Sustainability and Authenticity Present Huge Opportunities for Brands

Riddle me this: how do you boost sales by almost one third while telling your customers to buy less from you?

Sustainability and authenticity are the twin brand values that can power this exemplary business growth, and Patagonia is the current exemplar.

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For some time now, Patagonia has been urging customers to repair and keep their $700 Patagonia parkas rather than buy new ones. The result? Sales increased almost one-third to $543 million last year, which included about nine months of the “Buy Less” marketing campaign.

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October 4, 2013   Comments Off on Sustainability and Authenticity Present Huge Opportunities for Brands

Generation Y Should I Trust You? The Challenge for Brands

Generation Y Should I Trust You? The Challenge for Brands

Brands are symbols of trust – we use them as navigation beacons in a landscape of uncertain options. But the next generation of consumers is re-defining what it takes to be trusted.  At the core of this re-definition are two attributes: sustainability and authenticity. Brands that lack those qualities will struggle increasingly to attract either consumers or recruits.

According to research by The Intelligence Group, this next generation of consumers, described as Generation Y or ‘Millenials’, want to make the world a better place, and they’re demonstrating this intent in the brands and products they choose, ‘… products that follow ethical practices and are aligned with social causes’. (adweek: responsible youth)

For these digital natives, sharing is a normal part of life. Everyday they share photos, ideas, technology and information about themselves.  Defined by The Cloud, a key facilitator of this ‘open source‘ lifestyle is mutual trust and the brands that can demonstrate the qualities that drive trust, like honesty and authenticity, will benefit from Generation Y’s loyalty.

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August 2, 2013   Comments Off on Generation Y Should I Trust You? The Challenge for Brands

Using the Shared Services Brand to Overcome Negative Perceptions

This blog was originally featured on the Shared Services and Outsourcing Network’s website on July 22nd, 2013.

Shared Services often miss the opportunity to communicate the value they provide, and consequently live under a pervasive and somewhat negative perception. This doesn’t have to be the case. Focusing on the Shared Services “brand” is one way to change these perceptions.

Because the origin of Shared Services is rooted in cost cutting, there is a naturally built-in   stereotype that what costs less must not be as good. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Strengthening the Shared Services brand, especially to internal audiences, is a very powerful way to communicate the positive value of a Shared Services model. Aside from the corporate arguments that Shared Services are really about reducing costs, you should be promoting the realization that there is an enormous amount of condensed wisdom in a Shared Services organization. It is, de facto, the central node of knowledge and insight. Imagine if internal customers understood this value and could tap into it. So use the brand to focus their attention.  Read more →

July 26, 2013   Comments Off on Using the Shared Services Brand to Overcome Negative Perceptions

Is Consumerism Sustainable: What Do Brands Have to Say?

What can the difference between a straight line and a circle teach us about building a sustainable economic system that fuels growth without destroying our planet? And what do brands have to do with it?

The answers are “lots” and “lots”, respectively.

This is the first in a series of posts in which we will explore the relationship between brands and sustainability. So we thought we should start by questioning whether consumerism itself is sustainable. Is it reaching the end of its useful life? And if it is, what can replace it as an engine for economic growth?

The law of unintended consequences has meant that the existing model of consumption makes many of us sick, unhappy, stressed, and time-starved; it fails to produce affordable food that sustains healthy life; it fails to offer work that gives us a healthy sense of meaning and purpose; it gradually renders the planet itself unviable; and it makes only 1% of us wealthier.

For most of us, this is not a good deal. For our children, it’s disastrous.

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In his book ‘Cradle to Cradle’, William McDonough recognized that in nature’s cyclical design, resources are infinite.  Yet human industry is driven by a traditional linear economic model: Take (resources) – Make (stuff) – Dispose (dump when the new version comes out).

So which is the better (more sustainable) option? That’s where the circle comes in.

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July 15, 2013   Comments Off on Is Consumerism Sustainable: What Do Brands Have to Say?

Why David Brooks Almost has it Right about Brands

David Brooks, an Op-Ed Columnist at the New York Times writes a very interesting article about the differences between the use of and understanding of brands between the Americans and the Chinese. His premise is that the Chinese are not good at building brands that connect with consumers in the West despite the fact that they have the largest economy in the world. This will hinder their achievement of global economic dominance. He is right.

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However, one of his notions is only partly correct and flies in the face of what great brands work hard at every day. Brooks believes that “People who create great brands are usually seeking some inner longing of their own…”. In this he is thinking about romantic notions of founder-led brands like Nike or Ralph Laruen.

What he is missing is that great business leaders spend a great deal of time and energy to understand their customers and their needs, and then address them in a way that builds an enduring relationship that can last a long time. In most cases it is the diligence and hard work requiredto build stronger relationships with consumers than competitors in every category that leads to sustainable market leadership.

Much of what Brooks writes about is very true, and he is astute to recognize as much as he does. Where he misses the mark is realizing that there is a process and method to establishing and building a strong brand that connects with key audiences that works on it’s own and is not necessarily founder led. Just look at a few minor brands like IBM, General Electric, BMW, New York Yankees, Mayo Clinic, etc. Sure each was founded by great thinkers and leaders, but they have evolved into very strong brands generations past founder longing.

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Congrats to Brooks for recognizing how brand have become an engine of the Western economic growth. His basic premise is more than correct.

May 31, 2013   Comments Off on Why David Brooks Almost has it Right about Brands

Why Brand Strategy Matters Even More Online

To ensure a seamless image, smart brands take responsibility for both the content of their ads, as well as the environment in which their ads appear.

Vigilance is especially necessary online, where intelligent software and e-marketing technologies allow brands to target the user, not the environment. The old adage of ‘fish where the big fish are’ has never been more true. With varying degrees of success.

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A friend of mine recently joked on Facebook: ‘If the ads that Facebook so cleverly targets at me are correct, I need to: a. Lose 9kg. b. Buy a motorbike and c. Attend the classic rock concert at Willowbridge Barnyard Theatre. Now that’s artificial unintelligence if ever I saw it.’

She’s a fit, slim, married, mother of two in her 40s, who lives in the suburbs and drives a family-friendly 5-seater VW.

But getting it wrong can have more sinister results. What happens when a brand finds itself in an online environment that potentially undermines its image? Read more →

April 30, 2013   Comments Off on Why Brand Strategy Matters Even More Online

Doing the Right Thing is Good for Business

The past decade or more has seen a rise in environmental and social consciousness and with it, a desire by big business to ‘give back’.

Much of this is driven by necessity.  Motivated by a wider understanding of the human impact on the environment, there is growing expectation in the market for brands to make it easier for their customers to make better choices.  A market that has become increasingly brand literate and now, empowered by the open forums of social media, has a platform. Putting profit before people and the planet, is no longer good for business.

But it’s also driven by savvy marketing and good business sense.  A brand that finds a purpose beyond their product, inspires loyalty in their customers who feel proud of their association with the cause.  This connection with the brand goes beyond any need for the product and builds a far more sustainable relationship.

However, intention must be met with action.  If the brand wishes to be taken seriously, change cannot only be made on the outside – on billboards, or in PR releases – change must be seen to be happening on the inside too.

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April 9, 2013   Comments Off on Doing the Right Thing is Good for Business

Protecting & Enhancing Your Brand in Social Media – Whether You’re Joining or Creating the Conversation

As the old saying goes, “you have to be in it to win it”. That pretty much sums up the role of social media for brands today. Social media is no longer just one of many tools a marketer can use. It has all but become the cost of entry. In the 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, 94% of marketers said that they use social media for marketing purposes. It goes without saying that some social media marketing is better than others, and therefore more effective at driving business results. But the bottom line is that companies can no longer ignore social media. This is true for every category and industry from consumer goods to professional services, from healthcare to the financial industry and for both B2C and B2B.

Here’s the rub: Because social media is a two-way street, gone are the days when a brand can control messaging through a monologue of traditional advertising and communication. What is compelling to consumers today, and to a large extent, expected, is a dialogue, back and forth. These conversations can be strategically initiated by the brand to disseminate a particular message, i.e. a new way of “advertising”, or a brand can strategically participate to help steer the conversation in a way that protects the brand.

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Either way, whether you are creating the conversation about your brand, or joining in conversations about your industry, which may ultimately involve your brand, follow these rules to not only protect your brand, but to take advantage of this new reality and use it to actually strengthen your brand:

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April 3, 2013   Comments Off on Protecting & Enhancing Your Brand in Social Media – Whether You’re Joining or Creating the Conversation

Why “Watering Down” a Brand is a Fundamental No-No.

The postulate that “watering down” a brand has long-term affects is generally well understood by smart marketers everywhere. But recently, two brands have been caught up in literally and figuratively watering down their products and consequently, their brands. We’d suggest that the act of watering down a product, or even the suspicion of it, will have very serious and long-term impacts on the business.

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The two brands are Maker’s Mark Kentucky Bourbon Whisky and Budweiser. Maker’s Mark announced that they were lowering the alcohol content of their premiere product from 94 proof to 86 proof because demand is exceeding capacity, and consumer testing had indicated that the difference was undetectable. While possibly statistically true, the idea that slowly diluting a product so that the perceived change in the taste profile is negligible could end up taking the teeth out of a product and without ever understanding why. This incremental product thinking almost always gets manufacturers in trouble. Read more →

March 1, 2013   Comments Off on Why “Watering Down” a Brand is a Fundamental No-No.

Do Brands “Sweat” When They are Stressed?

In a recent Wall Street Journal article by Sumanthi Reddy on new theories about why people sweat when under stress… it made me think that there is a strong parallel with brands and how they react to difficult business situations. Scientists now believe that stress-triggered sweat plays a role in sending warning signals to people around us that something is wrong. This body odor conveys a lot of information from one individual to another.

Brands under stress can “sweat” too.

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They can give off signals, much like odors, and we can sense that something is amiss. Take American Airlines as an example. They have been under stress in bankruptcy for quite a while. Not only have creditors been worried, but also travelers. So what did they do… they rebranded themselves with a new modern look. In some ways, we all smelled a rat. No, they haven’t really gotten much better… their service is as sparse as other carriers, and their equipment is not significantly better than others. So they put on some new lipstick. Now we know that it was part of a complete, quiet financial re-packaging ending up with a recent merger with US Airways. So their “stress sweat” was apparent. To some extent, this scent should be a signal for investors and creditors alike. Read more →

February 19, 2013   Comments Off on Do Brands “Sweat” When They are Stressed?