What’s wrong with the current preoccupation with all things green? I have friends who say the environmental initiatives sprouting like weeds are the consumer and the market taking control – AT LAST! - of issues the White House would rather ignore. A global, cultural surge towards sustainability. Something to applaud and encourage! Maybe. But I don’t believe everything green is worth celebrating this spring.
Category: Social Agenda Marketing
The LGBT equality movement has entered the mainstream. Now that we are here, I think there is a new type of work to do. As a long-time brand strategist for some of the world's leading companies, I believe our next steps are in the consumer marketplace. We must unlock the full power of influential marketers, going beyond sponsorships alone.
Davis Brand Capital today released the 2011 Davis Brand Capital 25 ranking, which evaluates brand beyond its traditional marketing function and considers it as a blend of key intangibles. It is the only annual ranking of companies demonstrating comprehensive and balanced approaches to managing the full spectrum of brand capital, which provides an indication of the strength and effectiveness of an entire business.
Davis Brand Capital today released the 2010 Davis Brand Capital 25 ranking, which evaluates brand beyond its traditional marketing function and considers it as a blend of intangibles creating value in the intellectual economy. The ranking compares the five key intangible categories by which the consultancy defines brand capital: brand value; competitive performance; innovation strength; company culture; and social impact.
Mormons and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or LDS - not to be confused with LSD(!) - have been on my my radar screen lately. It has nothing to do with HBO's popular drama Big Love or Mitt Romney's failed presidential campaign. Rather, LDS has embarked on a brand image campaign which, upon a closer look, is much more than a polished, high-gloss initiative aimed at a younger generation of potential disciples. In fact, it is both a timely move for a marketplace in search of answers and a bold competitive move among religious institutions.
In 2007, I lauded BP's rebranding for its aesthetics and the company's willingness to position itself at the forefront of social and cultural debate. But I questioned its ability and willingness to "walk the walk" of its "beyond petroleum" talk. Sadly, the Gulf of Mexico spill will prove an excellent case study on the perils of disingenuous branding.
On May 6th, Pedigree UK launched its 2010 adoption drive with a viral video campaign about an abandoned dog named Charlie. The story of Charlie is told one video at a time, with the next part of Charlie's fate only shared after the current part receives 25,000 views. For every view, Pedigree will donate £1, up to £100,000. Episode three, "The Long Walk," was just released. As of now, we don't know whether or not Charlie will be euthanized. Charlie doesn't deserve this; no dog does. We need to find out what will happen to Charlie, and each view gets us closer to finding out and helping animals at the same time.
One need not stretch too far, nor have particularly partisan views, to accept arguments that ours is a culture marked by institutional collapse. Confidence on Wall Street and in capitalism itself slipped with the tarnishing of names AIG, Lehman and Merrill Lynch (among others) during the Great Recession. Trust in the U.S. government eroded along party lines, calling into question the integrity of the democratic process, on the path to health care reform. Faith in the Catholic Church continued to fold just last week under the weight of yet another round of scandal fueled by priests preying on the most vulnerable. On somewhat lighter fronts: there is no longer a "most trusted man in news" when every adman is a newsman, and so many newsmen an advertisement (or plagiarist). Science is more politicized than ever, the clarity of its objective truths clouded by a climate of competing interests. If our cultural institutions are not as strong as they once were, where is one to place belief?
Davis Brand Capital, which published the 2009 Davis Brand Capital 25 ranking in December, today announced expanded rankings in five industries: automotive, finance, retail, technology, and telecom.
Migros is Switzerland's largest supermarket chain and one of the 500 largest companies in the world. Known as the big M because of its iconic orange logo, the company employs more than 84,000 people and has recently posted sales of more than $20 billion. Turning 85 years old in 2010, Migros' unique history, business savvy and far-reaching vision make it a noteworthy case study for brands in and outside the category. Migros has been ahead of its time from its inception, and is a prime example of how a company can diligently build brand capital through innovation, social responsibility, thoughtful portfolio strategy and a careful management of brand voice.
GE (NYSE:GE) captures the number two spot in the Davis Brand Capital 25 for 2009. The world's largest company, GE has rebounded from a transition period and one of the most challenging years in its history -- one that saw its stock plunge to record lows. The company's nimble and effective management of its brand capital is helping it tackle new market paradigms and position itself to lead into the future.
As the year ends, we look back at the most read and shared posts from Unbound Edition's contributors, and a few more favorites chosen by our editorial team. We appreciate your continued readership and commentary and look forward to more dialog in 2010.
Microsoft ranks #4 on the Davis Brand Capital 25, besting twelfth-place rival Apple. Despite taking some hits in a year-long advertising tit-for-tat with Mac, Microsoft joins fellow technology brands IBM (#1), HP (#3) and Cisco Systems (#5) at the top of this year's list. The Davis Brand Capital 25 is the only annual list to evaluate brand as an amalgam of intangibles, including brand value, competitive performance, innovation strength, company culture and social impact. Microsoft's top-five ranking is a reflection of the company's successful management of its brand capital across a diverse portfolio of technology products and services.
Cisco's #5 ranking on the 2009 Davis Brand Capital 25 should come as no surprise. Cisco has taken an integrated approach to developing its intangibles for years. The following sections detail Cisco's success in carefully managing its brand value, competitive performance, innovation strength, company culture and social impact.
On Monday Davis Brand Capital released the 2009 Davis Brand Capital 25, and IBM took the top spot. IBM's #1 ranking may surprise some at first glance. After all, brand is typically viewed primarily through a marketing lens, and therefore tends to be more closely associated with consumer-centric - and arguably more glamorous - companies such as Apple or Nike. But the Davis Brand Capital 25 examines brand more holistically: as a collective set of intangibles, including brand value, competitive performance, innovation strength, company culture and social impact. The following commentary and qualitative assessment of top-ranked IBM highlights the company's successful management of these five intangibles that comprise brand capital and provides context for its #1 ranking.
Davis Brand Capital today released the 2009 Davis Brand Capital 25 ranking, which evaluates brand beyond its traditional marketing function and considers it as an amalgam of intangibles creating value in the intellectual economy. The ranking compares the five key intangible categories by which the consultancy defines brand capital: brand value; competitive performance; innovation strength; company culture; and social impact.
Patrick Davis Partners, the brand capital consultancy, today announced an expanded portfolio of services and a name change to Davis Brand Capital.
Ad Age released five new rules for marketing this week and invited emails for other “new rules.” At Patrick Davis Partners, we agree that these times demand new thinking by marketers. We even released our own thoughts about new priorities for a post-agency age last November. So with a nod to the “radical transparency” Ad Age cites, and a sense that one ought to practice what one preaches, we’re responding in an open letter instead of an email.
To expand on the excellent piece The Good Business of Good Citizenship, it is worth looking at some additional data. As Daniel Yankelovich and Isabella Furth observed in 2005, corporations and government have been subject to waves of mistrust reaching as far back as the 1930's Depression. Not surprisingly, we are in the midst of another wave, and consumer trust has eroded severely since last year. Every major industry in the U.S. is affected, with banks and automotive leading. Why does trust matter so much?
For most Americans, the conspicuous consumption of the late 20th century was not just a show of status or an assumed birthright in the land of plenty, it was an act of justified (if not inspired) patriotism. Prospering and buying things proved the American system worked. In our greatest moment of national crisis, George W. Bush called us to arms post-9/11, with the rallying cry of “go shopping” to support our economy and stabilize our nation. Consumption was the way to fight back; it was our role as citizens. Economic policies followed that fueled this citizen-consumer march into battle. But something else happened along the way, too. We didn’t just shop. We reconnected. We found new ways of expressing citizenship, and they can serve us well now as marketers, if we follow a few, new citizen-based rules.
Surgeon and writer Sherwin Nuland makes a brilliant connection between medicine and language. “If there’s one operation for a disease,” he explains, “you know it works. If there are 15 operations, you know that none of them work.” Such it is, he suggests, with the many definitions of the word hope. In this talk, Nuland traces the latest political and cultural buzzword to its IndoEuropean root to find its original meaning. Studying the etymology of this powerful concept, he proposes, is the only way we can hope to make sense of it.
The post-agency age is upon us. With remarkable speed and effectiveness, technologies and consumer preferences have coalesced, forcing a broad and deep cultural demand for direct, honest relationships. The go-between agent is less relevant than ever before, and the global financial crisis is likely the final blow to the inefficient and long-suffering agency structure. Winning in the post-agency age will require these new priorities.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) yesterday sent a letter to Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben ‘n Jerry’s Ice Cream fame, asking them to replace the cow’s milk they currently use with human breast milk. While I don’t doubt that this moove (sorry) would make some cows very happy, the idea of a dessert made with human breast milk gives me the willies.
While I applaud and, I hope, help advance the “green” movement on a number of fronts, I think it is important also to recognize the functional selfishness of the entire effort. If we are honest, “going green” isn’t really about saving the planet or improving the environment. It’s about saving ourselves. Our broad, cultural hubris may let us forget these are separate things.
This week, Unilever announced a company-wide initiative to ban size zero models from appearing in advertising for any of its products. The company says it “believes in a healthy balanced diet and that both men and women have the right to feel comfortable with their bodies and not suffer from lack of self-esteem brought on by images of excessive slimness."
Thinly veiled PR ploys, corporate-image ads and traditional notions of CSR-as-afterthought are outmoded. As one brand consultant puts it, “corporate sheen is dead.” Unfortunately, most marketers are still hanging out at the wake, too drunk and reminiscing about the good ole days to realize their consumers (and other stakeholders) are light years ahead of them.
Starbucks and other "experience brands" need to evolve into the age of brand meaning quickly. Why? Because the brands that win today are ones that drive social agendas.
India is the first country to have corporate social responsibility (CSR ) legislation, mandating that companies give 2 percent of their net profits to charitable causes. Innovative? Perhaps on a policy level. But some small-medium size enterprises within India have already embedded social impact into their company ethos.
Imagine you are walking down the street and suddenly you're struck with the desire to do some good. No need to search for the nearest homeless shelter and hope they have volunteer hours. Coke Romani teams up with McCann Bucharest for "Radar for Good," a mobile app that lets you find a place to volunteer, instantly.
The Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation, the world’s first anti-bullying foundation, today announced it has issued its 50th grant, coinciding with the organization’s third anniversary. The Foundation is a registered 501c3 grant-making non-profit in the United States and a registered charity in the United Kingdom. The 50 grants have been given across both countries.
How do you profitably sell to a customer who earns less than $2 per day? It is probably the most daunting business question in the world—as well as the most important, because that’s the earning power of nearly one third of humanity, the two billion people at the so-called “base of the pyramid.”
Guinness became the latest brewer to drop sponsorship of St Patrick’s day celebrations in the US amid growing criticism of public discrimination against gays and lesbians.
Kinship requires work, and while people inherently are driven by it, brands are not individuals and often do a poor job evoking similar feelings. Consumers have been skeptical of today’s brands’ intentions for some time now, and so is it any wonder they have such a hard time earning trust?
With the cascade of new technologies and social changes, we are constantly challenged to spark creativity, drive innovation, and ensure sustainability. What are the remedies? How do we work with ourselves and others?
LinkedIn, the social network for the working world, has gained a reputation as a place to go when you’re looking for a job, or a person to fill a vacant role. Now the company is expanding on that idea with the launch of a Volunteer Marketplace – a place people can go to post and look for unpaid positions.
Ad Researcher Ranks Ad Effectiveness With Measures Such as Likability and Relevance
Casey Neistat got the job just five days after the typhoon made landfall in the Philippines, and asked for the full budget upfront to take directly to desperate survivors.
One of my favorite parts about the holiday season is the opportunity to look back and reflect on all of the new people, initiatives, and ideas I encountered throughout the year. From Malala’s incredible journey to the rise of Giving Tuesday, 2013 had no shortage of inspiring social innovators and campaigns.
Marketers and agencies are rushing to pledge money and supplies to victims of the devastating Haiyan typhoon in the Philippines, often working through relief organizations like the Red Cross and UNICEF.
"I believe that every life is valuable. That we can make things better. That innovation is the key to a bright future. That we're just getting started." - Bill Gates
Like fair-trade or organic, the Just certification informs consumers about the business practices of the companies that make what you buy. How much social justice have you bought today?
Jason Silva every week as he freestyles his way into the complex systems of society, technology and human existence and discusses the truth and beauty of science in a form of existential jazz.
Giving is rewarding. It’s contagious. It’s good for your brand too.
If you could promote change and function in a socially responsible way without sacrificing revenue and innovation, wouldn’t you?
Here are our top 15 most provocative quotes on accelerating human progress around the world—in no particular order—from some of the world’s leading authorities on development, technology, philanthropy, health, education, environment and other sectors.
Want to influence the policies of the world’s major corporations? All you need is a good stunt.
Russian Vodkas Feeling The Heat. Could Winter Olympic Sponsors Be Next?
The success of Toms Shoes and Warby Parker eyewear, which give their products to the needy whenever they make a sale to consumers, has inspired other businesses to become more social enterprises too.
Freespace is a experiment in civic hacking, inspired in no small part by Burning Man. But it’s attracting the attention of Fortune 500 companies eager to find ways bring more creativity and innovation into their work spaces and companies.
The real gap isn't between men and women doing the same job. It's between the different jobs that men and women take.
Generosity is a commodity we should not hold on to
Despite its smoggy reputation, China is doing better than the United States. Much better.
Every time there's a tragedy — be it 9/11, Hurricane Sandy, or the Boston Marathon bombing — there's an expectation that corporations will do something to aid the victims. "Something," however, has gotten ever more complex.
Live Below The Line asked people--including a host of celebrities--to spend a week living with the food budget of someone in extreme poverty. Could you make it work?
Since Change.org began focusing on its petition tool in 2011, it has offered just two actions for supporting a cause: Create a petition; sign a petition. Now the company is expanding that list.
From mobile banking to contraception, this is what she thinks is going to drive the next wave of advances for people in the developing world
Traveling is often tough for kids, but for children with autism spectrum disorders, it can be a completely disorienting.
Citing the threat posed by the North Korean government, the "hacktivist" group defaced the country's official Twitter and Flickr accounts yesterday.
Profit-making and philanthropy have long been separate activities — and for very solid reasons. They may be corollary expressions of self-interest, in the smallest and largest sense.
What do a publishing giant, a women's lingerie retailer, a kid-centric commerce subscription service and a nonprofit organization for the 50+ set have in common? They are all social businesses.
Corporations assume that employer-sponsored volunteerism programs keep employees engaged while also making a difference to the social organizations they serve. And that's true, but there's more to the story.
Customer experience has become the new differentiator. Short product development cycles now mean that many companies release new products that offer little differences in actual product features. To stand out, organizations now need to meet and exceed customer expectations.
Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the Walmart Foundation, talks about making an impact both globally and locally, and how any company can be a better corporate citizen.
This year 12% of IKEA's content for the Web, catalog and brochures were rendered virtually; that number will increase to 25% next year.
A mobile-display ad from none other than one of world's biggest mobile-ad sellers, Google, won the first Mobile Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions ad festival today. In what's essentially business-to-business marketing, Google's winning campaign "Hilltop Reimagined for Coca-Cola" was designed to show adland that online and mobile display advertising aren't as low-rent or constraining as is often thought.
“Myanmar is one of only three countries on the globe where Coca-Cola does not do business. The other two are Cuba and North Korea,” Coca-Cola stated this week. That's about to change. The global beverage giant has not done business in Myanmar, a.k.a., Burma, for more than 60 years, but The Coca-Cola Foundation just announced plans to grant $3 million to support women's economic empowerment job creation.
72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. In 2011, YouTube had more than 1 trillion video views, which is 140 views for every person on the planet. Among all the hours of uploads and billions of views, nonprofits, educators, and activists have a strong presence on YouTube. “Nonprofits and activism” and “Education” are among the fastest growing categories on YouTube.
As tourists start returning to the Gulf of Mexico two years after the disaster that marred its name, BP would like to rebuild its image as an oil company that actually gives a hoot about the environment.
As part of its promise last year to improve the nutritional quality of the food it sells, Walmart said on Tuesday that it had devised standards to determine what is healthy and would label the foods that meet those standards. A new label with the words Great for You will appear on Walmart's Great Value and Marketside food items this spring.
Of course, in the wrap up of every Super Bowl, the people want to get a taste of which commercials were the most popular. This morning Hulu released its list of winners, and it looks like nostalgia took the blue ribbon. Of the ads that ran during game time, Honda’s “Matthew’s Day Off” (a Ferris Bueller tribute) just narrowly edged out Volkswagen’s “The Dog Strikes Back,” with the “most liked” ad on Hulu AdZone being Volkswagen’s “The Bark Side” preview ad.
Because you work in advertising or media, a little more is expected of you when it comes to Super Bowl advertising knowledge. It's not enough to mindlessly chuckle along with the masses at the CareerBuilder monkeys or Volkswagen's body-image-obsessed canine. You need to be able drop some serious knowledge on this, advertising's biggest day, whilst juggling a microbrew and a plate of nachos.
At first glance, it would seem that the new generation of product-bookmarking sites such as Pinterest and Svpply are nothing more than new tools to feed the consumer machine, driving us to buy more stuff. But, counterintuitively, my experience with these services is that they actually help me cut my consumption and to direct my money at goods that more closely align with my values.
Puma can’t yet legally discuss its Olympics marketing strategy, according to Remi Carlioz, the company’s head of digital marketing. But to get an idea of how Puma will promote its star athlete and three-time Olympic gold medalist sprinter Usain Bolt, one need only turn to the Middle East. In mid-January, Puma sent 10 bloggers to Abu Dhabi to cover the company’s sponsored boat, Mar Mostro, as it competed in the third leg of the Volvo Ocean Race. Puma has recruited bloggers to talk about the brand before, but this event marked the first time it tested Tumblr. (The bloggers were also encouraged to post to Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #marmostro.)
Establishing consumer relationships through mobile marketing, as with any successful, productive relationship, inherently requires a mutual exchange of value. Whether consumers are opting-in for brand communications via SMS or engaging with the brand in a single instance through scanning a QR code, the onus is on the brand to deliver value in return for customers’ valuable time and information. Without the perception that value has been exchanged for value, the relationship becomes essentially one-sided and unrequited attempts at interaction on the part of the consumer will spell the end of the relationship – perhaps permanently.
Today, Facebook is publishing a study that disproves some hoary conventional wisdom about the Web. According to this new research, the online echo chamber doesn’t exist. This is of particular interest to me. In 2008, I wrote True Enough, a book that argued that digital technology is splitting society into discrete, ideologically like-minded tribes that read, watch, or listen only to news that confirms their own beliefs. I’m not the only one who’s worried about this. Eli Pariser, the former executive director of MoveOn.org, argued in his recent book The Filter Bubble that Web personalization algorithms like Facebook’s News Feed force us to consume a dangerously narrow range of news. The echo chamber was also central to Cass Sunstein’s thesis, in his book Republic.com, that the Web may be incompatible with democracy itself. If we’re all just echoing our friends’ ideas about the world, is society doomed to become ever more polarized and solipsistic?
It takes years to build a good reputation, but seconds to damage it beyond repair, as executives at companies from Dell to Domino’s certainly have found out. This was a sentiment echoed by executives at the Senior Corporate Communication Management Conference in New York when discussing social media and corporate reputation and how to embrace the new reality of immediate communications.
On Black Friday, Patagonia ran a full-page ad in The New York Times telling consumers not to buy one of their jackets because it takes so much water and energy to make. This was one element of the company's Common Threads initiative, a brilliant brand-within-a-brand that offers a roadmap for companies trying to promote themselves as environmentally friendly.
In 2006, Dove launched its True Colors campaign to spark a global conversation about the definition and perception of beauty among women of all ages. Its research found only 2% of women considered themselves beautiful; and body anxieties begin at an early age with 72% feeling great pressure to be beautiful, when girls feel badly about their looks, 60% disconnect from life, avoiding normal daily activities like attending school or even giving their opinion.
Nike is setting up a a venture capital fund -- the Sustainable Business & Innovation Lab -- to invest in startups working on alternative energy and green innovation, reports Bloomberg.
There's now measurable evidence that a brand’s philanthropic activities can influence shopper behavior and ultimately purchase decisions, and that gender nuance is a factor. The Integer Group queried 1,200 Americans about factors influencing brand preference when choosing between two companies with both benefiting a cause, and selling a product similar in price and quality. The top answer for both men and women was "personal relevance of cause" (70%).
Twitter co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone have revealed their much-awaited next project since leaving Twitter and relaunching the Obvious Corporation, the incubator that they started with Twitter vp of product Jason Goldman back in the mid-2000s. On the official Obvious blog, Stone announced today that the company is partnering with Lift, a new app “designed to unlock human potential through positive reinforcement.”
At first blush, the consumer appeal of a business like Groupon seems pretty obvious. The popular deal-of-the-day Internet start-up sells vouchers to restaurants, spas, and other local businesses at major markdowns--and who wouldn't want to score a 100-dollar sports massage for 50 bucks?
As IBM celebrates its 100th birthday, many observers are rightly calling attention to the many strategic changes the company put itself through to remain relevant amidst dramatic technological and economic change. But one of the biggest transformations IBM went through is less about computers and more about culture. Over the last decade and a half, the company has realigned its HR practices and strategies to move away from the analog ways of the past and to embrace a variety of 21st century approaches, including some highly unconventional ones.
There is a fundamental shift that social media necessitates in business today – the need to transition from “Me First” to “We First” thinking. For decades Me First thinking and behavior has dominated how we have conducted business, treated the environment, and how consumers and brands have interacted. Despite decades of short-term profits, the long-term consequences of this approach have been catastrophic. They include the economic meltdown of 2008, the global recession, and the persistent economic problems that plague countries and societies around the world today. As a result, there is a growing awareness that we must begin shifting business towards a more collective and socially responsible mentality in which companies and consumers think about building a better world as much as they think about profits. Given this, the question is, how can brands move towards this responsible and collective mentality? The answer is, by adopting We First thinking.
Microfinance has come under fire in the past 18 months, triggered in part by SKS Microfinance's IPO. Critics complain that the institutions supporting microfinance have become too greedy, and many are using this as an argument to deeply regulate or, even more, cut support to microfinance operations.
In recent years, one part of the food business has rivaled organics as the hot growth area: "local" food (defined vaguely as coming from the same state or from less than 100 miles away, for example). It's a market segment that has just about doubled in sales and number of outlets over the last decade. The world's biggest food buyer, Wal-Mart, jumped on the bandwagon last fall and announced that it would double the amount of local food it sells (to 9 percent of all its food sales). The idea of buying locally is not new, and farmers' markets have been big for years. It's become almost gospel that the food on our plates has traveled about 1500 miles to get to us. So it would seem logical that the best way to shrink your food-related carbon footprint associated would be to buy from near by. But it turns out that this assumption is wrong.
TOMS Shoes is ready to kick off the "Shoes" in its brand identity, rebranding with a campaign (which we previewed in March) dubbed "What's Your Next Chapter?" that will be unveiled in a series of events with its partners across the US tomorrow.
More and more leaders are scared for their business. Not because their products and services are not innovative or relevant, but because they just don’t connect naturally with the changing face of America’s consumers.
Remember the Pepsi Challenge? Launched in the mid-Seventies, it was a blind taste test, heavily used in Pepsi's TV advertising, in which participants invariably would pick Pepsi over Coke as the better-tasting cola. It spoke directly to relevant brand equities that helped Pepsi-Cola mount a rising challenge to Coca-Cola over subsequent decades. Well, there’s a new Pepsi Challenge in town. But it has nothing to do with taste-testing, cola or even Pepsi per se. As part of PepsiCo’s ever-expansive Pepsi Refresh community-revitalization project, Pepsi Challenge is now the name of an online activity that encourages users to submit ideas and weigh in with solutions.
Last October, BMW introduced a six-year project with the Guggenheim Museum -- the BMW Guggenheim Lab -- aimed at developing new ideas for design and urban living. On Friday, the company unveiled specifics at an event at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. The Lab, designed by Japanese architectural firm Atelier Bow-Wow, will be an open-air installation featuring an open-air loft built largely of carbon fiber (a substance BMW plans to use in its vehicles) and designed almost as a theater space with elements that can drop down from the overhead space, a kind of Swiss Army knife of cultural props and media implements.
Remember a recent post that began with the words “I’m peeved“? I was peeved by an executive’s failure to understand that diversity is part of social responsibility. Well, it set off quite a chain reaction in the blogosphere, with many publications and bloggers offering their own take on the issues. What caught most everyone’s attention, however, was its argument over terminology. What is CSR?
From a Lady Gaga prayer bracelet to special sushi rolls at restaurants, the disaster in Japan has led to a rash of relief efforts. But as consumers become increasingly skeptical of cause-related marketing, celebrities, organizations and major marketers have to walk a fine line, trying to help without appearing to exploit the tragedy for profits.
At SXSW, the chief of one of America's favorite online shoe stores lets Fast Company in on his newest idea, a lifestyle and business brand with partner Jenn Lim named after his bestselling business book, "Delivering Happiness."
On this 100th International Women's Day, it is right to reflect on how women have become the heart of the microfinance industry. It is easy to forget that the initial motivation for microfinance roughly 30 years ago was, to a great extent, gender neutral.
HBS Working Knowledge recently celebrated its tenth birthday, and we mark the occasion by looking back and looking forward. We've asked HBS Dean Nitin Nohria and a number of faculty to both remark on what they view as the most significant business management ideas of the first decade of the twenty-first century, and then to tell us what they hope will be the most fertile areas of business research between now and 2020.
In recent months, business leaders been embarking on a new conversation in the U.S. about how our business, government and consumers will meet challenges around the environments, infrastructure, and of course, the economy.
Design is an inescapable dimension of human activity. To adapt one of my favorite quotes by Reyner Banham, like the weather it is always there, but we speak about it only when it is exceptionally bad or exceptionally good.
As the network replaces 'Playhouse Disney' with 'Disney Jr.,' preschool shows will shift emphasis from teaching ABCs and 1-2-3s to imparting social values in their storytelling.
It's getting hard to not like Walmart, or at least the way it has been throwing around its considerable weight to make the world a better place for the last three years or so. I never thought I'd write that.
For years, Toyota has been the darling of the green business world. The hybrid Prius was a legitimate business home run (2 million sold), and it helped both differentiate Toyota's brand as the market innovator and propel Toyota to unprecedented profits. But now the company faces renewed competition for the title of green auto leader.
Marketing’s purpose is to demonstrate value and provide differentiation. Judged by that criteria, cause marketing isn’t any more useful a tool than coupons. In fact, it could actually be worse. That is, in some cases, cause marketing can actually do more harm than good--the opposite of corporate social responsibility--eliminating all justification for the practice.
The capitalist system is under siege. In recent years business increasingly has been viewed as a major cause of social, environmental, and economic problems. Companies are widely perceived to be prospering at the expense of the broader community. Even worse, the more business has begun to embrace corporate responsibility, the more it has been blamed for society’s failures. The legitimacy of business has fallen to levels not seen in recent history. This diminished trust in business leads political leaders to set policies that undermine competitiveness and sap economic growth. Business is caught in a vicious circle.
Leaders from the tech and finance sectors are having an ever greater impact on the nonprofit world. Nowhere is this most apparent than at the Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment firm started by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.
If you ever believed that social media really could help make a difference in the world, then we’ve got some great news for you.
Once upon a time, a luxury brand needed to do nothing more than demonstrate its exclusivity to be coveted by wealthy consumers. But in today's redefined marketing environment, says the UK's Guardian, "more awareness develops around where products come from and how they are made. ... Customers feel conflicted about what they really 'need' in this new economic landscape, discouraging purchases that previously wouldn't have garnered a second thought."
There’s a cultural movement gathering steam in the marketing world right now and, funnily enough, it has to do with… movements.
Green marketing, a movement so hot that not even a deep recession could kill it, is starting to show signs of consumer revolt. At the very least, it's a signal that green alone isn't enough of a marketing proposition; at most, it could signal consumers simply aren't buying the benefits of environmentally positioned products and brands.
FedEx is launching a digital web experience as part of its global advertising campaign focused on business trends and insights. The brand's new FedEx Delivers to a Changing World microsite invites users to interact with content from The Economist Intelligence Unit, the research arm of The Economist, on topics including air travel, urban populations, entrepreneurs and success, the coffee effect, household appliances, education, recycled paper, and more.
Blogivation. It's Procter & Gamble's way of saying it's engaging bloggers in its corporate social responsibility efforts. P&G is hoping those efforts aren't a wash — particularly as its CSR power is focused on a multi-year commitment to helping clean the world's water supplies, particularly for children and creatures.
Months after leaving behind the 20-year ad career that made him famous, Alex Bogusky is officially starting a new one as a consumer advocat
We all know the fundamental issue: consumers are suffering from attention deficit disorder brought on by too much choice. Now the moral imperatives brought on by concerns over global warming—to buy local, to buy green—are layered on top of an already bewildering variety of alternatives. People are recognizing that every purchase decision has consequences, but figuring out what the consequences really are is tough.
Is PepsiCo the next unlikely hero of sustainable agriculture? It's certainly trying to be--the company's new i-crop precision farming technology has the ambitious goal of allowing PepsiCo's farmers around the world to monitor, manage and cut down on their water use and carbon emissions, all while maximizing crop quality and yield.
Last year, Kiva.org, one of the pioneers in micro-lending to international entrepreneurs, opened up its service to needy U.S. entrepreneurs, which caused some controversy. Since then, Kiva has facilitated more than $1 million in loans to U.S. small businesses. The new market has steadily gained its supporters, and today Kiva is launching a new partnership with Visa, that will help Kiva deliver new grants to small business owners in the U.S. Under this partnership, Visa will donate $1 million to Kiva to help with operations and the deployment of these micro-loans.
Call ‘em the Click-Change Artists. A new social media movement centers around the notion that doing good no longer requires rolling up your sleeves at the soup kitchen or seeking out neighborhood artists to support (though we’d certainly never disparage such types of old-fashioned philanthropy). The web now offers a new way for too-busy types to donate their time — and bucks — to feel-good enterprises. And, judging by the response, social media enthusiasts are more than happy to oblige.
Maybe you have seen the news. In case you missed it, Shel Israel wrote about it in a recent post on braided journalism, a term he coined a little while ago to describe a developing practice of traditional and citizen journalists starting to intertwine through mutual need. This is also the latest example of enlightened experimentation from Dell, an organization that is leading on its way to what Dachis defines a social business. They were first in implementing a site for customers to submit and vote on product ideas -- IdeaStorm -- and first to coordinate social product launches at the same time with traditional announcements.
Today, Stonyfield Farm, the organic yogurt company, is unveiling a new packaging solution: A yogurt cup made from corn. It's not the first revolution in yogurt cups, or the first packaging innovation made from corn. But Stonyfield's journey to today is a case study in sustainability, innovation, persistence, and systems thinking that I think is worth sharing.
Who is Kiva’s biggest competitor? If you rattled off a list of non-profit-centric startups, the micro-lending site’s President Premal Shah would tell you that you’re dead wrong. Try Zynga, the gaming behemoth that has given rise to Farmville and Mafia Wars and other disturbingly ubiquitous internet classics. What does virtual fertilizer have to do with micro-finance? Shah says a lot: It’s a never-ending fight for eyeballs and discretionary income.
If you want to be a 21st century company (or economy), if you want to survive and thrive during this Great Stagnation, you've got to to have the courage, foresight, and determination to step up to a higher rung on the ladder of innovation. It's time to master what I sometimes call "I-squared": the art and practice of institutional innovation.
I’m a capitalist by conviction and profession. I believe the best economic system is one that rewards entrepreneurship and risk-taking, maximizes customer choice, uses markets to allocate scarce resources and minimizes the regulatory burden on business. If there’s a better recipe for creating prosperity I haven’t seen it. So why do fewer than four out of ten consumers in the developed world believe that large corporations make a “somewhat” or “generally” positive contribution to society?
Pepsi is so happy with its "Refresh Project" social media marketing campaign that it has renewed funding for 2011 and will expand it to the rest of the world. This year it will give away $20 million to the good works projects that win the most supportive votes from consumers, representing "true democratization of the philanthropic process," according to a company spokesman. I say it's really dumb, and not just slightly dishonest.
Waleed Al Mokarrab Al Muhairi discusses Mubadala’s double bottom line, bridging investment and development.
Can companies do well by doing good? Yes—sometimes. But the idea that companies have a responsibility to act in the public interest and will profit from doing so is fundamentally flawed.
In psychology, the term "identified patient" refers to a family member — often a child or a teenager — who gets scapegoated for behavior that is actually just a predictable response to dealing with an unhealthy family. Tony Hayward is BP's identified patient.
It wasn't a multi-million dollar television campaign for a Fortune 50 company, nor was it a digital media program for some new-age service. Instead, the Grand Effie award was given to the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) for a very simple, and cost-efficient word-of-mouth program to encourage student enrollment. Here's what they did.
Corporate social responsibility, or CSR, means companies aligning their values with a greater good and taking action to have a positive effect. They often do so through "cause marketing," joining forces with nonprofit organizations and focusing ad campaigns on those philanthropic relationships. Why are more companies than ever flaunting their good works this way? Partly, experts say, because they realize that their employees want to be part of a business that does more than just make money.
Levi's annual Fourth of July campaign, Go Forth, this year focused on the theme of work and on the residents of the recession-battered community of Braddock, PA. Check out its latest campaign above and after the jump, including a spot for Levi's Workshops, inviting the public to "roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty, and get down to work" at workshops located across the U.S.
It's inevitable that as organizations navigate the complex world of sustainability, they will experience some internal cognitive dissonance about how they operate. Nobody said it was easy to balance the competing forces of (a) the inertia of how things have always been done, (b) the desire to meet the assumed needs of customers (for, say, welcoming, well-lit rooms), and (c) new pressures and questions about environmental and social performance. But forcing your customers to confront these choices or, worse, making them do the work themselves, is not a good option.
A campaign for a clothing brand is rolling up its sleeves, figuratively and literally, as the ads are set in an actual distressed town and the advertiser donates money to help revitalization efforts there. The campaign is for the flagship Levi’s brand sold by Levi Strauss & Company, and it is the start of the second year of an initiative that carries the theme “Go forth.”
Pepsi's social media-backed community change effort, dubbed “Refresh Project,” is off to a good start. So far, the soft beverage giant has funded more than 100 projects and given back approximately $5 million to local communities, according to Ana Maria Irazabal, marketing director for Pepsi. With new entries and winners announced every month, the brand is on track to hit its goal of $20 million in grant money this year. "Refresh Project" is also helping Pepsi expands its already massive presence on Facebook, Twitter, and other social nets. The initiative has sparked human interaction and is affecting change in communities, Irazabal said.
Kentucky Fried Chicken, the serial phony immortalized in some of the most stunningly dishonest marketing efforts of the past 10 years. The chain's latest outrage is a promotion with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, in which 50 cents is donated to the foundation for every special pink bucket of chicken purchased -- that is, for every 20 grams of sodium, every 2,500 calories, every 120 grams of fat in KFC's smallest pail. Whoa. How low can you go?
How does a company inspire its consumers and what does it mean for business growth? Inspiration Blvd, a brand-consulting firm in Alpharetta, Ga., surveyed 1,752 consumers to identify America's top motivating companies. Conducted online, the survey asked consumers to pinpoint influential indicators--such as innovation, reliability, growth, charity--and to freely describe companies they see as inspiring. The goal was to determine a correlation between successful companies and companies that inspire their consumers, says Terry Barber, chief inspiration officer of Inspiration Blvd. "We set out asking whether companies that inspired others were more likely to connect and draw shoppers," Barber says. "We see now there's a strong link between the message consumers take away and how they act on it."
Today, much of the marketing world has embraced the spirit of the digital age, and perhaps the strongest evidence is that it's doing a lot of work that's not so, well, "digital." The best companies have harnessed the digital mindset and taken the shareable, ongoing, interactive, participatory nature of digital and created brand experiences that matter to people where they ought to -- in their real, everyday lives.
Like motherhood and apple pie, corporate social responsibility has achieved iconic status as a feel-good pursuit. Corporations around the world have embraced its charitable philosophy and created divisions devoted to its pursuit. The problem, however, is that corporate social responsibility — by design and definition — can only go so far. Because no matter how widely a firm defines its reach, and how generous its leadership grows, the primary objective of any for-profit firm in a capitalist system will still be as Friedman described it: to maximize the returns of its shareholders. Or at least not to engage in any activity that undermines those returns.
Comparing Starbucks and McDonald's may not seem to make sense at first, but the two chains actually have a lot in common--namely, they both promise quickie and easy food and beverages on the go, and both companies have recently ramped up sustainability efforts. In the new book The HIP Investor, author R. Paul Herman attempts to compare the two mega-chains. Below, we do the same.
Striving to do more good is associated with greater profitability, equity and asset returns, and shareholder value creation. But that's still not good enough. Today, the bar is being raised: success is itself changing. Those are yesterday's metrics of success — more importantly, maximizing good lets companies outperform on tomorrow's measures of success.
Simon Sinek has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership all starting with a golden circle and the question "Why?" His examples include Apple, Martin Luther King, and the Wright brothers -- and as a counterpoint Tivo, which (until a recent court victory that tripled its stock price) appeared to be struggling.
What can Procter & Gamble learn from Method, the San Francisco purveyor of natural home products? How about Fidelity Investments — could it profit from observing Zurich's Sustainable Asset Management? What lessons are offered to mainstream companies by mission-driven companies, those small- and medium-sized enterprises that balance profitability with social and environmental goals? By studying them, mainstream companies can get beyond the fruitless debate over whether it pays to be responsible, and move onto a far more important issue: How they can make being responsible pay.
The baleful consequences of the Great Recession cannot be resolved by maintaining the same approaches as when we created it. The "new normal" in business means many brand owners need to leverage something much larger than a re-take on marketing. They need to accelerate their collaboration with consumers, so that principles such as "for people, for planet, for profit," combined with tools of the web and next-generation media, can transform brands' role in the economy, society and business.
I'd like to use the term "sustainability 2.0" to talk about this emerging space, in which the world of corporate social responsibility meets the world of brand communications. There's one fundamental difference between sustainability 2.0 and how we've approached things in the past. For some time now, people have recognized that sustainability can be a brand-builder. But using sustainability to build your brand can only be a successful strategy if it starts from a consumer perspective. Sustainability 2.0 is about organizations creating positive effects in the lives of people in three ways: as individuals, helping meet personal needs, goals and ambitions; within their communities, sparking cultural movements, supporting causes and making connections; and within the world at large, tackling environmental issues and enabling greener lifestyles. So what's shaping this new landscape? Five fundamental trends are influencing the sustainability 2.0 agenda.
So strong was the antibusiness sentiment for the first Earth Day in 1970 that organizers took no money from corporations and held teach-ins “to challenge corporate and government leaders.” Forty years later, the day has turned into a premier marketing platform for selling a variety of goods and services, like office products, Greek yogurt and eco-dentistry.
The following 10 companies stand out as prime examples of how social responsibility can be productively coupled with sound strategies to advance goodwill, while building sustainable and impressive businesses. They provide the leadership to demonstrate how marketers can pursue both objectives simultaneously. As such, socially conscious companies have stepped up their efforts with increasing effectiveness and productivity. It is an impressive movement and one that invites society at large to do even more. Let's use these as examples for "how to get it done" so that we can effectively expand our efforts to give back.
It's the trillion dollar question. Justin Fox, in a recent post here, put it this way: "I don't think anyone has come up with an argument for or description of better business behavior that has anything like the elegance and power of the economists' 'incentives matter.' As long as it remains possible to get rich via less-than-upstanding behavior, and enjoy those riches, a lot of people in business will choose that path." I call it the egocentric question: "Why is doing good in our self-interest?"
Will Walmart, not Whole Foods, save small farms and make U.S. healthy?
Should we be surprised that the biggest fight over freedom of expression in years involves Google, a company that produces algorithms rather than articles? Probably not. Google executives struck a blow for free speech in China last week when they announced they were moving their service to Hong Kong after a series of mounting conflicts with the government over the privacy of its users and the free flow of information. That would seem to put Google in league with newspapers, television news divisions and other outlets that look to protect information from government control. But no, Google insists, it is definitely not a media company.
Coca-Cola once famously defined its market as “throat share”, meaning its stake in the entire liquid intake of all humanity. Not to be outdone, Indra Nooyi, the boss of Coke’s arch-rival, PepsiCo, wants her firm to be “seen as one of the defining companies of the first half of the 21st century”, a “model of how to conduct business in the modern world.” More specifically, she argues that Pepsi, which makes crisps (potato chips) and other fatty, salty snacks as well as sugary drinks, should be part of the solution, not the cause, of “one of the world’s biggest public-health challenges, a challenge fundamentally linked to our industry: obesity.” To that end, on March 22nd she unveiled a series of targets to improve the healthiness of Pepsi’s wares.
If any company seems well-positioned to both influence and profit from a generation of environmentally aware youth, it's Walt Disney Co. And Robert Iger, president and chief executive of Disney, insists the company is doing just that. Mr. Iger sat down with The Wall Street Journal's Alan Murray to talk about the new green strategies the company applies to everything from its theme parks to its movie studios, as well as changes Disney has seen in consumer attitudes. They began the conversation by talking about the company's conservation campaign—Friends for Change—which so far has reached more than a million children, he says.
American Express is using the celebrity-studded Academy Awards TV event on ABC to give one of its new programs a star turn: the company is promoting its cards by urging consumers to "take charge of making a difference." At American Express, card "membership" was long touted for its privileges. Now it comes with responsibilities too.
Judging from its branding and the griping of its competitors, Apple customers are hip, aware, and enlightened, yet its shareholders recently defeated resolutions to make the company more environmentally responsible and affirmed instead their uncool unconcern about anything other than profits. There isn't just a disconnect here, but an entirely topsy-turvy arrangement.
Is it possible to have a coffee, buy a car or go shopping without saving the world? Not these days. And now you can also host a pancake breakfast, send Girl Scout cookies to the troops and shelter stray pets, thanks to a friendly corporate sponsor. In addition to the now-requisite cause marketing, brands such as Quaker, Pepsi, Prilosec and Bisquick are turning to so-called microsponsorships of a few hundred or few thousand dollars that go straight to the consumer to fund their own pet project. The most visible of these is Pepsi Refresh, in which consumers can apply for grants ranging from $5,000 to $250,000.
Richard Saul Wurman is an architect and graphic designer known for sparking debate. In 1984 he founded nonprofit TED and began holding annual events to stir up conversations about technology, entertainment and design. More recently, Wurman is appearing in Web videos to create chatter about a new topic: emissions, cars and the hope for a cleaner environment. Nissan Motor tapped Wurman and other thought leaders in December as part of a year-long marketing effort geared to make more people aware about the impact of emissions on the environment. Wurman and other luminaries, including Swedish designer Marcus Eriksson, appear on in videos a Web site called Journey to Zero that many might miss as being a message from Nissan.
I believe strongly that, rather than business injecting business values onto our communities to business ends, we really need to turn the tides and teach business how to espouse human values again…or as Gary Hamel writes in his excellent column, put soul back into business. It is human beings, after all, that are necessary to the success of any business (whether employees or customers).
PepsiCo ditched the Super Bowl this year to make a major social media play. Instead of spending money for ad time on the Super Bowl, it's relying primarily on digital initiatives to spread the word about its Internet-based Refresh Project contest and charity campaign. The cause-marketing effort is a good one. Word is spreading through traditional media, online networks, social media and celebrity chatter. But I believe Pepsi made a big mistake in giving up its long-held Super Bowl ad real estate. A more integrated media approach--one that included the Super Bowl--would be a savvy play for Pepsi. And such integration is something top marketing executives need to keep in mind in their rush to embrace digital initiatives.
Pepsi's Refresh Project, a first-of-its-kind experiment in social media that invests the brand in community-building projects, won't simply leave a legacy for the recipients of its financial grants. It's also a pivotal test case for other brands trying to navigate an ad-cluttered, cynic-rich marketing landscape.
Today, as the globe struggles with an historic economic decline, it's time for a new revolution. I'd like to advance a hypothesis: Today's great competitive challenge isn't going from Good to Great. For people, companies, and countries, it's going from great to good.
Just days before the Super Bowl, when media outlets are abuzz about all the commercials consumers can expect to see in the big game, the folks of Gastonia, N.C., a small town 25 miles west of Charlotte, are opening their newspapers to find an article about one company that will be sitting on the sidelines this year: Pepsi.
When the going gets tough, costly good intentions can go out the window. Company spending has been squeezed by the global recession and budgets for corporate social responsibility have suffered disproportionately. A survey of U.K. businesses by KPMG and Business In The Community found a third of companies cut their corporate social responsibility budgets in 2009. Corporate philanthropy has also been hit, with a study by the Giving USA Foundation revealing that charitable donations by U.S. companies fell by 8% in inflation-adjusted terms in 2008.
Decades ago, consumers were invited to “be sociable, have a Pepsi.” Now the brand wants to invite consumers to help Pepsi support social causes — and will use social media like Facebook and Twitter to help spread a message. Pepsi-Cola is formally introducing on Monday an ambitious campaign named the Pepsi Refresh Project, aimed at doing well by doing good. The brand is dedicating at least $20 million through the end of the year for donations to local organizations and causes proposed by the public in realms like health, arts and culture, the environment and education.
When the Vancouver Olympic Games kick off on Feb. 12, visitors will find café furniture made from pine-beetle-salvaged wood, drink out of bottles made from 30% plant-based materials, and their beverages will be delivered via hybrid vehicles and electric cart. All are elements of Coca-Cola's first zero-waste, carbon-neutral sponsorship. The effort has been years in the making, beginning with a relatively simple recycling effort for the Athens Olympic Games in 2000. Since then the company has layered in additional elements, like environmentally friendly coolers and shirts made out of plastic bottles.
Public confidence in companies, governments and non-governmental organisations has staged a recovery since last year's "trust Armageddon", but the rebound is patchy and fragile, according to data to be presented at the World Economic Forum tomorrow in Davos. Trust in business has risen from 49 per cent to 53 per cent around the world year-on-year, says the annual "trust barometer" of well-educated, highly paid and engaged "informed publics", conducted by Edelman, a communications consultancy.
According to the 2009 Cone Consumer New Media Study, an online survey by Opinion Research Corporation among a representative U.S. sample of 1,048 adults, comprising "new media users," 44% of American new media users are searching for, sharing or discussing information about corporate responsibility (CR) efforts and programs and are highly confident they can have an effect on business.
U.S. government officials and business leaders were supportive but wary of taking sides in Google Inc.'s battle with China, a sign of the delicate tensions between the growing superpower and the West. The White House said it would wait to comment until China responded to Google's threat to bolt from China, over censorship and alleged cyber spying. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke called Google's charge that it and dozens of companies were hacked "troubling" and encouraged China "to work with Google and other U.S. companies to ensure a climate for secure commercial operations in the Chinese market."
Ford recently wrapped the first chapter of its Fiesta Movement, leaving us distinctly wiser about marketing in the digital space. Ford gave 100 consumers a car for six months and asked them to complete a different mission every month. And away they went. At the direction of Ford and their own imagination, "agents" used their Fiestas to deliver Meals On Wheels. They used them to take Harry And David treats to the National Guard. They went looking for adventure, some to wrestle alligators, others actually to elope. All of these stories were then lovingly documented on YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, and Twitter.
While most CMOs have laid forth their plans for 2010, many are still seeking a way to innovate in a time of uncertainty. Where are the opportunities? With the recent dramatic drops in marketing spending, there has been one category that continues to grow. Throughout 2009 we saw the launch of many national cause-marketing programs (see sidebar: Dawn, H&R Block, Pepsi, Sonic Drive-In) at a time when marketers were watching budgets more closely than ever. With this rise in popularity comes the question: Where is cause marketing headed in 2010? While the rules of a successful cause campaign remain solidified, the category is set to change dramatically in 2010.
The economy may continue its gradual recovery next year, but advertising is expected to show the influence of the recession through 2010. Don't expect a letup in the rough-and-tumble sales pitches that hit the airwaves, Web and magazines this year, as advertisers like Campbell Soup and Verizon Wireless, owned by Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group, took direct aim at their competitors. Advertising executives expect such barbed comparison ads to continue. Other companies, meanwhile, will be showing their softer sides. In the bleak aftermath of the recession, many marketers think consumers will respond to brands they perceive as giving back to the community.
As we begin a one-year celebration of the ANA's 100th anniversary, we have created the Marketers' Constitution, which contains 10 essentials of marketing for the next 100 years. Its purpose is to ensure that our industry continues to thrive and contribute to the growth of the U.S. economy and to the well-being of our society.
It may have been easy to miss if you don't work in the world of corporate led cause related marketing, but Corporate Social Responsibility (or CSR) programs are in the midst of a crisis. The subject of the debate mainly centers around two big issues: brand value and authenticity. On the one hand, CSR programs are attacked by shareholder groups and business investors who argue that they are a needless distraction and remove money (and value) from the investors of a business. CSR programs are also attacked by industry watchdogs and groups who argue that businesses only engage in CSR programs to create an artificial connection with consumers and claim allegiance to causes they don't really care about. On the other side, those who work on these programs make a more idealist argument - that companies can do well and do good at the same time.
The wretched economy has forced many consumers to, well, consume less, or at least less avidly than they did before the bubble — or bubbles, if you count Wall Street and real estate — burst. What, then, has that meant for the cause marketers, which depend on the kindness of shoppers to raise funds for nonprofit organizations, associations and assorted other doers of good deeds?
Every brand makes a promise. But in a marketplace in which consumer confidence is low and budgetary vigilance is high, it's not just making a promise that separates one brand from another, but having a defining purpose. This point and its implications were made clear to me at the recent Association of National Advertisers conference in Phoenix where CMOs from some of the smartest organizations explained why purpose-driven branding is essential to success in this "new normal" environment. While it may sound a bit like Philosophy 101, a company whose employees can answer the question, "Why are we here?" will be the company that makes stronger connections with consumers in search of solutions to life's new normal issues.
What's a megatrend, you ask? It's something big. I'm talking really big. Think of a giant unstoppable tsunami of change transforming society as we know it. Think global warming scale -- then apply it to mass human behavior. Think glaciers carving the grand canyon of consumer sentiment. So what are the new megatrends that I believe will transform society in the coming years? What brands are taking advantage of them? And what can you learn from them?
Around the world, four billion people live in poverty. And Western companies are struggling to turn them into customers. For the past decade, business visionaries have argued that these people, dubbed the Base of the Pyramid, make up an enormous, untapped market. Some of the world's biggest, savviest corporations have aimed to address their basic needs—by selling them everything from clean water to electricity. But, time and again, the initiatives have quietly fizzled out. Why? Because these companies were looking at it all wrong.
In 2007, Self magazine released results from a study titled GOOD, which examined how women react to cause marketing. Its findings encouraged cause-supporting companies to make the move from telling consumers about how the company was giving back, to telling consumers how they were helping the company give back--the consumer feels better about herself when she supports "good" companies. Self recently released GOOD 1.5, which delves deeper into women's responses to cause marketing and is relevant given how different the economy is from 2007. Cynthia Walsh, executive director of marketing for Self, said that while many marketers expect consumers to care less about "good" in this environment, the opposite is actually true.
I happen to think that the folks who were in charge of the Olympics branding strategy in Rio de Janeiro did a phenomenal job of differentiating Rio's promise from the other cities in contention, and then clearly establishing its relevance to the IOC. In other words, the "Brand Rio" team followed a couple of the basic rules of smart brand management and came out the category leader as a result. There is almost no brand category that isn't awash in choices. Whether cars or cosmetics, beverages or baby carriages, there is a lot of stuff out there and most of it is pretty similar. The competition for consumer attention is fierce and it can't be won on table stakes. The only way a decent brand can ever hope of becoming the chosen brand is to make a promise that's completely different from any its competitors' and ensure that this difference is meaningful to its target audience. In an ever-expanding global marketplace, this is getting harder and harder to do.
As the economy shows signs of a recovery, marketers are wondering if consumers will revert to pre-recessionary behavior. Consumers are trying to figure that out too. Many people are reevaluating their spending because they never again want to feel as vulnerable as they have over the past 12 months. But our society is contending with another significant change. For many people, the new determining factor for success is no longer pure profitability, but responsibility. That shift in perspective takes the form of a simple question: Am I doing the right thing--for my family, our nation, the planet?
While Americans have spent the summer seeking new remedies for their financial ailments, attending noisy town-hall meetings on health-care reform and trying to find something to occupy their time besides the travails of Jon and Kate, it was pleasing to read that these issues have not had a completely negative effect on what the rest of the planet thinks of us. This was made known in a recent New York Times op-ed in which the author noted that, over the last several months, the United States' brand has been seen more positively in the eyes of the world. This bit of news was reassuring to me and got me thinking about how the very idea of "good brand, bad brand" has taken on new meaning in this age of renewed thriftiness, environmental consciousness, corporate responsibility (or, flagrant lack thereof) and, most of all, consumer vigilantism arising from our all-digital-all-the-time marketplace.
Marketers caught on early that emotion sells product. "Would your husband marry you again?" screams a Palmolive ad from 1921. (Not unless you scrub with Palmolive soap, honey.) Today, Heineken has promised warmer international relations via handoffs of Premium Light from mountain men to Indians to ballerinas. And, of course, Axe has sold young men on the fantasy of hooking up with deodorant-loving nymphomaniacs. Emotional appeals are ubiquitous. They're also interchangeable. It would be just as easy to pitch Heineken as an aphrodisiac and Axe as a global harmonizer ("Peace starts in the pits"). And that's the problem: It's all stick-on emotion. Sometimes that works brilliantly (see: Corona). Other times, it's as weird and clumsy as an adhesive moustache -- remember Carl's Jr. and Paris Hilton's sexed-up hamburger ad? Fortunately, there's a better and more sustainable way to create emotion: Mean it.
Every so often the vocabulary of business adopts new words that filter into the mainstream business psyche. For example, the language of brands and branding is now commonly used and understood across a range of sectors— from universities to social enterprises to small businesses. Over the past year or two, the new vocabulary has brought in “sustainability,” whether it is to talk about the environment or general business operations, about communities or the future. Google the term and you’ll see that “sustainability” has 28 million definitions—only a few million short of the 34 million entries for “branding." Words that become common business parlance can shift in meaning and, in doing so, become open to a multitude of interpretations.
What's still one of the most important consumer trends out there? Transparency. Of prices, of opinions, of standards. So let’s look at what’s new, happening, upcoming and important, including the inevitable countertrend. There’s no hiding ;-)
Every 90 days, I report to Wall Street and our shareholders on the financial health of our company--called to the carpet when results are bad, receiving a pat on the back (if memory serves) when numbers are good. Many years ago, we put corporate social responsibility on the agenda for these quarterly financial calls, because as a critical component of our effort to be a responsible business--fiscally and socially--it felt not only appropriate, but necessary. Guess how many times I've been called to the carpet by shareholders for not delivering satisfactory CSR results, or how often we've received a comment or question about our CSR programs on these quarterly calls? Never. The silence isn't an indication that we've perfected corporate responsibility--far from it--it's an indication that shareholders don't find CSR performance relevant.
If you couldn’t make it to the Sustainable Brands conference in Monterey last month, you missed a lot of good content, networking and discussion. The big question that came out of the conference for me was, “what does capitalism look like in a dematerialized world?” In other words, is a sustainable brand an oxymoron?
Protecting the natural environment isn’t the whole story: companies must consider their social, economic, and cultural impact as well. Of the world’s 100 largest economic entities, 63 are corporations, not countries. Great power creates great expectations: society increasingly holds global businesses accountable as the only institutions strong enough to meet the huge long-term challenges facing our planet. Coming to grips with them is more than a corporate responsibility. It’s essential for corporate survival.
Years after cracking the very code of the Web to lucrative ends, Google may be in the midst of trying to conjure the most complicated algorithm yet: to wit, can goodness, or at least a stated intention not to be evil, scale along with the enterprise?
There's a growing school of thought that unfettered information about the environmental impacts of our world will smoke out the bad guys and help the good guys win. I wish it were that simple.
Today's reality consists of multiple media channels, new technologies and consumers who have a short attention span. Traditional communications are no longer sufficient for creating loyal fans or bringing the brand to the forefront. This new reality demands a new approach to engaging consumers; this is where corporate social responsibility (CSR) as branded content comes in.
The world of communication and product delivery is changing as the Web evolves and new services are introduced, enabling us to gain faster access to information, download richer media more quickly, and rapidly voice our opinions and feedback near and far in a wide variety of methods, including text, voice, video and imagery. As customers become more savvy and in tune with these new tools, we are also expecting those offering products and services to adapt, and as such, I thought it made sense to put forth what I believe are key tenets of a new consumer manifesto for today's real-time world.
The more transparent a market, economic theory holds, the healthier it will be. Information asymmetry — where sellers know crucial information that buyers cannot access — pollutes the market. Think toxic assets. The movement toward fuller transparency in the financial markets has a direct parallel in the ecological impacts of consumer goods. Signs suggest a trend toward greater marketplace openness about the environmental and health consequences of products — a trend with strong marketing implications.
People expect companies to do more than just sell stuff. They want to know what you stand for, what choices you make as a result and what difference that could make in the world. So when it comes to people making their brand choices, Cause Marketing can be a tiebreaker. Almost 80% of Americans are more likely to switch to the brand supporting a good cause over a competitor with the same price and quality. But Cause Marketing is not just about photo opportunities, oversized checks and warm fuzzies. It can be an opportunity to turn commercial interest into real change.
Blue Thinking is the antidote to Green. It doesn’t go away and it’s not a project with a budget. It is the next generation of thinking emerging from the heart of brands embracing sustainability as business strategy and a driver for innovation. It’s not a green consumer story or marketing idea, not a single product innovation, not one change in the supply chain (but instead many), and nor is it a disconnected concept that should be applied to business because climate change has come upon us. Instead, it is transformational innovation.
The post-agency era is upon us. With staggering speed and efficiency, consumer preferences and digital technologies have coalesced to create a broad and deep cultural demand for direct relationships. In this disintermediated market, do we need go-betweens at all?