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Jul 16, 2020

How our brand purpose empowered us to rise to the challenge

By Lorraine Barber-Miller
Chief Marketing and E-commerce Officer

Estimated reading time: 4-6 minutes

In times of crisis, many people ask themselves what they could be doing to help. The answer isn’t always clear – unpredictable, fast-moving events create an environment of uncertainty, and can leave individuals feeling disempowered. Since joining Philips earlier this year, I have a greater appreciation of the power of brand purpose to overcome these obstacles and drive teams to success in even the most difficult times.


At Philips, our brand purpose is to improve lives through meaningful innovation. It is possibly more relevant today than it has been over the course of our 129-year history. This has been a guiding principle in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, helping instill confidence and clarity among customers and employees alike. Our brand purpose – and the marketers that nurture it – will continue to play a critical role as we look ahead to the next stage of the pandemic and the challenges it will present. 


Philips’ deep sense of purpose, resilience, innovation, and long-lasting relevance are what attracted me to the organization. We innovate to improve, extend, and even save people’s lives. That’s a powerful emotional driver to succeed for any marketer. It’s so important to remember that healthcare is personal: our health and the health of those around us are a core part of our lives, whether we’re healthy consumers, patients, or caregivers.

Purpose helped us navigate a perfect storm


As the pandemic escalated, we deepened our commitment to these ideas, understanding that we had a triple duty of care: to our people, to our customers, and to our business. This way of thinking helped sharpen our focus and tackle challenges with more agility.  


There are examples of this incredible focus everywhere at Philips. Our Sleep & Respiratory Care team launched the new E30 ventilator in a matter of weeks, getting it into the hands of front-line healthcare providers working to treat soaring numbers of patients requiring respiratory support. In India, Philips is introducing mobile Intensive Care Units (ICUs) capable of being deployed in a single day, enabling health authorities to upscale their capacity rapidly. Next to these examples, the Philips Foundation has also been driving important projects, such as delivery of mobile isolation units in Italy


Each of these achievements would have taken months, if not years, to execute in so-called ‘normal times.’ Our shared sense of purpose in a crisis enabled us to see what we needed to do, tap into distributed agile teams around the world to execute plans of action, and deploy resources to where they were needed most.

Marketing’s role in making good on our purpose


In the Philips Marketing and E-Commerce team we are stewards of the brand purpose, a role that has become even more important during the pandemic. We use our world-class capabilities to quickly launch products and solutions tailored to the needs of the moment, putting data and customer insights at the core of our decision-making process. 


For example, in the early days of the crisis, we quickly gathered information on our essential resources in online COVID-19 information hubs to help our customers deliver the best standard of care. In a matter of weeks, we pivoted our entire events strategy to online and created a digital platform for our new virtual Customer Experience Center, which showcases Philips’ portfolio across the health continuum. This crucial work helps us put our triple duty of care into practice and have a positive impact on the world around us.

Turning our progress into a lasting legacy


The coming months and years will present us with even greater challenges than those we have faced so far. Healthcare systems have historically struggled to harness change. While healthcare technology has progressed by leaps and bounds, implementing these technologies in a widespread and consistent way has often proved challenging. One can even argue that healthcare is one of the last industries to put the transformative technology gains of the digital revolution into practice. 


While the pandemic is an unmitigated tragedy, it has shown us that rapid change is possible. Connected care technologies such as telehealth have seen dramatic uptake, while many hospitals have adopted widespread data-sharing practices in ways unseen before the crisis. We’ve essentially seen a decade’s worth of healthcare transformation in just a few months


It’s clear to governments, the private sector, and the public at large that strengthening healthcare systems is of paramount importance. At the same time, we have seen a tectonic shift in consumer behavior, characterized by a rapid pivot to online in an ever-more competitive landscape. Marketing – a profession no stranger to digital transformation – is a discipline founded on anticipating changing behavior and planning ways to adapt. As such, we have an active role to play in building a nuanced and forward-thinking response to these trends.


So as we prepare for what’s to come, it’s worth taking a moment’s pause and remembering what can be achieved by committing to purpose, uniting behind common goals, removing barriers, and moving with relentless spirit – for us at Philips this is to deliver solutions that will genuinely make a difference to the lives of billions. As we understand more about our ‘next normal,’ we can all take this knowledge forward and build transformative legacies of which to be proud.

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Lorraine Barber-Miller

Lorraine Barber-Miller

Chief Marketing and E-Commerce Officer

Lorraine Barber-Miller leads the Marketing and E-Commerce function at Philips, ensuring the brand delivers on its purpose to improve lives through meaningful innovation. Lorraine’s global team of over 3,500 Philips marketing practitioners creates a signature experience for Philips customers, consumers and employees, boosting growth in core businesses and winning with solutions across the health continuum.

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