Each controversy came with different reasons, different accusations, and different levels of fall-out, but they all ended with the same result: A public apology via printed word, viral video or TV ad. The apology bandwagon seems to be on hyper-drive these past few years. Apple , BP , Carnival Cruises, Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, StubHub…the list goes on and on. There is no shortage of mistakes being made. And there is no easier out than to run a 30 second and wash your hands of the mistake.
But in our ever-changing, hyper-connected world, words are just words. Consumers are smarter than ever.
If you haven’t heard of Coursera, maybe it’s time to get up to speed. It’s one of a growing breed of exciting brands intending to change the world. And they have a great chance of succeeding
They’re not focusing on “being green” and saving the environment. Nor are they adopting a cause that might fall under its corporate social responsibility program umbrella and is good for PR purposes and brand-building.
Their business is their cause. These brands provide products, services and solutions that are as important to their hearts as they are to their bottom lines. They’re applying disruptive innovation to create social change. They’re brands that stand for something more. And given the vast majority of consumers’ preference to do business with socially responsible concerns, they may have a leg up.
Coursera is obviously not the first to make their business their cause. Stalwarts like Patagonia, Tom’s, Sanuk and Ben & Jerry’s have all blazed the trail, as have more recent brands such as Kiva and Teach for America. These brands have strong moral compasses and are aligned with missions and visions. They’re consistently putting proof points on the board as to why their consumers should choose their brand over the Haagen-Dazs’ of the world when all else is equal (or close to it).
As I look at a few of these newer examples, I can’t help but caution them to truly look to the past to help them guide their future. Let’s look at two of these “rookies.” …Continue reading
I usually ask one question at the beginning of every workshop I conduct: Which brands inspire you or compel you to do something different?
This is a different ask than the stereotypical opener of “which brands are you most loyal to,” which garners the usual suspects of Apple, Disney and Nordstrom, among others. They are typical, but not overly insightful into what brands are having an impact now. I’ve been keeping track of the answers I’ve heard in recent months, and I want to share some stalwarts and surprises.
Uber Anyone who has tried to hail a taxi in Chicago or San Francisco knows about this one. Uber has captured and compelled the public’s imagination in transforming the paid transportation marketplace. Here’s how it works. You “request a ride” through their app, which then locates nearby available drivers. The nearest driver is contacted, and once one accepts your request, you are given the name of your driver, the number of the taxi that is headed your way, and an estimated arrival time. When the ride’s completed, you are charged an “average neighborhood donation” (which is typically cheaper than the comparable taxi fare), based on time and distance. You “pay” your fee through a credit card that you have filed within the app, so there is no cash necessary, ever. Uber is different in that it features private drivers as well as dynamic pricing, which takes into consideration the usual time and distance, as well as ride demand (no one’s happy about Uber-ing at 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning). Through Uber, you can request a taxi, a town car or an SUV. One of my favorite quotes from a recent workshop participant was, “I never thought it would annoy me so much to have to stand and hail a taxi in a city where Uber is not available.” …Continue reading
With or without performance enhancers, the repair of his badly damaged personal brand is one feat that is beyond even Lance Armstrong.
Banned for life last year from competing in sanctioned sporting events, stripped of his seven Tour de France titles as a result of his long-denied involvement with doping, and having lost most of his endorsement deals, Armstrong is back in the news this week in a tell-all (or tell-some) interview with Oprah, marking the start of a public campaign geared towards restoring his image. By confessing to the doping, according to all reports, he is hoping for a reduction in his lifetime ban so that he can compete in sanctioned triathlons and redeem himself.
Too bad the campaign is in his own mind, and redemption is not his to claim. This is one brand that is beyond repair – and I’m in the business of trying to find brand hope, often when hope is hard to find.
But there were too many lies, too much deceit, too many lives ruined, too great an amount of damage to a revered sport and too many missed opportunities to come clean offered by the USADA, the Sunday Times, Nike and even his own charitable foundation. By wrapping up his cycling triumphs into his own inspiring fight against cancer (the ultimate impetus for Livestrong), Armstrong committed the ultimate brand sin. He broke the trust of those who needed to trust him the most. We’ve been “lanced,” or “pierced with a sharp object.” …Continue reading
It’s the time of year to assess what stories stood out for better or for worse, for richer and, for some, poorer and those that just left you scratching your head.
2012 did not disappoint from a brand perspective. From the BBC to the NHL. From HP to Lance. From Blackberry to Newsweek. From Tom Cruise to JC Penney. From Hostess to Red Bull and from the London Olympics to Detroit. This was a brand year we will not forget any time soon. There were brands that inspired, influenced and compelled and there were those that just, well, continued to disappoint…think Sears and MySpace again and yet again.
While there were a lot of great brand stories to choose from, below are my picks for the three best and worst brand stories from 2012, culled from informal nominations from our global Prophet team of over 300 brand zealots. …Continue reading
Since its 2007 launch it has served as a “social action” platform to empower and enable everyday people (over 20 million members in 196 countries) to bring attention to and rally support for their causes. TIME magazine named its founder and CEO Ben Rattray as one of this year’s 100 most influential people. And it actually does well with its do-good mission: This year’s revenues reportedly are running at the $16 million mark.
That positioning has also been reinforced in its business practices: Its advertising policy has been values-based, and Change.org only accepted advertising from progressive organizations that shared its values. …Continue reading
It’s been a long journey back for The Gap, but there’s a light showing that signifies it is finding its way back from both a leadership and relevancy perspective.
Recent headlines speak to this. Financial performance has been trending up. It’s been getting kudos for creative marketing and merchandising – from the bricks and mortar launch of its hugely popular Piperlime online clothier to Banana Republic’s very successful tie-in with AMC’s Mad Men. Then there’s the inspired move to bring on Michael Francis (former Target CMO and JC Penney president) as its first marketing creative advisor.
Seth Farbman, brought onboard 18 months ago as the Gap’s first Global CMO, has been steering the Gap’s transformation. During a recent presentation as part of Prophet’s Change Agent Webinar Series, Seth discussed the journey. Portions of his commentary follow: …Continue reading
The landscape is changing rapidly, and marketers need to change along with it. We are committed to transforming the work of marketing: ensuring marketing is no longer just about ads and spreadsheets, rather is about creating bigger ideas, relevant offerings, engaging experiences, and new opportunities. And as part of our mission to transform the work of marketing, we’re hosting a series of Change Agent webinars where leading marketers share their transformative stories with Scott Davis, our Chief Growth Officer.
In the above feature, our speakers are:
- Seth Farbman, Chief Marketing Officer, The Gap - MaryKay Kopf, Chief Marketing Officer, Electrolux
Seth and MaryKay discuss how they are addressing the challenges they are facing, developing marketing strategies and organizations that work, sharing best practices and more.
For a few years now, the shiniest new toy in the digital marketplace has been the mobile app.
The proliferation has been amazing: The 1-millionth app went live as 2011 came to a close, and the pace has continued through 2012. The trend, Mobilewalla told the New York Times, has been 15,000 mobile app releases per week.
Everyone wants to get a piece of this pie. And why not? How can you argue with the huge consumer franchise Zynga has created with its With Friends games (Words, Scramble, Hanging, etc.)? Or Rovio’s Angry Birds? Or the way Flipboard has revolutionized mobile publishing? …Continue reading
There’s a quote attributed to General Eric Ken Shinseki, 34th Chief of Staff for the U.S. Army, that I often use in presenting the case for change with senior-level marketers: “If you dislike change, you’re going to dislike irrelevance even more.”
It’s a reality that escapes no one, but that doesn’t make it any easier to adjust – much less get ahead of the dramatic reshaping of our economic and social landscape.
Consider some of the forces at work. Customers are changing – 54% comparison shop online and use 10.7 sources of information before buying. Population centers are shifting – by 2030, 90% of the world’s people will live in developing nations. The nature of the workplace continues to evolve, as well: today’s 10 most in-demand jobs didn’t even exist in 2004.
Meanwhile, marketers are struggling to keep pace with the market. Prophet’s State of Marketing study this year found most respondents are not targeting their customers effectively. Nor do they believe their organizations have the capabilities needed to build brands in the future. And there’s a worrisome disconnect between marketing and non-marketing executives, when 71% of the latter group believes the company — not the customer — is the primary “owner” of the brand. …Continue reading