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What is a hippo culture?

Article originally published in November 2023 by Stuart Brameld. Most recent update in December 2023.

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Definition of a hippo culture

A hippo culture, in the context of business, refers to a work environment where the highest paid person’s opinion (HiPPO) is considered the most valuable. This culture can often stifle creativity and innovation, as it discourages lower-level employees from sharing their ideas or challenging the status quo. It’s crucial for businesses, especially in the B2B marketing sector, to foster a more collaborative culture where everyone’s input is valued and considered.

In a hippo culture, decision-making is top-down, which can lead to a lack of diversity in ideas and strategies. This is particularly detrimental in the B2B marketing field, where innovation and fresh perspectives are key to staying competitive. By contrast, a culture that encourages input from all levels of the organisation can lead to more effective problem-solving and a greater sense of ownership among employees. This can result in improved job satisfaction, increased productivity, and ultimately, better business outcomes. Therefore, it’s essential for B2B marketers to promote a culture of inclusivity and open communication.

How does a hippo culture work?

A hippo culture works by prioritizing the highest paid person’s opinion (HiPPO) in decision-making processes. This means that the most influential voice in the room is often the one with the most financial investment or highest position in the company. For marketers, understanding this culture is crucial as it can significantly impact the direction of marketing strategies and campaigns. It’s important to note that in a hippo culture, data-driven insights or creative ideas may be overlooked if they contradict the HiPPO’s viewpoint. Therefore, marketers need to be skilled in presenting their ideas and data in a way that aligns with the HiPPO’s perspective or convincingly challenges it.

An example of a hippo culture

At Growth Method, the decision-making process is heavily influenced by the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion (HiPPO). In a typical meeting, the team might be discussing strategies to increase user engagement on the platform. The data analyst presents a report showing that users are more active during the evening hours and suggests focusing marketing efforts during this time. However, the CEO, who is the highest paid person in the room, believes that morning is a better time to target users because that’s when he personally uses the software the most. Despite the data presented, the team ends up implementing a marketing strategy focused on the morning hours, based on the CEO’s opinion.

Questions to ask yourself

As a modern growth marketing or agile marketing professional, ask yourself the following questions with regard to a hippo culture:

  1. How can I challenge the HiPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) culture to foster a more data-driven decision-making process?
  2. What strategies can I implement to ensure everyone’s ideas are heard and considered, not just those of the HiPPO?
  3. How can I encourage a culture of experimentation and learning, rather than relying solely on the HiPPO’s experience and intuition?
  4. What metrics can I use to demonstrate the value of data-driven decisions over HiPPO-driven ones?
  5. How can I effectively communicate the benefits of agile and growth marketing strategies to the HiPPO to gain their support?

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Here are some related articles and further reading on hippo culture you may find helpful.

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