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Posts Tagged With: Brand Strategy

What’s the Real Point of Brand Purpose? A Perspective on Purpose Alignment and Activation

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This post was originally published for my business, Culture and can be found here

Having spent the last 16 years working with a cornucopia of legacy brand and marketing organizations, helping them connect with their customers and develop truly relevant innovations and communications, I’ve seen the business mindset evolve in so many positive ways.

At some point in recent business history, there was a demonstrative shift in consumer brand (and b2b) corporate culture. Affirmed by studies and books like Grow, by Jim Stengle – the humans that drive the performance of brand and marketing organizations have been realizing the imperative of integrating not just business performance, but purpose, in to their success metrics.

But why is “purpose” so important (and what exactly does it mean) when it comes to the business of marketing and consumer products?

Humans perform at their best when they are motivated from a purpose-driven mindset.

Purpose is what allows people to love what they do.

Love is the force that compels us to belong to one another and relentlessly work towards collective success, fueling:

  • Business performance and sustainable growth
  • Social impact and positive influence on humanity
  • Personal wellbeing of employees and a thriving workplace family

A mindset is a set of values and principles that shape our ay-to-day behavior and routines.

A company or brand’s true purpose is that articulation of love as it is brought to life by the mindset of its most engaged employees

That means it is the embodiment of the shared values and principles that determine how they engage with the world and why they devote mind, body and soul to your company every single day.

The path to purpose alignment and activation starts by asking a few very big questions:

  • Does your company or brand have an articulated purpose or set of values written in to its charter / mission / vision?
  • Was the process of arriving at that purpose inclusive? Did it engage employees and stakeholder
  • Is that purpose being activated to its fullest potential?
    • Does it drive employee/ stakeholder morale, culture and engagement?
    • Is purpose integrated in to performance metrics?
    • How is that purpose translated in to business operations and supply chain strategy?
    • Does your brand’s purpose drive customer / consumer facing communication and engagement?
    • Do the values brought to life in your purpose align with the shared values of your best customers?
    • Are innovation and strategic growth initiatives fueled by a commitment to your brand’s purpose?
    • Can you connect purpose metrics and KPIs to a measurable impact on business performance?
  • Where is there from for improvement and how might that affect your business?

If you are one of the amazing companies or brands (like Patagonia, for example) who is already authentically checking off most or all the purpose criteria above, then I take my hat off to you.

If you’re not – the good news is it only gets better from here. And the team here at Culture can help. We know a thing or two about how to understand the values that motivate people and put them into action that drives business growth and builds brand love.

One thing we know about purpose in particular is that people support businesses that share their values.

Corporations and brands are collections of people whom, when working from a purpose-driven mindset, create businesses people love.

So to all my family of marketers and brand warriors who are putting their heart and soul in to their work every day, what are the ways you see the love in your company or brand’s engagement with the world and what are the possibilities if that purpose was truly leveraged to its fullest potential?

Your brand does have the power to change the world – and thrive in the process.

What is your highest order vision for the future?

Let’s make it happen.

 

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Categories: Corporate Culture, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Do Brands Have The Power To Change The World?

 

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Here is the one true thing I know about humans having studied them in action and been one myself for many years: we are essentially “good”. Whether we all know it or not, we share a light of truth that binds us to one another in a spirit of belonging whereby we all have the opportunity to thrive.

This is fact. However, if you disagree with this fact, feel free to stop reading and I’ll catch you later once you have experienced proof of concept. Which wont be long now.

So, yes its true that people are naturally inclined to be good. We know that. But for too many of us these days, that light is hidden in shadows or buried altogether. Or at least we think it is.   We have a tendency – especially in the more economically developed parts of the world – to dive too deep into the distractions of daily life – letting the shiny things substitute for soul shine and forgetting that the good stuff is on the inside. I suppose we have started to forget we belong to one another –that we are love and we are loved.

But here’s the good news – light and love is contagious. It is downright virally infectious. When one human allows their light to shine through in its purest form – that energy draws out the light in others. It is a reflection of our highest common denominator truth and the more pervasive its exposure the more effective its result.

That’s why I like working in marketing strategy. While some people might think marketing is the art of fabricating persuasive fiction, I see it for it’s potential to give and spread the gift of truth. It is the medium through which those who direct mass-communication can remind a world full of customers to reflect, empower and spread that truth.

You see, brands have an opportunity to be so much more than shiny things that might be granted the favor of our attention for a fleeting moment in our lives.

Companies who market consumer brands have not just an opportunity but also an obligation to be more than an idea attached to the stuff we use. They can and should be the fuel – the nuggets of energy we engage with every day – that help us get stuff done – driving momentum for the positive social change that will allow all humans to thrive.

It really is a pretty simple concept:

A Brand is an idea or collection of ideas that has cultural meaning, represented in products, packaging and marketing communication as well as in the ways that the companies who market them conduct their business. When we see a brand sharing an idea that represents a deeply held human truth, we can feel that sense of belonging to one another being validated.

So, If brands can truly embrace and reflect the highest common denominator truths that exist in their most engaged customers – for example – they can reach thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of people with that same light-filled message – since many other humans who might not necessarily be engaged with that brand will also share belief in and commitment to those truths.

 

This projection of highest common denominator values not only provides an opportunity for that brand to reach more humans, but for more humans to connect to one another based on those shared values.

Its also important to realize that getting at those truth’s is not as difficult as one might think. As it turns out, humans like to share their truth – whether they tell you or show you through their behavior or how they curate their lives. I should know – I have spent the last 15 years listening to eager consumer research participants share their stories. And when a brand shows interest in really understanding the human truths their customers hold dear it creates a bond that builds love – the same way it happens when you are cultivating human relationships. Because we are inclined to bond with people who care about who we are deep down and allow us to shine.

So it stands to reason that when brands and companies seek to understand their customer’s humanity, they are not only building a bond that ensures a loyal following but one that also puts a little more love out in to the world.

Now imagine if even half of the world’s gazillion brands were spreading that kind of light every day…to multiples of millions of people at a time. Imagine the world we could create if people were empowered to radiate that kind of love and light and truth and belonging every day in their interactions with all of the brands and other humans they encounter.

Based on the math alone we can see the big picture and it illustrates a very very bright future for humanity.

My mission is to help find and spread this light and remind humans how much we belong to one another so we can get on the same path toward a better tomorrow. Sure there are several light-spreading callings out there from music to religious practice to art and film.   I choose work that communicates through the lens of consumer culture – because I truly believe in the power of marketing love to the world.

Our mission at Culture – the cultural strategy firm where I am a partner –  is to cultivate human connection in the interest of shared thriving. We do this by strategically helping companies understand the potential of their brand from the perspective of their best customer’s highest common denominator values. In the process of finding the upside of humanity in the people who support their companies, the humans who run those companies also get the opportunity to bring their own humanity in to their work. It makes for better business and it makes for a better world for all of us.

So yes – brands do have the power to change the world – by elevating the consumer cultural conversation. Because shiny things with fictional stories are simply disposable objects. But brands that share human truths in their communications and their business practices are love machines that have can bring humans into the light and help us achieve the potential we all have to create the world we want to live in – one where we don’t live in fear of our ability to survive but rather embrace our power to thrive.

 

All it takes is a little love and the willingness to seek out our truth.

 

 

 

Categories: Branding, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Brain Candy: An Exercise in Knowing Thy Context in The Check-Out Aisle

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Checking out at the Whole Foods on my way to a Father’s Day lunch I spied (and purchased) this parent-trap: Sharkies Kids Sports Chews.

As with most things in life, brand and product positioning (the mindspace a company would like their product to occupy in the mind of the consumer) is all about context. In this case, this item’s value is rooted entirely in its marketing.

Somehow, this product- which is at best a “fruit snack” / glorified candy: slightly better than Sour Patch Kids but slightly worse than Annie’s Gummy Bunnies on a nutritional scale) is not a sweet- but-minimally/harmful snack. Rather, it a functional-yet-fun nutrition supplement.

Let’s break it down a bit:

Ingredients: organic sugar, organic tapioca syrup, organic white grape juice concentrate, pectin, citric acid, ascribing acid, color. The important words here are “sugar” and “syrup”. You will find less euphemistic versions of all these ingredients (AKA high fructose corn syrup) in most fruit-snacks with potentially a few extra added dyes and preservatives.

Marketing messages: notice the list of badges on the package advertising all the “bad” things the product DOESN’T have: high fructose corn syrup, trans- fats, wheat, gluten and nuts. Aside from the corn syrup – there is nothing among the listed evils that you would find in ANY fruit snack or candy. These buzzwords are evoked to enable quick editing and validation in the “impulse aisle” so Mom or Dad can have an easy reason to say yes to their nagging toddler.

Then throw in the tagline: “Clean Fuel for Active Kids” and you’ve got an instant win for a parent who is inevitably stopping at the organic food store on their way to, from or the day before / after a soccer game, tee ball practice, gymnastics or junior hip-hop dance class.

Why is it “clean?” Flip it over and look at the ingredients list – only about 8. Fits the “not processed” bill for most over-achieving label-readers.

Finally, it’s not called a “snack” or a “gummy” anything – even though from consuming the entire bag I can tell you it has the same consistency as most gummy candy. It’s a “chew”. Other things that are called “chews” in Mom-and-Dad land are typically kid’s vitamins- gummy and chewy I consistency to trick kids into getting their essentials by making then think it’s candy.

So, at the end of the day, this sugar-rush-in-a-bag passes as chewy Gatorade instead of gummy bears because of clever marketing and because its organic.

Context is everything indeed. I simply recommend that every now and then we all remind ourselves to take the time to put the pieces together more objectively so our consumer choices are made in the right frame of reference and frame of mind. Otherwise we are destined to become slaves to our cultural context rather than being a part of its evolution.

Categories: Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Food, Health and Beauty, Marketing, Social food movements, Trends, Uncategorized, Well-being | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Brands Make Me Feel Like I Belong

In a number of senses, brands give me a sense of purpose. In my case this predominantly happens on a professional level. I observe, analyze, contextualize, inspire and help build / innovate / sustain brands. I am also a consumer who chooses, uses, advocates for and otherwise helps sustain brands from the flip side of the coin.

Brands are powerful. They put ideas out there for us to agree or disagree with, to ponder or identify with, or possibly spread.

Brands can communicate these ideas big and small on a local or global level based on their media and communications reach.

Brands can help us belong to something bigger or smaller depending on our need. And they can also help change the world…for the better if we let them. 🙂

I am presently reading an “oldie” but goodie in “the biz” called “The Brand Gap” – by Marty Neumeier and was inspired to today’s musings by the following page:

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How do YOU feel about brands?

Categories: Anthropology, Branding, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Marketing, Participant Observation, pop culture, sociology | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Asses and Elephants: Branding (Or Re-Branding?) A Proud American Political Tradition

Let me start by saying I would probably be better off not allowing CNN to be my “company” here in my home office as I while away the hours  analyzing cultural data and developing “strategery” for my roster of global brand clients.  I sometimes think I would get more out of  anthropomorphic cartoons or maybe “reality” TV on Bravo (same thing?).

But alas, I am stuck in a bad habit and lately have been barraged by political news as both parties warm up the melee with conventions commentary  for the upcoming presidential election.

As I sit passively observing the hissing, spitting, bucking, kicking and other intellectually primal behavior of the political species of human, I am inclined to put on my brand strategy hat and indulge my curiousity about how our leading political brands, the Republicans and Democrats came to adopt their appropriately zoo-like visual identities (otherwise known as logos): e.g. the Elephant and The Donkey.

Here’s where I have landed thus far. To be blunt, the semiotic signification I associate with both animals are not exactly those that evoke  confidence or pride.  Aside from the fact that they “never forget”, elephants to me signify over-sized circus animals who get paid in peanuts to do tricks.  And Donkeys lead me down the rabbit hole to dumb, slow, awkward pack animals who bear the burden of carrying people’s crap and generally are synonymous with stupidity and idiotic behavior.

Don’t get me wrong:  I am sure the integrity of both species in the wild defy their human-imposed stereotypes.  But that doesn’t change the fact that the associations with politics seem kind of odd.
So, I did some research and thought I would share what I have learned for my similarly curious ( or just bored) readers .  But before I impart wisdom, I have one request:  I am curious to see what animals or other symbols YOU would use to represent each party if you were charged with re-branding them using a more current popular culture reference.

That being said, enjoy your education:

From From William Safire’s New Language of Politics, Revised edition, Collier Books, New York, 1972, via freerepublic.com:

“The symbol of the [Republican] party (the elephant) was born in the imagination of cartoonist Thomas Nast and first appeared in Harper’s Weekly on November 7, 1874

An 1860 issue of rail-splitter and an 1872 cartoon in Harper’s Weekly connected elephants with Republicans, but it was Nast who provided the party with its symbol.

Oddly, two unconnected events led to the birth of the Republican Elephant. James Gordon Bennett’s New York Herald raised the cry of “Caesarism” in connection with the possibility of a third term try for President Ulysses S. Grant. The issue was taken up by the Democratic politicians in 1874, halfway through Grant’s second term and just before the midterm elections, and helped disaffect Republican voters.

While the illustrated journals were depicting Grant wearing a crown, the Herald involved itself in another circulation-builder in an entirely different, nonpolitical area. This was the Central Park Menagerie Scare of 1874, a delightful hoax perpetrated by the Herald. They ran a story, totally untrue, that the animals in the zoo had broken loose and were roaming the wilds of New York’s Central Park in search of prey.

Cartoonist Thomas Nast took the two examples of the Herald enterprise and put them together in a cartoon for Harper’s Weekly. He showed an ass (symbolizing the Herald) wearing a lion’s skin (the scary prospect of Caesarism) frightening away the animals in the forest (Central Park). The caption quoted a familiar fable: “An ass having put on a lion’s skin roamed about in the forest and amused himself by frightening all the foolish animals he met within his wanderings.”

One of the foolish animals in the cartoon was an elephant, representing the Republican vote – not the party, the Republican vote – which was being frightened away from its normal ties by the phony scare of Caesarism. In a subsequent cartoon on November 21, 1874, after the election in which the Republicans did badly, Nast followed up the idea by showing the elephant in a trap, illustrating the way the Republican vote had been decoyed from its normal allegiance. Other cartoonists picked up the symbol, and the elephant soon ceased to be the vote and became the party itself: the jackass, now referred to as the donkey, made a natural transition from representing the Herald to representing the Democratic party that had frightened the elephant.”

Now you know and “knowing is half the battle” – G.I. Joe (American Hero)

Categories: Anthropology, Art and culture, Branding, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Politics, pop culture, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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