Good citizenship: the new essential for sustaining brand leadership

Transparency. Supplier relationships. Social responsibility. Privacy. These terms have all been bouncing about a lot lately whether it be in conjunction with Apple, BP, Google or just general conversation.  And because of that, few people have been surprised that we’ve become more focused on brands as social reformers and been speaking more about brands advocating on behalf of their customers over the past two months.  What has startled several of our clients, however, has been the fact that we didn’t purposefully set out to deliver this message when we fielded our quantitative research in conjunction with CultureQ this past December.  The intent of our study was to get a broad understanding of general sentiment for 2012 - of Baby Boomers’ and Millennials’ aspirations and dreams to see how far apart they were and how similar and different they were between the US and UK.  We had no idea when we began to synthesise the results with our on-going conversations with Millennials that the learning would take us to this exciting, new place.  With faith in government and political leadership low, people are looking for brands to recognise their broadening social significance and with that take on some of the responsibilities for the future of humanity. So, with this in mind, and in response to several requests, we’d like to share our Brand Citizenship Quotient from  our recently released CultureQ report with you here. Brand Citizenship Quotient Index (based on top brands named as leaders)                         **Smaller or very small sample sizes ***No mentions for good or bad citizenship...

Brands, step up to leadership in 2012

Leadership.  During this period of sustained economic uncertainty, when people are feeling a significant tension between security and risk, the absence of it is apparent.  Our interviews for CultureQ have indicated this to some degree and the Internet study we fielded over the holidays confirmed it.  With faith in government very low people are looking for brands to inspire progress in society. When asked to name companies that are bad corporate citizens and act irresponsibly with respect to society, people and the environment, Gen Yers and Boomers rank the government 5th in the US, behind BP, Walmart, Exxon-Mobil and Bank of America and ahead of McDonald’s.  In Britain, government is tied for 4th with BT (British Telecom), behind McDonald’s, BP and Shell.  Frustrated with “[government] not spending money wisely” “civil service jobs [not being] safe any more”, “[business’] wasteful spending habits” and “corporations and companies [being] profit, shareholder and bonus driven” people tell us they are disillusioned with large organisations, and they do not necessarily distinguish public sector ones from private sector ones. The concept of brand leadership is intangible Similar to what we learned in 2007, the concept of brand leadership is intangible for many – it’s relatively elusive.  And, as with many things in the past 25 years, size and visibility seem to be surrogates for influence and vision.  The brands named as good corporate citizens are nearly identical to those cited as leaders.  Although many marketers continue to have Apple-fatigue, people clearly do not.  Apple tops both lists.  Certainly, its marketing and visibility help, but it’s more than that. For many, Apple inspires daily life in...

Brands in 2012: practicality, alignment and sincerity

At this time of year, after the excesses of holiday festivities our thoughts often turn to New Year’s resolutions. Certainly, the media has been reporting resolutions, large and small, over the past week.  And, we’re not exempt from tracking them; we’re even exploring them a bit in a survey we’re fielding this week. As we know, the same resolutions generally emerge the world over: losing weight, drinking less alcohol, exercising more, managing debt, managing stress, saving money, recycling and getting a better education.  These commitments to goals are developed purposefully and intended to last; yet our individual resolve to keep them often breaks down.  Frequently, our intentions are difficult to practice in day to day life and represent aspirations which are valued by society and not necessarily personally meaningful enough to permanently change in our behavior. The most successful resolutions motivate change through practical action However well intentioned, resolutions that are superimposed by our rational minds seem to fall apart as we deal with the pressures and stresses of our lives. People tell us that their most successful resolutions are those that motivate them to change through practical action that readily flows into their day to day routine.  They also come from deeply held internal value sets rather than from rules and norms imposed upon them.  Not surprisingly, most people are more likely to adapt their behaviour to unexpected events when they sincerely desire something rather than when they’ve been told to want it. Like resolutions great brands set aspirations that motivate people At the same time we’ve been talking to people about resolutions, we’ve been reviewing our on-going...

Black Friday, consumerism, social production & ethical consumption

Black Friday is fully under way.  And, in the run-up to it over the past two weeks it seemed that Black Friday had become a holiday in and of itself.  A follow on to Thanksgiving; a bit like Boxing Day is to Christmas in Britain.  Will Gray Thursday and Cyber Monday soon achieve the same noteworthy status? In a post-production, consumerism society our social stability depends on economic growth.  If we didn’t know that before, we’ve learned it since 2008.  Governments and the media continually emphasize that retail numbers are an indicator that we’re either still stuck in the recession or coming out of it.  So personal consumption - aka shopping - is a measure not only of economic stability but of active political participation.  In a consumerism world, purchasing is an act that benefits society as much as, if not more than, it does the individual.  And, as a brand and marketing professional I know consumption can be - and in point of fact is - a dynamic and engaging factor of social and cultural change.  It’s no wonder Black Friday has taken on the status of a Federal Holiday. Interestingly, Black Friday seems to reflect the same sentiment Franklin Roosevelt, the (liberal) Democrat we know best for the New Deal, had when he moved Thanksgiving from November 30th to November 23rd, in 1939.  And, this after he ignored the initial request from the Downtown Association of Los Angeles in 1933, when the Great Depression was at it’s worst point. In a letter to the President on October 2, 1933, the Association noted that according to the usual...

Intuition, confidence and self-reliance

I couldn’t help but nearly recite the definition for intuition. I was downtown having lunch with two of my former students (when living in London I had balanced consulting with teaching Intro to Marketing at NYU in London) and we had stumbled into a discussion that always animates me - using intuition versus analytics for decision making in business and in life in general. Intuition. It’s an intriguing concept. Relied on by some, shunned by others and misunderstood by many.  It was apparent that the word itself, more or less intuition’s non-linear nature, challenged the sense of security my former students got from checklists and the definitive problem solving processes and models they were taught in business school as much as it excited them.  Like a lot of managers and, yes, even marketers, my former students confused intuition with instinct and were very nervous about relying on something that involved trusting themselves over the numbers. And while I certainly believe our gut reaction can sometimes be right, I don’t believe that hunches necessarily outperform reason. Therein lies a fundamental misconception: intuition is not the opposite of rational thought nor does intuitive thinking give you permission to forgo analytics.  While instinct (Latin root instinctus meaning impulse) is rooted in a primal place and the subconscious mind (I like to think of it as a Darwinian attribute associated with survival), intuition (Latin root intueri meaning contemplate) is grounded in experience and knowingness.  In our superconscious mind.  Even though we can’t pinpoint its process, intuition is mindful of our intellect and thereby analytics.  After all, we can only reach the superconscious by...
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