Transcending the customer: Successful brands solve personal ME worries & solve global WE concerns

Transcending the customer: Successful brands solve personal ME worries & solve global WE concerns

OVERVIEW People’s expectations of government, business and other longstanding institutions have been shifting since 2008.. And, perhaps more so than anything, Brexit and the US Presidential race prove there’s no going back. Business as usual—with ‘leaders’ running the show and people going along for the ride—no longer speaks to the needs, longings, and practical realities of our modern society. So, it’s no surprise that in a populist world, people are looking to the brands they value the most to have a meaningful purpose and mirror their values. FROM PUSH MARKETING TO BRAND PULL Since the late 1990’s, every agency, research company, consultancy and digital firm has hung out a branding shingle. And as they have, the word brand itself has acquired a lot of baggage. Ask any two people what a brand is and more likely than not they’ll give you two different answers, although each will associate the word in some way with creating a cool name, developing an eye-catching logo, crafting a memorable tagline or spending a lot of money on multi-media ad campaigns designed to build awareness. In other words, for most people the discipline of branding is a form of push marketing that leverages advertising and attention grabbing tactics often disconnected from delivering real value for users. Rather than being judged as a strategic investment designed to cultivate loyalty with customers, employees, business partners, suppliers, investors and other stakeholders – and thereby enhance profitability – brand development is often slated as a cost to business in financial analysis. Yet, brands matter more than ever today. In a digital and socially driven marketplace where the lines...
The Intangible Things Employees Want from Employers

The Intangible Things Employees Want from Employers

Understand the me-to-we continuum. as printed in HBR.org There are some companies we look at, admire, and say, “Wow, I really want to work for them.” These companies understand that employees are as important as the paying customers who consume the products and services they sell. And they know that the transparency of social media means the company’s reputation is highly dependent on what its employees say. It’s never been more important for companies to treat employees well and fairly—but it has also never been more complicated to do so. With so many different generations in the workforce, each expecting different things from their employers, exactly what kind of relationships should companies be fostering with employees—and how should they go about doing so? My research (quantitative and qualitative studies of Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers as part of my company’s Culture Q project) into how cultural sentiments impact people’s relationships with brands has shown that nurturing faithful employee relationships today is no different than cultivating loyal customers. Both begin with a “me-first” orientation—that is, companies must “satisfy my wants and needs first”—and then stretch across a continuum, culminating in a “we” orientation—“address the issues that are important to my community and the broader world” (see the “me-to-we continuum” below). Just as consumers now look to do business with companies that advocate for causes they care about, employees are looking for employers who advocate for them and on their behalf for causes that matter to them. Companies are no longer “just” companies. As technology has removed the boundaries that historically divided our work and personal lives, we are now...
5 Steps for Brands to Do Good – for customers, employees, other stakeholders, society & the planet

5 Steps for Brands to Do Good – for customers, employees, other stakeholders, society & the planet

The playing field for marketing has changed. Business as usual—with marketers and ad agencies running the show and consumers coming along for the ride—no longer speaks to the needs, longings, and practical realities of our modern society. The global economy, technology, climate change, and generational shifts have all dramatically impacted the ways in which we all consume, engage, and even abandon the brands in our lives. The unprecedented level of transparency social media has generated places great power in the hands of consumers. People want more from companies than ever before: better value, better service, better ethics, and a better focus on sustainability. Brands, especially the ones we’re most loyal to, represent more than things and services. They signify an ethos—one that mirrors our values or that we aspire to. As consumers grow more concerned with fairness and sustainability, they – in other words we – naturally seek “relationships” with brands that link us to a larger purpose, simultaneously enriching our modern lives and sustaining the planet. So it’s no surprise that more consumers are calling for, yearning for—and paying for—brands to do good for their customers, their employees, other stakeholders, and the world. A 5-Step Model to Do Good Our 5-step model of Brand Citizenship® is not about sacrificing to better the world. Nor is it boasting about sustainability or social responsibility efforts. It is about integrating do good activities such as fair employee policies, CSR, sustainability programs, ethical sourcing, charitable giving, etc., with brand development to strengthen a brand’s reputation, foster greater loyalty, and enhance value creation. The 5 Steps Step 1: TRUST: Don’t let me down....

In 2015, investors will bet more on brands with a transparent, long-term focus

For decades, many people have considered corporate efforts to fund social and environmental programs public relations campaigns designed more to boost brand reputation at best and, at worst, a way to right wrongs. Positive reactions to exposed negative actions – part of a zero sum game (negative behavior + positive response = zero sum) rather than a net positive for society. Since the Great Recession, Deepwater Horizon, Occupy Wall Street, record long-term unemployment and government cutbacks on funding of social programs, the zero sum corporate responsibility game has come under even greater scrutiny. And as a result, doing good is becoming a practical reality for corporate survival across industries. A growing cost of doing business, that is at odds with our historically idealistic images of doing good. Yet, in a technologically interconnected world where coopetiton, hybrid cars, mixed racial backgrounds and gay marriage are becoming mainstream concepts, should the notions of idealism and realism remain at odds with one another? Should integrating sustainability and social responsibility initiatives into brand development be considered self-promotion? Or should it be seen as operating transparently and enabling consumers to buy products from companies that share their values and invest in things they care about? Intrinsic values produce consumer value More and more CEOs are acknowledging that fair and ethical business practices are as essential a criteria for lasting business success as is earning a profit. In a world where businesses are forced to adapt to the challenges globalized sourcing, production and sales present, economics and ethics cannot be viewed as separate constructs. In other words, values have become essential for value production. And,...

Clarity, Context, Conversation, Community: 4 C’s for brand development in a social, mutual economy

Over the past three years, insights on leadership and favorite brands from Onesixtyfourth’s ongoing CultureQ qualitative and quantitative research project demonstrate that we are entering a new era for business, one that is characterized by mutual benefit and win-win-win. Welcome to the new normal People have accepted that daily life will remain uncertain. While anxiety levels about what tomorrow will bring may not be as high as they were at the peak of the recession, they have not disappeared. Participants in our CultureQ research tell us they are concerned about security, poverty, injustice, sustainability and most especially their own futures. And, after years of inaction and waiting for things to change, they have accepted this state as the new normal and are proactively seeking ways to move forward in their lives. With divisiveness and obstruction a theme on the geopolitical front, people are looking for symbols of unity, tangible things that demonstrate the global interconnectivity that technology fosters. Connections that have a positive impact on daily living. They want to feel in control of their own lives and participate in creating solutions that will better society. With faith in government and political leaders low, many would rather partner with businesses – most especially the brands they love – noting that they are more likely than government to be effective in solving the very real challenges we face, as individuals, as countrymen and as global citizens. Leaders of all kinds share the same characteristics The seven characteristics participants in our research point to when describing ideal leaders, in general, apply as much to brands as they do politicians: Visionary: inspire...

Can brands help Millennials feel more optimistic about the world and confident about their lives?

CultureQ research continues to show Millennials rely on favorite brands to feel more emotionally balanced and psychologically fulfilled.  Our latest insights reveal five ways brands can develop more valuable relationships with Millennials. 1. Fill the leadership void Millennials top five concerns continue to indicate they’re a generation that’s ill at ease, as uncertainty is a permanent feature of their lives. Younger Millennials (16-18) still in high school express concern about weighty global issues (the global economy, political instability, terrorism, environmental sustainability). And are fearful about how the permanent state of uncertainty impacts them personally - preserving their quality of life, achieving longer term security and/or giving their families what they need. As Millennials age and transition more into adulthood, the lack of access to affordable healthcare is a growing worry, despite the launch of Obamacare. They also express increasing concern about the environment and the lack of visionary leadership in government, overall. More and more, Millennials will gravitate to brands with propositions that empower them to feel more secure and confident about their future and that of the planet. Their loyalty is strongest toward brands that fill the leadership void and embed solutions that solve societal issues into their promise. Brands that center on healthcare, education, financial security, and personal wealth are exceptionally poised to do this. 2. Be safe enough to be real Many Millennials are struggling with social media dissonance; the term we use to describe the gap between their off and online identities. As this syndrome becomes more widespread, and exacerbated by legacies of helicopter parenting and over scheduling which have left Millennials little opportunity to...

Is There Any Real Value in Values?

Many thanks to Ramesh Jude Thomas of Equitor Consulting in India for contributing this blog post. Earlier this month I had breakfast with my old friend Anne Bahr Thompson in New York. She is an exceptional thinker who used to run the strategy practice at Interbrand. Anne has invested the better part of the last three years developing the notion of what she has trademarked as “Brand Citizenship”. Her contention is as powerful as it is simple. The data from  three years of this research suggests that in a world where paternalistic structures are increasingly impotent, some brands seem to have the ability to command the respect traditionally attributed to institutions like government, the judiciary and the fourth estate. In other words, her work suggests that we are far more likely today to believe what an Apple or a TATA were to say, than we would The Wall Street Journal or even Mr. Obama. As a corollary, Brand Citizenship seems to suggest that brands and businesses that enjoy high “citizenship” ratings  for example, the BODYSHOP at one time) will score highly on measures like disposition and leadership. The last ten brand valuation clients I have been involved with, represent a little over $ 25 billion in market capitalization, across diverse categories like media, travel, food products, chemicals, financial services and speciality retail. It is indeed telling that on average, just under a quarter of the value of these businesses lies in their corporate reputation alone (traditionally grey stuff like ethics, transparency, governance and community participation). In simple terms, a fourth of the economic profit generated by these firms is...
Is your corporate culture similar to that of a Crew Team, a Country Club or a Boy & Girl Scouts Club?

Is your corporate culture similar to that of a Crew Team, a Country Club or a Boy & Girl Scouts Club?

Acts of management shape employer culture Together, each action – big or small – of the employees of a company forms our impressions of a brand. And, each act of management in turn shapes employees’ impressions of their employer. When a company’s brand – its culture and values that promote management behaviors – is relevant to employees, they are more engaged, provide better customer experiences and, thereby, ultimately enhance profitability. Recent research from CultureQ, Onesixtyfourth’s ongoing monitor of how cultural sentiment is impacting people’s relationships with brands, reveals that Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers each define their ideal employer culture differently. What is your company culture?                   Would you describe your company culture as similar to that of a Crew Team, a Country Club or a Boy & Girl Scouts Club? Your answer to this question may offer some insight to why you are or are not having a tough time attracting new recruits. Boomers tend to prefer an office environment that is positive and healthy. A culture similar to that of a winning Crew Team: recognition and acknowledgement of hard work, a team-like work ethos, the individual strengths and skillsets that need to come together to do good work, accountability and pride that comes from a job well done. Gen Xers on the other hand, are looking for a work environment that supports, enhances and thereby actualizes their lifestyle – what many envision as Silicon Valley workplace culture or what we think of as a Country Club. As detailed in our blog last month, Our changing workplace: Cultural shifts...

Our changing workplace: Cultural shifts are impacting expectations of ’employer’ brands

In an effort to learn more about how upcoming cultural shifts are impacting the workplace for a presentation of our trends to HR executives of a large multinational, we fielded a quick quantitative study.  In mid-April we asked 600 Millennials, Gen Xers and Boomers in the US about what employers can do, aside from pay rises and moving to a more convenient location, to better motivate them to work for them. Specifically, we asked our respondents to tell us what their employers could to do make work more exciting and to characterize their ‘ideal employer’. Not surprisingly, all cohorts would like their current employers to offer more benefits. These include more affordable healthcare, better healthcare, including dental, etc. And, everyone wants more vacation, whether that is more vacation days, more flexible vacation time (Millennials) or paid vacation. For Baby Boomers, benefits are by far the most important thing an employer can offer - whether it be their current employer or their ideal one.  And, possibly more so than we would expect given their age and stage in life, Boomers are seeking opportunities for personal and professional development. Other CultureQ research offers some potential insight into this: some Boomers have told us they recognize they need new skills to remain relevant and others have noted that they don’t intend on leaving the workplace for some time. These sit alongside those who note they are being forced to find ‘new’ careers for a variety of reasons. What we found very interesting in our recent data was the subtle differences in the words the different generations chose to describe the characteristics they...

Is optimism about the economy having an influence on Millennials’ career choice?

We think so. As Millennials’ faith in the economy increases, their views about career paths are also shifting. While being an entrepreneur was the most appealing career path for 2012, respondents to our third annual CultureQ survey on cultural sentiment in the US and the UK were more likely to find being a corporate executive the better career option for 2014. Corporate executive is the top career choice Millennials, both those both in the workforce and those trying to join it, are more likely to say that working in a corporation and becoming a corporate executive is a more appealing career choice than being an entrepreneur, government employee/civil servant or working at a non-profit or NGO. And, except for Boomers in the UK who continue to cite an entrepreneur as the most appealing career for 2014, Gen Xers and Boomers agree. The appeal of entrepreneurialism is waning The appeal of becoming an entrepreneur has dropped across all groups most especially among Millennials in the UK (43% to 31%). Simultaneously, versus 2012, there has been a small increase in the number of Millennials in the US and the UK who believe working at a non-profit is the most appealing career, surpassing civil servant as a suitable career even among younger Americans.                 So why is this significant? As people begin to feel better about the economy,  our respondents indicate that they anticipate increasing improvement in the private sector job market. Effectively, they see less of a need to become an entrepreneur in order to earn a decent living. And, with this optimism for...
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