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...

Spotlight on Google: don’t be evil

Quick, answer this question: How many miles is the earth’s surface from the moon? Time’s up. Did you get around 238,857 miles? More importantly, how did you get that answer? Chances are you Googled it. Google. The noun that became a verb. Have a question? Google it. Can’t find directions? Google it. Need anything at all? Google it. Rarely has a company held such a ubiquitous influence over society. Hitwise, which measures internet traffic, reported in July 2012 that Google accounted for 65.70 percent of all searches in the United States. Google’s contribution to the mobile world, Android, has nearly 52 percent of the market share for smartphones. (Apple is around 34 percent.) Gmail has around 425 million users as of June 2012. Google Books seeks to digitize all known books and magazines. In 2008, Google even invested in a DNA sequencing company. The list goes on and on, and a quick read can make Google seem rather ominous, like an empire seeking a monopoly on all industries. After all, Google controls what information we receive, how we receive it, and how we share it, a daunting idea that would horrify the Orwells of the world. Yet, based on much of our CultureQ research, Millennials view Google as just the opposite. Overwhelmingly, Google is seen as a socially conscious, responsible, helpful company. How did this come to be? The oft-quoted motto of Google is “Don’t be evil.” Perhaps it’s just that simple. The pre-internet age of industry operated under the idea that companies could create destinations for users, to “control” consumers, in a sense. Unlike those old-media companies, Google...

Obama: hopeful about America

Hope. What follows it? Especially when you’ve yet to achieve the things you set out to do. Faith. Gratitude. Humility. Action. Although in the run-up to the DNC Barack Obama’s campaigning had lost the spirit of the brand he built in 2008, the messaging at the Convention built on it. Mr. Obama’s task was a different one than Mitt Romney’s at the RNC. Unlike Romney, he didn’t need to introduce us to Brand Obama. Rather, he needed to prove that Brand Obama was sincere – trustworthy and focused. And, he certainly did that. Mr. Obama’s belief in his vision for America is unwavering. He has the incentive to take action because he wants to honor the American people – ordinary people – who have worked hard to overcome the adversity they have faced during this time of struggle. I can’t help but wonder, though, if resilience to stay the better path conveys enough energy and excitement to attract Independent and swing voters. Or, if it is a message that only appeals to Obama loyalists. The quick take-away: How Barack Obama describes himself: A President who is hopeful about America because he understands the challenges ordinary people face and overcome on the pathway to achieving their aspirations and dreams What he will do: Restore middle class values and build a 21st Century American Dream based on shared responsibility, opportunity, and prosperity What role Obama plays: He brings belief in the face of uncertainty; wisdom gained through having made tough choices and learning from four years of successes…and mistakes What we believe: We’re part of something bigger and change will only...

Brand Mitt: will he shape the 2012 political debate?

In October 2008, Barack Obama won Ad Age’s Marketer of the Year, beating Apple, Zappo’s, Nike, and Coors.  He then went on to win the White House in great part because of his carefully crafted brand.  Obama’s message – hope and change – was simple and consistently reinforced through a comprehensive brand management system.  People easily related to it and social media helped the campaign create a bottom-up revolution that anyone could partake in.  In the run-up to the 2012 election, however, it seems the Obama team has forgotten that they exemplified best practices for marketers four years ago. So far, in a quest to capture “market share” and possibly because of fear, Obama seems to have forgotten the power gained through embodying an unambiguous brand message.  Like many consumer brands, he’s looking to gain a lift in his share through promotional efforts and campaign messages that seek to undercut his competition more than tell us what he’s about.  We’ll soon see if Barack Obama will reveal his 2012 brand positioning at the Democratic National Convention in the same way Mitt Romney introduced us to Brand Mitt this past week. Watching the Republican National Convention, listening to the speeches, and reading the pundits, it’s clear that Mitt Romney has strategically crafted a brand that is based on his strengths as a businessman and a simple meaningful message – restoring our future.  And, although he acknowledged his support of some of the more controversial issues included in the Republican platform through a wink and a nod in his speech, he’s astutely avoided attaching his brand to them. The quick take-away:...

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 and Libertarian ideals

With the Presidential election fast approaching, politics have been top of mind for many of the Millennials we’ve been speaking to in the US through CultureQ.  In research last December, many started to express Libertarian-like ideals, mostly in response to SOPA, which had the potential to impinge upon their right to on-demand entertainment. Two thirds of registered Millennials backed President Barack Obama and his promise to deliver a “change we can believe in” in 2008. Yet, today, many of those same voters feel that while their candidate won, they have still lost. Current numbers show that less than half of younger voters plan to take part in the coming election compared to almost 70% for 2008. So where have all these Millennials gone? Sadly, a large segment likely will not vote, but many of the others have chosen a new standard bearer, the Libertarian Party. It’s not surprising, when you think about it. Libertarian ideals are perfect for Millennials; both groups favor open and transparent systems and feel that the government should not be involved with the minutiae of everyday life. Millennials, who have been empowered by technology since a young age and are entering the workforce during a prolonged downturn, feel that the political system is broken and needs to be fixed. Like Obama in 2008, Libertarians represent an anti-establishment movement.  They fit the bill many Millennials are seeking - they berate government intervention. Recently, there has been a surge in support among youth for Libertarian candidates, the highest profile being Representative Ron Paul of Texas. Many CultureQ participants qualitatively and quantitatively spoke about Paul.  And, despite him not...
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