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...

Brand Citizenship®: a 360 model democratizing CSR

Weary of being frustrated consumers want to be involved in creating a more positive future As we’ve again been reviewing participants’ hopes, dreams and fears for 2013 from our last round of CultureQ quant, we can’t help but be reminded that people are seeking greater signs of unity.  Our respondents in both the US and the UK are tired of the divisiveness that they perceive is preventing politicians from finding solutions to our most pressing economic and societal challenges.  Yearning to become CEOs in control of their own lives they again emphasize that they’re seeking products and services that help and their families them simplify routines and simultaneously inspire day-to-day living, aid the planet and help society at large.  Overall, many of our participants now appear to have accepted that they’re living in a new normal; they’re somewhat weary of being frustrated and want to be involved in shaping the solution - in creating a more positive future.  As one eloquently stated, “I hope to become the change you want to see in the world, make choices that will impact my community for the better.” Brand Citizenship aligns sustainability and other social responsibility concepts with individual product and service brand propositions And, here’s where Brand Citizenship fits in so perfectly.  Through laddering initiatives up from meeting an individual consumer’s needs to enriching people’s lives and bettering society, it aligns sustainability and other social responsibility concepts with individual product and service brand propositions, rather than managing them solely at corporate levels.  In doing so, it enables consumers to co-create the future alongside corporations through choosing to purchase products and services...

Amazon: Keep calm & consistently practice good brand citizenship

Poor Amazon. What a difficult few months it has experienced. Back in Summer/Autumn 2012, the brand that defines Internet retailing was riding the crest of a wave. Our CultureQ participants ranked it as both a leader and a good brand citizen. Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers alike in the UK and US believed Amazon offered products and services that simplified and enriched their lives by making shopping easier and often times cheaper. What’s more, they touted the brand for its efforts to define new lifestyles and ways of doing things. The last few months, however, have been a roller coaster ride for Amazon’s brand reputation. Despite gathering larger than ever revenues last year and sitting on pile of cash close to $9bn, the company reportedly paid paltry levels of corporation tax in Europe, something which doesn’t sit well at a time when every day people are feeling the full force of tighter fiscal management. In February, the brand’s new Kindle Whitepaper ad, Perfect at the Beach, which makes a non-issue of gay marriage, was well received by some. Early March and another hiccup - its decision to stock the awful Keep Calm and Rape Them, Hit Them, and Knife Her tee shirt line. Brand leadership requires a connection to social context With the shooting in Connecticut still fresh in American’s minds, it’s no wonder people across generations are reporting they’re still very concerned about becoming the victim of random acts of violence (CultureQ, December 2013). Furthermore, some women tell us they’re especially concerned about women’s rights and civil liberties being compromised in the US during 2013 (CultureQ, December 2013)....

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...

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:...
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