Rock stars don’t have a great reputation for education on the classics. But, as we face many challenges in 2021, Rockstar CMO Advisor, Jeff Clark looks to Cicero for inspiration, as he ponders what we as marketers and the organisations we work for can do to tackle them.

And, as the rediscovery of Cicero’s letters is often credited for initiating the 14th-century Renaissance, maybe Jeff’s quote and call to action is a good omen for 2021….

“Salus populi suprema lex esto.”

Cicero, 106 – 43 BCE

We have some enormous challenges ahead of us in 2021. Let me list a half dozen – crush a pandemic, make an economic recovery, tackle climate change, reverse income equality, halt species extinction. Oh, and if you’re a Brit, there’s that Brexit thing, too. 

In case you think I’m about to make a political statement, think again. These are all tremendous transformations that will affect everyone and your business for years, if not the rest of the century. And their impacts are global. Even Brexit’s impacts go beyond UK and EU borders.

What is your business going to do about it? Any of it? I don’t mean, “What charity is going to get some portion of profits?” What is your business’s role in these transformations?

You’re the marketer on the exec team. You think about long-term strategies, not just this year’s revenue. 

The pandemic made you scramble to ensure demand is there this year. Hope you hit the number. 

Now, let’s think about this coming year, and the next three to five years. Are you going to take the short-term view and attempt to ensure that your business is protected as your customers’ incomes shrink, as supply chains are interrupted, as insurance costs rise with climate disruption? 

These transformations affect your customers and ultimately your business. Long-term business success actually requires that the business engages in the transformation. It helps solve for the challenge – not just to get good press for its work, but make sure that there are healthy customers and markets at the other end of the transformation. 

Let’s think of a few examples. 

  • Pharmaceutical companies can work with governments to solve the supply chain issues for vaccine distribution. Every business needs an internal comms plan to make sure its employees know the benefits and get vaccinated. 
  • Large employers can register their support for minimum wage increases to ensure their customers have the disposable income to buy their products. Every employer can devise a strategy that prioritizes employee retention over driving down prices. 
  • Social media companies can implement safeguards against disinformation campaigns from any source. Every company can direct its social communications to informing customers over self-promotion. 
  • Fossil fuel companies can lead the development of carbon sequestration and biofuel technologies rather than focus future R&D on oil and gas extraction. Every business needs to create a sustainability strategy to ensure they meet the business’s energy needs with clean energy. 
  • Plastics manufacturers can lead the development of better recyclable materials and post-use handling systems to prevent their material from ending up in our oceans. Every business can create a strategy for reducing waste in the development and delivery of their products and services. 

Every business can think about how it directs its innovation investments to address any one of these transformations, from refining your internal processes to engaging in new markets. 

Salus populi suprema lex esto means “the welfare of the public is the supreme law.” It’s attributed to Cicero, the Roman statesman, who as member of his conservative party strove to uphold republican principles during the turbulent times when Rome transformed into an empire. 

The transformations that I listed at the outset require that both private business and public institutions strive to drive positive change. Short-term thinking will only keep us wallowing in the morass. Only long-term thinking will get us out of it. 

How can your business engage one of these transformations? We’d love to hear from you.

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