"Companies are being sold the idea that becoming a leading public thinker on some issue affecting their industry will give them a competitive edge ... As Whitespace Consultants ... puts it, thought leadership makes you 'part of the conversation early in the buying journey.'" The Economist, April 25, 2015. Here is the article.
Whether you're a tech firm like IBM or a professional services one like Booz Allen Hamilton, part of your marketing strategy must include positioning and packaging yourself as a thought leader. Ideally, you should "own" the most advanced thought in your niche.
That wasn't always the incentive for thought leadership. When I started my career in executive communications at Chevron, the function of speeches and bylined material was advocacy. Public affairs and marketing were very separate.
Even on a micro level, currently, thought leadership is needed to sell. In both pitching for consulting assignments and for jobs I had to present myself as a thought leader in a niche. Boilerplate answers weren't wanted.
Does this mean the end of platitudes? Could be. The challenge then is to be able to "be on" all the time.