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:...

Brand Citizenship: 7 principles for integrating CSR initiatives into brand development

Insights from our Q1 CultureQ study led us to acknowledge that many people (aka consumers) believe brands have a responsibility to progress society. So, we recently posted this as a question (Do you think businesses or brands have a responsibility to help advance society?) across various social media sites to learn what people in the marketing communications and related industries think. Everywhere we posed the question, we got close to 100 highly animated responses. Clearly, the subject is one people feel incredibly passionate about. The following unedited snippets demonstrate the diversity of views and strength of opinion surrounding this new role for brands: “The responsibility of business is to advance itself. Every action since Roosevelt has exemplified this.” “A business is a reflection of the leadership behind the product or service being sold. And people have a responsibility to advance society.” “Any entity that exists by feeding off another is required to live within the ecosystem. Any entity that lives off another without contributing to the wellbeing of the ecosystem is a parasite and can live only as long as its host survives. Doing good is good for business.” “CSR motives are not necessarily altruistic - in fact seldom so. It’s just good business sense.” “Anybody who ignores society cannot build empire.” “Brands advance society in everything they do without ever having to take responsibility for all of it. Every business moves society forward in billions of tiny steps.” “At the very least they have the responsibility NOT to hurt it.” “Let’s not confuse “advancing society” (what Microsoft has done) with “doing nice stuff” (which is what the Gates...

The seven new rules for brand leadership

“The US tax system needs an overhaul.” “A policy rethink could control the sub Saharan population boom.” “The World Bank’s leadership selection process no longer reflects today’s sources of innovation and economic growth.” These are some of the sound bites from recent press.  Clearly there’s an underlying theme - a call for reform.  At Onesixtyfourth, we found this especially interesting given the results from one of our recent CultureQ studies. We conducted the study with 763 news-engaged and earlier technology adopter Millennials and Baby Boomers in the US and UK.  Our original intent was to understand how attitudes were shifting as the old year turned into a new one.  What emerged from participants’ responses, however, was a far more profound perspective on our evolving social climate and the new rules for brand leadership. It’s time for the role that brands play in society to shift The over-riding message from participants – it’s time for the role that brands play in society to shift.  Unlike in the past, however, Madison Avenue and marketers are not driving this change.  Consumers, in other words people themselves, are appealing to brands to acknowledge the social significance they have and take on the role governments and political leaders are no longer effectively fulfilling. They are asking brands to use their influence, know-how and power to help shape a better future. 7 New Rules for Brand Leadership So, what are the new rules for brand leadership? Rule 1. Be Visionary: engage people through a clear view on how you inspire every day life. Rule 2. Be Courageous: take considered risks that propel society forward and...
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