Five of the best manufacturing thought leaders




James Ralph

As part of The Thought Leadership Project, we thought we’d have a think about our top five manufacturing thought leadership strategies. Jaguar Land Rover, Caterpillar Inc., Siemens, GE, Fujitsu… who’s the biggest thought leader of them all?  

Certain industries set a high bar for thought leadership. Manufacturing, likely due to the importance of innovation as a product differentiator, definitely fits this bracket. While we’d put forward our client Airbus as a good example, here are other five firms that we admire, along with some suggested links to follow for inspiration.

Of course intelligence is not the only factor that comes into play in shaping ideas that are able to advance commercial agendas. The ability to step outside of your preconceptions is also important, and here intelligent people may well be at a disadvantage.

1. Jaguar Land Rover

We often find that manufacturers confuse their brand heritage of innovation for leading thought on the future of the industry. If the rise of electric vehicles has taught us anything, it is that the opposite applies, with past behaviour blinkering future vision.

Full credit to Jaguar Land Rover therefore for its bravery in championing robotics and the changing needs of a future workforce, recognising that the next wave of innovation in automotive engineering will likely depend upon computing science as much as traditional engineering.

It’s campaigns and sponsorships, such as Formula E, are backed up with authentic actions such as its partnership with Waymo (formerly Google’s self-driving car project) to bring self-driving cars to market.

2. Caterpillar Inc

The world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment is a great example of a company that has created a compelling platform and is using this to maintain thought leadership status by tailoring content to different channels and audiences.

From their microsite and Caterpillar Podcasts that set out a clear purpose – to creating products that improve lives, Caterpillar reinforce their legacy of “building a better world”. What is particularly refreshing is the range of individuals sharing their views, from the Director of Aftermarket through to the Group President, all advance views that go back to this uniting brand purpose.

3. Siemens

As one of the top five firms leading the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), this German industrial giant is shrugging off its heavy engineering past and embracing the possibilities of a fully digitized future.

This is largely down to the leadership of their prominent Chief Technology Officer, Roland Busch, who also oversees Siemen’s VC arm ‘next47’. Roland is a great example of how to make effective use of your executives on social channels such as Twitter, with his posts on smart cities and automation driving forward the agenda.

4. GE

While it’s had a tougher time more recently, GE has consistently led the field in its use of digital channels to share inspiring content. While we’d question whether this has the focus of past thought leadership strategies such as Ecomagination, their online magazine Txchnologist is a great example of how to shape thought provoking ideas to appeal to an engineering community.

It’s captivating content, driven and delivered through a consumer voice that acts as third-party endorsement is indicative of a successful thought leader that is not just a voice in the debate, but is very much part of the developing conversations taking place about the future.

5. Fujitsu

Fujitsu has set up its I-CIO platform with a single minded focus. As a business it has made a strategic shift from low-margin hardware products to more profitable software and information technology-related services.

The blog taps into some of the most influential third party CIO networks in the world, for example, utilising Columbia Business School legend Rita McGrath’s network. Conceptually, it enacts Fujitsu’s desire to be known for ‘shaping tomorrow with you’ – cultivating a co-creative, responsive and ambitious call to action for CIOs worldwide.

I-CIO is a great example of effective thought leadership done well. Today its active readers include IT leaders of BP, Adobe, Etihad, Bank of America, Ford, Shell and Old Mutual. The platform has helped Fujitsu become a fixture on CIO’s potential partner lists, build wider awareness of the brand and its capabilities.

Each of the above are great examples of effective thought leadership in action, but we’d love to hear back from you on your favourite campaigns and what you feel marks them out for success.

If you’re interested to find out more about the Thought Leadership Project, join our LinkedIn group, visit our website, or check out and register to attend our upcoming events.

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