Good Brand Citizenship, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy

October 29th 2012. No power. No cell phone reception. No water – we’re on a well. This is our situation in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. It could have been so much worse. Whole communities across the North East of America have been devastated, thousands of houses arbitrarily rearranged, businesses forced to close, not to mention cars and transport links submerged as Sandy did her worst. And at her most uncompromising she took multiple lives. The number of people who lost everything in the storm is still somewhat unclear but growing. On Wednesday I began to slowly reconnect with the outside world through email. (Thank goodness for the beneficence of the local gym, which has become the temporary home we share with countless other families from across our community.) As I fired up my laptop, hundreds of unread emails leaked into my inbox. As I scanned their headings and abruptly selected the delete command it struck me how many of these messages did not acknowledge the events of the past 48 hours, let alone empathize with the people who have suffered in some way. The message was, it’s business as usual; 10% off for outerwear, a great deal on hair color, coupons for holiday gifts, and so the list went on. Does a certain outdoors apparel brand really believe most people in the affected States will be whipping out their credit cards and ordering snow boots when they haven’t got water, some have lost their income, or their worldly possessions? For me, one email stood apart from the rest: J Crew had sent it’s heartfelt condolences to the affected...

What makes a brand a favorite?

Our latest CultureQ study, which was conducted over the summer, is focused on understanding the attributes that distinguish a favorite brand from those of a category leader, and a good brand citizen. We’ve been speaking a lot about favorite brands in our office over the past few weeks and couldn’t resist giving you a preview…. Not surprisingly, trust in favorite brands is high. People turn to a small repertoire of brands that make up their inner circle and that they instinctively rely on. Participant journals strongly demonstrate that people’s relationships with favorite brands are principally based on highly emotional criteria that in many ways replicate the underpinnings of close friendships. People actively advocate for their favorite brands and a large number consider cheating on them “unimaginable.” In contrast, relationships with leadership brands are based in more functional criteria aligned with the product, (ie durability, innovation) best in class business practices, and to some degree ubiquity. Overall, the difference between favorite brands and leaders is the difference between love and respect. As with people, brand leaders are not always loved - and sometimes people even hope someone else will step in to replace them - but they are always respected. Favorites are loved and respected because of what they mean to people and because of how they are deeply integrated into day to day lives. Favorite brands are distinguished by the following criteria: 1. Clarity: favorite brands: Represent an inspiring philosophy Focus on making people feel special and unique Possess a beauty and simplicity of presentation & in their delivery 2. Context: favorite brands: Make everyday life easier and less...

Millennials: a collective identity

Watching Mad Men’s Peggy smoking a spliff  while bashing out copy on her typewriter, I found myself reflecting on the 1960’s and the rebellion that defined the cohort that came of age during that era. As 70 million post-war Baby Boomers became teenagers and young adults in the 1960’s and 70’s, they demanded revolutionary thinking to change the fabric of American cultural life. It seems today’s young adults and older teens, or the Millennials as we’ve come to refer to the population born between 1980 and 1995, share some of the same spirit that defined their Older Baby Boomer parents at the same age. Millennials also want to right the wrongs of society, value progress and desire social reform. However one attitudinal difference distinguishes their behavior from that of their Older Baby Boomer parents and therefore how they are shaping the cultural narrative and what they expect from brands. Young adults in the 1960’s were more comfortable standing out, being the sole anarchist. Today’s young reformers’ identify is defined by the collective. Being part of a cultural movement or meaningful community addresses Millennial’s needs for productivity, control and security, and importantly validates their beliefs and opinions. Think of the student movements in London http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/8240181/Student-protests-key-dates-for-2011.html or Chile http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/8240181/Student-protests-key-dates-for-2011.html for example that sat alongside the Arab Spring in 2011 as examples of Millennial protest.  Striking when compared to visions of Baby Boomer objectors at Kent State or the sole protestor preaching in Parliament Square. Today’s students are arguing for reduction of fees – what might be thought of as better access to education - as compared to their Boomer parents in...

Brand Baby: Gen Now – Artists & Curators

Gen Y are rapidly becoming the generation equivalent of Apple.  They are fascinating and we admire them; however, there’s no shortage of opinion about them.  As the knowledge market about Gen Y grows more saturated, attention is turning to the next generation, Gen Z.  Those born between the years 1996 and 2010.  The youngest are barely two, yet can identify the Golden Arches whilst blindfolded, and as a mom of three Gen Zers I’ve had direct experience, although it hasn’t been through a controlled experiment…. This young generation is significant because they’re big in number (287m in India, 215m in China and 45m in the US, source: Grail Research) and, despite some being barely out of diapers, they’re clued up, persuasive consumers from the start.  They influence family brand choices from electronics to cars: 31% of US children, aged between 6-12, wanted an iPad over any other electronic device for Christmas in 2010; followed by a computer (29%) and an iPod touch (29%) (Grail Research). If women buy houses, car makers recognize kids now buy family cars.  Toyota. http://www.toyota.co.jp/en/kids/index.html. And then there’s Volkswagen’s ad from 2011 -  the kid uses the “force” when he discovers a new Passat in his driveway: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R55e-uHQna0 Apparently there’s no shortage of words and phrases engineered to capture their unique generational essence. A Google search revealed - we first called them Gen V (for virtual).  Then there’s Generation M (for multi-tasking), Generation C (for the connected generation), the Net generation, the Internet Generation and Digital Natives – 73% are on a social network and 63% are online daily (Grail Research).  Pretty remarkable statistics considering...

Brand Baby: Ben & Jerry’s – rediscovering purpose

Ben and Jerry’s both indulges and mystifies me in roughly equal measure. Their super delicious and refreshing products are guaranteed to put me a good mood especially after grocery shopping with the three boys in tow. Indeed, bribing the boys with a visit to the Mount Kisco Scoop Shop is a sure fire way to stop them putting the 100th Spider Man cookie into the cart as the temptation of vanilla ice-cream cones with rainbow sprinkles overpowers the lure of sugared super-heroes. As the boys grapple with the generous sized ice creams I usually indulge in a frozen latte before all hell breaks loose as their attention diverts to emptying out the napkin dispenser, over-filling the complementary water cups and playing with the in-store merchandise thoughtfully or annoyingly placed (depending if you are an adult or a child) at just the right eye height for under 7’s to play with. Despite the stress of eating in a Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop, I can feel semi-relaxed as their treats are almost guilt free (minus the calories of course!). After all Ben & Jerry’s promises mostly natural, homemade products brought to us in socially responsible ways; although some may dispute the credibility of these claims as some of their products contain corn syrup. With that said, Ben & Jerry’s have a social conscience; they democratize their premium product through their Free Scoop Days (yes!), they publicly support Occupy Wall Street and they’ve whole heartedly adopted ingredients that are Fair Trade Certified. Their brand personality also comes in scoopfuls - just think of their delightful product names and innovative flavor combinations....
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