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...

Britons, embrace your inner American!

We were back in England this August.  Although we were lucky enough to miss the carnage caused by the hurricane and earthquake we landed in the UK in the aftermath of the riots.  Everyone I spoke with there expressed a sense of disbelief and palpable anger at the wanton vandalism and destruction that had spread like wildfire across Britain’s streets. The politicians were playing the blame game.  The right wing were blaming the parents of the youths and their apparent inability to instil moral values in their children while those left of centre were blaming the credit crunch, the slow economy, poor jobs market and lack of prospects many of the young face.  Others were blaming social networking and the safety net provided by social security benefits which, in their view, induce a lack of personal responsibility. Whatever the spur, teens and early twenty-something’s face long term economic insecurity not experienced for decades.  Their frustration and anxiety is not unique it’s just manifested in different ways through every demographic segment.  Concerned pensioners see their capital challenged by rising inflation and low interest rates, pre-retirees watch helplessly as share prices seem to collapse more frequently than in living memory, and experienced, skilled workers face the constant fear of job loss.  Although these are worldwide issues I got the distinct impression Britain’s spirit is more badly broken than in other countries.  It’s suffering from a negativity that needs to be halted before it becomes endemic and repeatedly passed through generations. This lack of confidence was reflected across the media in the UK while we were there.  The business pages reported Dyson,...
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