To paraphrase Forest Gump, “this book is like a box of chocolates”.
There are some parts which are like Turkish Delights and Creamy Caramels, which I really enjoy, but there are Praline Truffles and Strawberry Crèmes which I don’t. Pushing the metaphor a little further, I also found that there was an absence of what for me would be the essential French Nougat.
So to the ‘Turkish Delights’.
The central premise of the book is an interesting and provocative notion that long-term, sustainable profitable growth is perhaps the most important objective for any organisation but in few companies does any one person have clear responsibility for it. Brent’s view is that too often it is everyone and no-one – “The whole executive team; effectively this means no-one”.
Brent says that many CEOs, though charged with delivering growth,“don’t have the time (or the skills) to focus on this in the right way”.
His research shows that there are very few Chief Growth Officers amongst the C-Suites - only 1 of the 50 leading listed companies in the US and the UK (where data is available) has one on their Excos.
Brent is clearly an advocate of system 1 and system 2 thinking and an admirer of neuro-science marketing and makes a good case for the importance of system 1 thinking driving much of our decision making.
There are numerous interesting and well-presented case studies including Boots, Coke, Felix and Cadburys.
Identifying and tapping into Moments of Maximum Emotional Impact is another concept I really liked.
The Strawberry Cremes for me included the fact that having set up the case for a Growth Director, when Brent went on to describe what he should do it was actually a process that was fundamentally what many good marketing directors do. Interestingly those numerous and very good case histories I mentioned are nearly all from marketing directors or CEOs and not from any Growth Directors, which perhaps undermines the author’s own case for why you need to appoint one.
Brent’s use of quotes from Professor Byron Sharp wasn’t to my taste. Personally, and I would stress this may be a personal perspective, I found it highly selective, using snippets where it supported his argument but ignoring some key assertions because they contradict some of what he was proposing.
The (over) use of Axe/Lynx case for me was too much of the same variety of chocolate, especially as it focused on the users, teenage boys, and their emotional needs, seduction, but ignoring the role of the real purchasers, the teenage boys’ mums.
The French Nougat, or rather the lack of it, was for me, the fact that the book implicitly focuses on driving organic growth of an existing product or service in one existing market (generally over a 3-5 year period) and so actually doesn’t talk about a whole range of growth strategies which I would consider essential options for any Growth Director to consider and evaluate: Growth through line and brand extension, through innovation, through geographical expansion, through premiumisation, through category growth, through launching secondary brand, through mergers and acquisitions…
So returning to my original chocolate box metaphor, if you decide to buy this book I expect you will find parts that will delight you but other sections may disappoint … but you won’t know unless you “read Forest read”.
By Giles Lury, director, The Value Engineers