The holistic approach aims at constantly engaging and committing consumers and stakeholders. Companies should completely rethink their organisational approach in order to foster a creative marketing culture across the organisation.
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Marketing and communication will increasingly be central to lead companies through disruptive changes. While marketing will contribute to essential positioning strategies in the new changing digital ecosystem, communication and public relations aim at telling the new story of the company, as well as the positive effect of its products/services on the global growth of society. With this regard, Marketing and Communications & PR must closely work together in order to build a strong company story to tell and to behave consistently.
The digital transformation has changed the way we communicate and interact each other, as well as the way the companies can build, communicate and engage a community of users. Diversity and inclusiveness must be the drivers of the talent acquisition and retaining policies, differentiated users’ engaging models, and innovative engaging stakeholders’ platforms. Furthermore, a company should more and more act responsibly, that does not mean to run a corporate social responsibility activity, but a corporate shared values activity aimed at contributing to global issues and to generate social growth.2
The holistic marketing concept is oriented to the relationship marketing, aimed at building long and stable relationships with internal and external stakeholders. In a new ideal organizational chart, the close cooperation between marketing and communications within C-Suite aims at achieving a consistent brand identity and at aligning customers and stakeholders’ engagement to the corporate identity. The common effort of the C-suite should lead to deliver consistent and responsive personalised contents to customers and stakeholders through an omni-channel approach.
The H-FARM case is very interesting: it is an innovation hub where innovation, entrepreneurship and education are combined together to create contamination among fields and ideas. Founded in January 2005 by Riccardo Donadon, President and CEO, and Maurizio Rossi, Vice President, H-FARM was the first company to adopt a model that combined investments, business consulting and international and digitally-driven educational path that includes four international schools, a BA degree and three Masters programmes in one place. Here are some figures:
In the business model, the education is one of the most important business unit because of the achieved size of sales (€ 11.6 ml in 2018 in according to the Financial Report) and of the strategic relevance. When they started to deliver the innovation processes to companies, they realised that companies’ people faced issues in implementing the innovation processes because of the lack of the right mindset. They decided to widen their expertise to the educational services to companies and to students. The academic programmes are a unique complete K-12 educational path, which spans from the first years of primary school up to high school, followed by post-diploma courses, such as the BA degree and the Masters, in order to provide youth with the essential skills to successfully face the future challenges. The philosophy inspiring the education at H-FARM basically depends on their strong belief that students need inspiration and creativity to develop the skills they need to face the challenges of tomorrow. In addition, H-FARM is very careful to the learning experience aimed at enhancing students to develop their potential through dynamic programmes, a multidisciplinary skills approach, and a wide use of technological tools. The H-International School follows the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) method and the educational path is totally English-spoken and goes from nursery school (3 years old) to the high school (until 17 years old), and it boosts a knowledge process that is experience-based thanks to technology.
Born in 2005 as start-up incubator (few months before YC Combinator in US), H-FARM started to incubate start-ups digital-oriented. However, in the second stage of the development, the traditional venture model was not consistent with their strategic growth linked to the launch of H-Campus as the physical space of an innovation eco-system. From the traditional venture-based accelerator programme, H-FARM started to focus much more to support companies in the innovation processes aimed at catching the new opportunities from the digital technologies through open innovation projects. The open innovation approach implied the need to trainee companies’ staff. From there, H-CAMPUS was born. Limited number of traditional academic lessons, strong focus on interactions with companies, wide use of technological tools and devices, business projects, soft skills are the key strategic successful factors of the H-FARM education model to build or update the future skills (see World Economic Forum Report New Vision for Education 2018).
It is interesting to recall the attention on the evolution: from a venture capital-based incubator to a sort of permanent open innovation start-up with a strong capability of planning and delivering innovation and transformational processes to companies and students.
Another very innovative characteristic of H-FARM is its organisational set-up, that is quite consistent with the company vision. Even if there are responsible for each business unit, however the organisation is quite flat and short, with no internal staff roles for planning, control or HR either (traditionally speaking).
One of the most remarkable result of H-FARM has been the capability of the founders to keep themselves away and to let H-FARM itself being the real leader. The unique offering is basically a matter of culture and people. Somehow, the H-FARM model aims at shaping a future where people and their empowerment come first.
The case shows that companies should completely rethink their organisational solution and make it customer-driven in order to foster a creative marketing culture across the organisation. The organisational impact should not be a matter of task’s ownership or line/staff relationships. It should primarily be a matter of sharing knowledge, responsibility and a common business vision and behaviour. The absolute consistency between the story and the company behaviour can change attitudes and behaviours, and lead to build stable and long relationships between brand and customers.
1: Arthur W. Page (2014). Future of the CCO Project, pp. 20-35.
2: Kotler P., Keller K., Marketing Management, 15th edition, Chapter 23, Pearson, p. 679.
3: H-FARM Financial Statement Report 2018.