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Jul 27, 2010


Rob Leavitt

Thanks James; I hadnt seen the editorial, but just read it now. To be fair, the editorial isnt totally one-sided, and Tom Rodenhauser, the commentator you refer to, said that some thought leadership is intellectual masturbation but some is excellent. (I agree with Tom that the quality of purported thought leadership is indeed rather mixed.) This is why I often blog about how to strengthen thought leadership, in fact. But it is a pretty strange and confused editorial; Im not at all sure what the point is other than being snarky about some of the top consulting firms.

In any case, I absolutely believe that thought leadership marketing can be a powerful and essential marketing approach, and almost advocate investing more in it to my clients. The big consulting firms, for all their foibles, continue to show its impact. At the same time, quality is everything here; just calling something thought leadership (e.g., a warmed-over marketing brochure or superficial white paper) does not make it so.

James Wong

The Economist Magazine wrote in an editorial a couple of weeks ago that said,

"All consulting firms seek to provide what they annoyingly call “thought leadership”."

and then continued to criticize Thought Leadership as "boasting" and quoting another commentator approvingly who equated this kind of marketing to "intellectual masturbation".

Apart from disagreeing about this assessment (I am writing a thesis on the Benefits of Thought Leadership) I do not think I am the only one who feels uncomfortable seeing the major consulting firms (and many other companies) using The Economist Intelligence Unit as, I believe, the largest global provider of what it calls unapologetically on its own website "thought leadership" while the same company is mocking the value and name of this kind of marketing in its flag-ship magazine editorial?

A quick search of "The Economist Thought Leadership" on Google will show how passionately a number of people feel about this apparent hypocrisy and also bring you to the original article from The Economist.

I would love to know if Rob agrees that the concept and title of thought leadership as a marketing concept is now flawed as The Economist suggests.



Rob Leavitt

Thanks Craig, much appreciated. I agree with the culture point as well, although I think thats a bit of chicken and egg issue: Does thought leadership culture come first and execution follow, or does successful execution, based largely on the dimension I note, help to drive culture change? Likely some of both!

The Awards wont be announced until November 2 at ITSMAs annual conference, unfortunately, but they usually announce the finalists and provide some info on their programs in early September.

Craig Badings

Rob, hallelujah! I love, love, love this article. Why? Because it goes to the very nub of thought leadership and the critical mistakes companies make when tagging some of their programs as thought leadership programs.

Every point is relevant but in particular I like your first one. Too many marketers think that they are 'doing thought leadership' by putting out a paper here and there. Wrong!

I would add one point. Thought leadership should be part of the culture of an organisation to be truly successful. If it is part of the culture you will inevitably find that points 2-5 follow quite logically and are integrated in the way you suggest.

Can't wait to see the results.

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