Thursday, February 4, 2010

Geert van Kuyck

Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Royal Philips Electronics, Amsterdam


Few people link “passion” and “branding” as much as Geert van Kuyck. He is credited as the driving force behind Philips’ successful “sense and simplicity” brand promise, while also strengthening the company’s customer-centric ethos and drive for innovation. Yet, Van Kuyck would be first to admit that “a brand promise is not straightforward.”  He understands that “passion is what brings a brand to life.”
Passion may best be defined for Geert van Kuyck as the drive to “get it right for the customer.”  He sees a company’s essential responsibility as being accountable to adding value to that product purchaser--whether in the consumer or business-to-business space--in any of the company’s healthcare, lighting and consumer life-style divisions. Customers now have come to expect such virtues from the Philips brand, and van Kuyck believes that the support, needs and ideas of impassioned consumers engender strong, useful companies.
At Philips, “sense and simplicity” is more than a marketing mantra; it is the guiding ideal behind how the company does business in every division and every department.  It has now become so infused throughout the culture that employees take it to heart.  He says, “Great people are attracted to things that trigger passion.  Few are interested in just another job.  They ask, ‘How can I use my time meaningfully?’ And they want to make a meaningful difference-- despite the economy.  This brings people to Philips.  Our simple effort to underscore how light bulbs can factor into the climate change discussion has attracted countless young people to the company. Passion from people matters.”
For van Kuyck, “the essence of a global brand is that it is shepherded by a passionate and obsessed owner;” he cites iconic companies with strong leaders like Apple and Starbucks as examples.  He also believes that global marketing today has much in common with understanding “the role of the Constitution versus the Rule of Law.”  A multinational giant like Philips with a clear message that resonates in over 60 countries needs a marketing constitution with standards and procedures that live up to its brand promise.
“A Brand Constitution focuses on the essentials and is durable over time.  A much more flexible Rule of Law allows local markets-- infused with passion for the brand’s promise-- to apply these constitutional principles to offer local solutions, just like a local judge would.  In practicing locally, they literally protect the constitution and make it relevant in a local environment. Importantly, without local application, a global brand often becomes a stale, irrelevant ivory tower brand over time… which obviously cannot build or support business.”
Additionally, he believes that a CMO today has a huge responsibility in regard to shepherding the constitution of what shapes the brand. And a strong constitution becomes even more critical in light of today’s industry trends of short CMO tenures.  “A brand promise and a brand executed effectively transcend so many activities.”
An advocate for the role of marketing within the corporation, Geert van Kuyck believes that strategic market entry decisions are as much branding decisions as they are economic and general business ones. “For example, if a company wants to enter a market, but the benefit needed does not connect with the brand promise, then one should not play in that arena.”

Despite such extraordinary re-shifting with so huge a corporation, Geert van Kuyck has only been with Philips for just over 4 years and was named CMO in January 2008.  A native of Belgium, his prior career includes a role as Vice President of Marketing for EMEA at Starbucks and 14 years at Procter & Gamble with various positions in Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and the USA.


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