BOOKCASE Boardroom Buy-in & Branding

The Next Sustainability Wave: Building Boardroom Buy-In
By: Bob Willard
Publisher: New Society Publishers
Price: $35

Human beings are strangely perverse species when it comes to postponing, ignoring or just straight refusing to do stuff we know is for our own long-term good.
We eat lots when we shouldn’t or fail to exercise when we should, gaily sacrificing long-term benefits to immediate addictions, indulging our misplaced sense of immunity or stubbornly embracing belief system that undermines any attempt at changing the status quo.
All of which prefaces my reaction to another well-reasoned, pragmatic and persuasively presented argument for sustainable business practice. I mean, it’s bit of no-brainer. Why would you not want world where economic growth doesn’t compromise environmental health or social stability?
For those who still have trouble answering this question – or figuring out how any balance is possible, Bob Willard’s The Next Sustainability Wave provides wealth of information, advice and examples of why and how businesses can and do benefit from paying more than lip service to triple bottom line objectives.
His book looks at how the first wave of corporate converts to sustainability tended to be driven either by an owner/manager’s personal passion, PR crisis or regulatory pressures and why he thinks we’re now close to reaching “tipping point” in terms of business takeup. Emerging drivers for the “second wave” are compelling business case and what he describes as “a perfect storm” of external market forces ranging from climate change to stakeholder pressure.
A big chunk of the book is devoted to analysing why companies have resisted adopting the sorts of strategies that would profit both the firm and the environment in which it operates and an “objection-handling clinic” deals to the arguments commonly trotted out as rationales for this resistance. Willard groups these under four major inhibitors – lack of leadership support, fear of backlash, weak business case and mindset.
The book is laid out so that the text runs through right hand pages complemented by quotes, figures and even the odd cartoon on the left hand page which gives the option of reading it through fairly quickly and dipping into the supporting material as and when you feel the need.
Willard also includes section specifically focusing on the business case for small to medium enterprises which is perhaps particularly relevant to New Zealand readers. VJ

Asian Brand Strategy – How Asia Builds Strong Brands
By: Martin Roll
Publisher: Macmillan
Price: $59.95

Coincidence can be serendipitous. Just as I started to browse Martin Roll’s new book Asian Brand Strategy – How Asia Builds Strong Brands, the head of Tourism New Zealand, George Hickton, came onto the radio, discussing the ongoing potency of 100% PURE for this country’s tourism industry.
That coincidence explains better than I ever could why – despite the Asian focus – Roll’s book deserves spot on boardroom bookshelves here: good branding is global. It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking at case study of Jet Airways (India’s largest domestic carrier) or Air New Zealand; Haier Group (China’s leading domestic appliance manufacturer) or Fisher & Paykel; Jollibee (The Philippines’ dominant fast food outlet) or Wattie’s. Sure, strong brands and their markets differ greatly – but the foundations they’re built on are universal.
As such, Roll undersells his book when he writes in the introduction “The book is aimed primarily at two groups of readers: Asian business leaders and Western observers.” To that, I think he could reasonably have added “or anyone else who wants to maximise the power of their brand”. You’ve only got to glance through few of the (pleasingly clear and accessible) topic sections to see the international relevance. “Branding drives shareholder value”; “Boardroom mindset and beliefs”; “Being different like everybody else”; “Export branding”; and so on.
Indeed, Roll writes from global perspective. He’s now CEO of Singapore-headquartered branding agency Venture Republic, but has also held leadership roles outside the region, in technology and e-healthcare. For decade he was an account director with advertising agencies Bates and DDB Needham Worldwide. His book has insight and depth and it’s loaded with suggestions to implement the thinking.
Of course, there’s additional value for anyone with specific interest in Asia. Roll explains that Asian companies have traditionally invested in tangible assets (such as manufacturing capacity) rather than the intangible (such as building brand). To attract consumers, they’ve often just slashed costs. As result, only fraction of the world’s strong brands are Asian. But that’s changing fast. “Shareholder value and brand strategy to drive value will move up the boardroom agenda and become one of the most prominent drivers of value in Asia Pacific,” he predicts. I suspect businesses exporting to Asia – or those who have Asian businesses as their competitors – ignore this book at their peril. JR

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