know, this applies even more in the digital world where everything is laid bare. If in the old days, you know, you didn’t have a positive culture. You didn’t look after people, you didn’t sort of help them understand the business and what they were about and so on. If you did that, but you had a good marketing department or a good, spent a lot of money on advertising, you might be able to get away with it. Nowadays, you do not get away with it. Everything is visible. So everything counts. And that means you’ve gotta have people who believe in what they do. You need to have a really clear sense of who you are and how that is connecting and motivating for customers as well as your own people. And I think those human skills underpinned by analytical and creative ones are really, really what make businesses tick and what make them succeed.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (22:55): Is that sort of thing that you are also talking about in your forthcoming book?
Rita Clifton (22:59): Yes. I mean, you know, this new book is slightly different from books I’ve written in the past. I mean, books I’ve written in the past have been about, you know, brand strategy, Brands and Branding for the economist, for example, was really in some ways a retaught to the Naomi Klein, No Logo, because what I was arguing was that actually, you know, brands have got a positive power to bring the world so economically, socially more to be done environmentally, but I think that’s a new era, issue that we’ve all got to pay. Absolutely, you know, total attention to, so Brands and Branding was really about making sure people really understood that actually brands were positive influences in many ways, branded companies are, you know, the ultimate democracies, because if you don’t support what a company is doing, you can vote it out with your purchases.
Rita Clifton (23:53): And, you know, also by saying bad things about it. So, you know, if you are going to be a successful brand, if you are doing the right thing, bringing the right thing to your customers, et cetera, you deserve to succeed. If you stop doing that, become lazy or complacent, people are gonna vote you out. So they can be very, very positive moments in the world. And they connect people across borders brands do in a way that national governments struggle to do. So you can find common ground common needs and so on amongst consumers. And that can really bring them together, which frankly, the world needs a little bit of at the moment. And the future of brown was brands was looking at, you know, 25 years from the millennium and, you know, interesting, I’ve looked back now and some of the predictions that we made in the future of brands and yeah, some of them have actually really happened.
Rita Clifton (24:42): And I’m proud of that. But what I wanted to do this time with my, with my book was really to think about how you could use brand thinking to make sure that we are getting the kind of leadership in organizations of all kinds that actually the future of business needs. And what I’ve really, really noticed over the years. And it relates a little bit to what I was saying a little bit earlier about, you know, we need businesses to be run. We need the brand of business. If you like to be powered by people who look as though, and are motivated by the same human things that their customers are. And that actually want is what is needed, more broadly from a social perspective as well because of the world being so transparent. You know, if you are not acting as a good, decent human being and projecting that to the outside world, as well as actually motivating your own people, you are not going to succeed in the way that you are. Now a big part of making sure we make business more human, because that is the way things are going, building relationships with your customers, making sure that you are relating to your own staff, et cetera, to, you know, make sure that they are really, really engaged in what you are doing.
Rita Clifton (26:01): If you think about that business being more human, we also need a more diverse and a more balanced chemistry at the top of organizations. And that is not a very subtle code for saying, we need a lot more women to be running organizations. I mean, if we just look at the, how few women there are, who are CEOs either in FTSE, FTSE 100, FTSE 350, if you look at fortune companies as well, the number of female CEOs is a tiny proportion and it actually, it went backwards a few years ago as well before it took another step forward. So we need to have a lot more women running organizations because we needed greater balance. As I said, a greater, a better chemical balance, if you like. So I’ve written this book ready to think about how to, you know, make sure we are humanizing business.
Rita Clifton (26:54): And we are making sure that we are helping people be human types of leaders, which means flaws and all. So actually the book is called Love Your Imposter. Love Your Imposter and the subtitle is Be Your Best Self Flaws and All. So it’s really highlighting that, you know, we need, we need to be our ourselves, if you like our best selves, our human selves in order to make sure that business succeeds in the future. Because that’s the way the world is going, this very transparent world we we’re living in. And frankly, you know, you could get a bit depressed couldn’t you about the way the world is going right at this moment. If you think about some of the characters and personalities on a global level, from a political point of view, which are really setting, you know, populations against each other and, you know, setting up whether it’s populism, or whether or not it’s setting up in opposition to other countries and people who have different points of view from yourself.
Rita Clifton (28:02): I think actually we need, you know, institutions that are unafraid to say, do you know, we are human, you know, first of all, we are human. We’re all human. And that’s how we’re going to run our businesses. And if there’s a very cheering thing that’s happened in business in my view over the last few years is there’s been this focus on purpose, purpose led businesses because purpose led businesses actually perform better than, you know, businesses that have only short term financial priorities. Now, clearly you gotta do well short in the short term from a financial point of view. Cause otherwise you don’t have a long term, but these things are connected, which is if you do the right thing, if you make the right decision to create long term value, that helps you shape your priorities for today as well. So you do have a business tomorrow, so it works both ways.
Rita Clifton (28:52): So just, you know, coming back to the book for the moment, you know, I guess a big part of what I’m saying is that actually you can use brand thinking that I’ve learned over the years from revising large organizations, as well as the leaders of those large, large organizations. You can use a lot of that thinking on yourself, you can build your personal brand, build your personal and human brand in a way that actually is going to succeed in these very diverse and disrupted marketplaces. And you can be the leader that you want to be. And actually we need a lot of different sorts of leaders in this new world. So you can believe in yourself, there are many things you can do to really create your best self in this new future leadership role. And, you know, frankly, we can do it with all of our flaws.
Rita Clifton (29:48): I have seen so many leader, business leaders, you know, celebrities, actors, actresses, and so on. Talk about their imposter syndrome. It is so common now up to about 70% of populations say that they have, you know, got imposter syndrome that ceases to sound like a syndrome starts to sound like a normal part of being human. And that’s after all what we need to happen this world, you know, human emotions, making sure you are using those, those real emotions to develop empathy with others. Again, that’s not just what the world needs. It’s also actually how business sustainable business needs to be because it’s no use using language or warfare anymore, you know, gorilla warfare and ambushing the consumer. There used to be lots of textbooks about that stuff. All I would say is that in a world where you need to build relationships to have long term value and long term success, what that needs is you think about the language of human relationships and think about how you can connect with other human beings. And that’s often by being very human yourself.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (30:59): Well, I mean on that in very inspiring note, I mean, so, you know, obviously you’ve an incredibly inspiring way and a very inspiring speaker. So what inspires you? So what are you reading for instance, that you look around, think, you know what, wow, I’m in awe of whoever,
Rita Clifton (31:16): Oh, well,
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (31:17): Who is that for you?
Rita Clifton (31:18): Well, I’m reading a couple of books actually at the moment. Michelle Obama’s Becoming is just extraordinary. I mean, her story is extraordinary. She writes like a, the decent human being that she clearly is. So it’s inspiring. It’s inspiring because again, we need people who have that kind of, you know, deep humanity and care, care for other people in high profile roles in this world. It does help of course, that she is a female. And, you know, she doesn’t look like the vast majority of whether it’s national leaders or business leaders or whatever. So she has really, you know, she has, she is just an extraordinary and admirable woman on just about every level. So her book, I think is truly inspiring, slightly different sort of book, but what I’m really, really, almost obsessed with it at the moment actually would be Sapiens as written by a guy called Yuval Noah Harari and what it is? It’s a, it says it’s a brief history of humankind, but what it highlights is the reasons why homo sapiens has got to the position that it’s got to now.
Rita Clifton (32:31): The fact that we have rather trashed, you know, the opportunity that that has given us so far, we’ll come back to because there’s a lot that we’ve gotta do in the world right at this moment. But what he highlights is the reasons that homo sapiens became the dominant species and why it became dominant versus even Neanderthals who actually had more physical strength seemingly from some of the analysis of the past. And what was interesting there is because homo sapiens are able to communicate and collaborate at scale by shared stories, shared myths, shared beliefs and so on. So I think that’s absolutely fascinating. That’s how we have succeeded. And clearly, you know, sometimes that can be twisted to, you know, evil means or, you know, holistic views of the world. Whereas I would like to have a more positive take on that, which is that there are so many things that we, as human beings can do together to both heal what we’ve done that has, you know, that maybe has been destructive so far, and actually build a rather better world.
Rita Clifton (33:44): And to do that with a rather different mindset and mentality. So it’s inspired me to think about what it is? What it means to be human? What’s possible about being a human? And what it is that humans can uniquely do in order to make some positive changes happen in the world, as well as frankly, exploited in the way that I guess, you know, humanity has done? If this is beginning sound a little bit too, you know, heavy and profound.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (34:13): It’s superb and profound.
Rita Clifton (34:14): But I, you know, I’m thinking that, you know, this is not just a lofty topic right now. We are seeing immediate and quite savage implications of the way that, you know, we have been not only dealing with the world from an environment and sustainability point of view, but also dealing with each other from a social and economic perspective too.
Rita Clifton (34:36): So what I really feel and what I hope will happen over the next generation, if you like of business branded companies and so on is really the emergence of what I would call savior brands. These are brands, these are companies, who’ve got the resources, the belief, and also hopefully the imagination to think about how can they help to put right. Some of the damage that we’ve done, but also how can they contribute more broadly to the planet, to society, and clearly to our shared wealth in a way that really is going to take humanity forward in a positive way, rather than in this slightly, you know, glum slightly depressing from time to time and slightly pessimistic take on the world that I worry that, you know, people are beginning to see and feel at the moment. So I think there’s a great opportunity for businesses, for organizations of all shape, sizes and stages to really think about what their positive role can be in a way that is gonna be sustainably valuable, sustainably influential, but also have a really positive, sustainable impact on the world across social environmental. And of course, yes, economic factors.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (36:02): Wow. Rita, actually it’s amazing. Sorry if I could have just sat here for hours listening to you. I mean, it’s such an inspiring talk, so thank you. I think we’ve actually, run out of time, tragically.
Rita Clifton (36:14): Alright, well, of course.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (36:15): Metaphorically rather than
Rita Clifton (36:16): Well, I think on our to-do list now, we’ve also got save the world.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (36:19): Well, exactly why not?
Rita Clifton (36:20): We’ve got save the world, but we’ve also got a lot of short term things that we all need to do to make sure that we are, you know, staying in business, employing people, doing the right thing, et cetera. So I think there’s a short, medium and longer term story here, but all of it is fascinating. There are huge opportunities.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (36:38): So like I was gonna say just as a final question, and it almost may might be asking you to, to repeat yourself, but, you know, so when the Speakers Associates, sort of audience listening to this wherever they are in Asia or the US, or Scandinavia or whatever, Middle East, and where they’re thinking, right. Rita obviously has a stellar reputation. But what would she be asking her to come and speak with our audience about, for you to have your ideal audience and the ideal platform to speak about precisely what it is that you really want to get across, what would that be?
Rita Clifton (37:13): Well quite apart from some of these huge possibilities and crucial opportunities that we’ve been talking about here, what I would really seek to say is whatever type of organization you are, whatever kind of person or leader that you are really, really think about how the brand and I mean, the brand in the broader sense as an organizing idea, not as a stick on bit of communication, but how your brand can really help to make the most of who you are, what you are doing. And what’s possible in the future, because coming back to clarity, coherence, and leadership, you know, if you think about those three principles, despite this very uncertain world that can really get you through clarity of who you are, whether as an organization, as a person, how that’s different from other people. Coherence, how do you make that difference show up through everything you do operationally, you know, whether it’s in terms of customer experience, whether it’s in terms of what it is that, you know, how you’re presenting yourself as a leader and leadership. Leadership is not just about who runs an organization. Although that’s very important too, how they symbolize the brand, but it’s also about restlessness, about innovation, about setting the agenda in your markets, and from a personal brand perspective, it’s about staying curious, staying nosy, and making sure you are constantly renewing your personal brand, who you are, what you know, and how you present yourself. And those three, those three things really imaginative you applied in this messy age will help you take full advantage, not only professionally, but also from a personal impact perspective too.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (39:06): Wow. Done. Where do I sign? So Rita Clifton, brand guru and The doyenne of branding. Thank you.
Rita Clifton (39:15): And thank you too.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (39:20): Thank you for listening to The Speakers Show Podcast. Please leave a rating on iTunes. We’d really appreciate it and also it’d be great. If you could subscribe to the podcast itself. You’ll find it also on Google podcasts, SoundCloud, or your favorite podcast app. Thank you.
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Sean Pillot de Chenecey
Foresight strategist, author and podcast host Sean Pillot de Chenecey is an inspirational speaker, who’s also consulted for some of the world’s biggest brands.
Sean has a very deep level of knowledge regarding the genuine issues impacting brands from a cultural, social and business perspective.