How To “Add Value”

I remember a performance review early in my career. I was looking for constructive feedback, wanting to know where I could improve the way that I worked and what particular steps I could take to gain a promotion or better conditions in the following year. But all my manager could respond with was “add value”. And the further I pushed this topic, the more I realised that he really did not know what he was talking about. He was simply reverting to “corporate speak” to avoid giving me a pay rise.

In the world of marketing, there is also a lot of talk about “adding value”. But what does this mean? What are the practical steps that we can take to deliver this "value" to our clients? How do we work as agencies to transform the experiences of consumers? Both Sean Howard and Paul Isakson point out this great presentation by John V Willshire that takes us down the path of creating and delivering value.

What shape does this take? What can we honestly do to transform the work that we as marketers or agencies do.

John’s approach is to look at both the history and future of communities, by understanding the dynamics by which communities come together. The important aspect of this, for me at least, is that the focus is on the co-creation of context – which means that we need to strategically consider context over placement.

But as the focus of this presentation is about how we engage communities – whether they are business communities (which gravitate towards brands or products) or local (geographic) groups and so on. John suggests that there are four clear areas where we should focus our added value efforts:

  • Do something that is useful for people
  • Entertain people
  • Educate people
  • Connect people 

This presentation positions the brand at the very centre of the consumer experience, but Sean suggests that this misses the true opportunity. Rather than pre-empting Sean’s thinking around this, I will wait to see what he comes up with. But I have a feeling that it centres around two things: passion and social judgement. The anticipation is delicious.

6 thoughts on “How To “Add Value”

  1. What do you think about purpose? David Cushman talks about creating communities of purpose. Is purpose and passion interchangeable. Earls introduced the purpose-idea. Ex P&G Marketing Officer Stengel has set up his consultancy all about brands focusing on the purpose idea. Could it be the role of brands is to empower (add value) communities so they can achieve their own purpose?

  2. Very interesting question! I don’t know that purpose and passion are interchangeable. For me, passion is the driving (say libidinal) force of an activity. Purpose is, perhaps, its cognitive/conscious reasoning?
    So if passion is our compulsion, then the purpose is to direct this in a way towards an outcome. For example, we may come together around a shared passion eg “to explain new methods of marketing in current times”, but our purpose would be to “gain traction for this sideline passion with mainstream marketers while also raising funds for a worthwhile cause”. These two things created “The Age of Conversation” books.
    What is the role of brands here? Hmmm will need to think on that more closely.

  3. I am kind of upset so many people think this deck is brilliant – because I have quite a counter point of view.
    Sure some of the examples are interesting – but like all ‘channel experts’, they have an ability to claim their dicipline in the be-all and end-all for the success achieved.
    I also think there’s much that is flawed – it might appeal to the online community because it represents many of their hopes/dreams … but in the ‘real World’, I would say people’s attitudes and opinions vary quite considerably.
    From my perspective, this sort of thinking actually puts the comms industry backwards rather than forwards and whilst I know clients and media folk will love it and follow it, I think there is a certain amount of blinkeredness [is that even a word] to their view …
    Yep, slag me off – join the queue – I’m not doing/saying it to be controvertial, but because some of the comments here belong more to 1950’s adland than the modern age of tech and communication.

  4. There’s also a lack of consideration of causality. We did a lot of stuff and look sales went up by 8.3%. Why? And what about factoring in the 6% price rise due to increased cocoa costs that makes that rise in revenues look a little less impressive?

  5. Gavin,
    Thank you for this post and for the great content you share in your blog.
    I wanted to briefly share our own thinking related to blog about crafting stories and placing a high importance on the “scripting and writing of brand experiences.” At WordWrite Communications (, we focus on telling the great, untold stories of our clients. This has led us to develop StoryCrafting, our own process for helping organizations to create, develop and share their great, untold story. We focus on three things: developing the authentic stories of our clients, identifying the fluent storytellers in the organization who can tell those stories, and helping our clients to constantly “read the audience” to assure that real dialogue, and thus, real communication, is occurring, when the stories are told.
    We very much would like to expand the dialogue on StoryCrafting, and for that reason, I invite you and your readers to take a look at our new white paper on this topic ( and also our blog, which shares additional background and ideas on these topics (

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