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Purpose Brand Purpose Innovation

EY's John Rudaizky on the animating power of purpose

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March 4, 2024 | 7 min read

For EY's John Rudaizky (partner, global brand and marketing), purpose isn’t a brand strategy

It’s a whole of enterprise and ecosystem play.

There’s a famous story about a visit that President John F. Kennedy paid to NASA, when he stopped for a word with a janitor. When JFK introduced himself and asked the man carrying the broom what he was doing, he got a simple answer in return: “Mister President, I’m helping to put a man on the moon.”

It’s a story that springs to Rudaizky’s mind when he’s recalling an early experience in his three-decade career in marketing and advertising. In all of Rudaizky’s 14 years as managing partner at Saatchi & Saatchi, there was no greater demand for creativity, agility and rapid pivots than when the agency was working on an election campaign. “You’d have all of these conflicting points and changes of direction, and I remember the story of our creative director writing on the wall a single message for everyone to see,” he says. “He wrote, ‘hold fast to the basic idea’. He understood that agility and impact become that much easier with a clear sense of purpose.”

The animating power that a sense of purpose can have stayed with Rudaizky through his time as global business director of J Walter Thompson Worldwide and the CEO of Team Vodafone and Team GSK at WPP. It also guided his approach to building the EY brand when he first joined the organisation seven years ago. And he’s never been more convinced of its value than he is today.

“As marketers, we come to work to activate a sense of purpose; to develop big organising brand ideas and campaigns around that purpose,” he says. “That’s why joining EY seemed like one of those opportunities you couldn’t say no to – and why it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made. This was an organisation with a very strong sense of purpose and the innovation and growth it has driven from that has been extraordinary.”

Purpose as a business strategy, not a marketing strategy

Purpose was still a relatively new concept when Rudaizky joined. The year before, EY had committed itself to, ‘building a better working world’. In the years since, Rudaizky has focused on elevating that sense of mission through the EY brand and across the organisation as a whole. In joining, he led the creation of its ‘better questions’ idea, to unleash EY’s purpose across the wide spectrum of issues. You’d think that being at the forefront of activating this purpose brand, would give him a strong sense of ownership, but he insists that purpose isn’t an asset that the marketing department can claim for itself.

“Purpose is a business strategy first, and an external marketing effort second,” he says. “At the heart of our purpose is a commitment to long-term value. Prior to the pandemic, we did a lot of work on metrics, now reflected in our own reporting to make sure that we’re measuring beyond profit and looking at our impact on people, on society and on our clients. Every issue that we solve through the lens of long-term value helps to build a better working world. We know that customers are making choices based on values today beyond pure product or service, which has made purpose a driving accelerator for our business; even more so around attracting the best talent, and right now purpose based issues such as a company’s sustainability ambition will become greater drivers of choice."

As Rudaizky sees it, the main goal of the EY brand is to communicate EY’s purpose effectively to the outside world and how it anchors its diverse services – because once communicated, it delivers benefits at all stages of the marketing funnel. Purpose isn’t a brand concept or a demand concept. It’s both.

Moving beyond brand versus demand

“The brand versus demand debate is really a false debate,” says Rudaizky. “The research that LinkedIn has published shows the symbiotic ways that you need to frame your brand in the minds of your customers and then use tactics to draw them through the funnel. There’s plenty of evidence that brands with a distinctive purpose are chosen more often, so they absolutely have a role across the consideration journey. The real challenge for a marketer today is finding the right balance between purpose-based messaging, which we know influences decisions, and product and service messages, which we know influence decisions too. There’s an art and a science to that.”

There’s also an art and a science to measuring how this broad range of marketing activity contributes to the bottom line. And it’s an aspect of marketing leadership that Rudaizky embraces to the full. “I don’t think that branding or marketing are particularly unique in having to justify outcomes,” he says. “At EY, brand isn’t something that sits in the marketing department. It’s something that the entire organisation is involved in building. We’ve identified distinctiveness as essential to our business strategy. It’s an engine of growth. The business as-a-whole is committed to tracking and measuring that brand value. And as a marketing team we track our contribution to that.”

When the brand is a business-wide enterprise, the business partner with responsibility for global brand and marketing finds themselves with a business-wide role. It’s a role that Rudaizky believes that marketing leaders should be pushing for. “We’re living in an era where any marketer has to connect all facets of the C-suite to get the right outcome,” he says. “They have to be part of a wider conversation because this is a whole-of-enterprise exercise.”

Why marketers need to reclaim customer experience

Whilst brand purpose has been at the heart of the brand, the last 18 months have shifted again to the critical role of customer experience. Rudaizky believes that the pandemic has proven the value of a unifying purpose to any business in any sector. It’s also enhanced the importance of empathy and understanding how you can add value to different customers in different situations. And just as significantly, it’s enhanced the ability of marketers to secure the kind of organisation-wide buy-in that a brand like EY runs on.

“Your brand is what your brand does,” says Rudaizky. “It comes down to customer experience, and one of the most radical changes that we’re seeing as a result of the pandemic is that the experience is increasingly a digital experience. That gives marketing a clear role in designing it. As a B2B organisation, live events were our bread and butter and we’ve had to quickly, radically reinvent that. Our events teams have pivoted to become TV producers. We’ve created a fantastic TV strand with CNBC to take on the role of our EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year event that we would normally have held in Monaco. As marketers we’re passionate about innovation, so for me it’s probably the most exciting time in a long time for innovating, being experimental and putting customers at the heart of experiences in ways that none of us could have conceived.

Agility, innovation and optimism are built on resilience: they’re the stuff that makes moon shots possible. As JFK and the janitor knew – and as John Rudaizky knows today – stuff happens when brands or people take the time to build a sense of purpose that can solve questions that have never been thought of before.

Purpose Brand Purpose Innovation

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