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  • feedwordpress 21:57:04 on 2017/02/13 Permalink
    Tags: Activist Economy, ,   

    When Should a Brand Take a Stand? When It’s Values are Clearly Defined. 



    Whether SNL knows it or not—they have just nailed the kinds of meetings marketing executives on both the brand and agency side will be having for the months if not years to come. While one team pitches "Cheeto executives" the same idea over and over again involving political hot topics—the other team in futility keeps trying to bring the brand back to more basic truths. People eat Cheetos because it's fun and they taste good. 

    The spoof was in reaction to the 2017 Superbowl, where several brands in reflection of a polarized climate took a definitive stance on where they stood. Knowingly or not, SNL hits a very real chord that marketers must carefully evaluate. Brands don't like being irrelevant or out of touch with culture, and when a culture is divided and polarized—it puts pressure on the brand to become or stay relevant. But in that rush to relevancy, brands are going to have to answer some key questions or risk out of touch with what they actually are. 

    Key Questions Brands Will Need Answered Before Taking a Definitive Stance

    Do we have a right to weigh in on a specific societal issue?
    When marketers wax poetic over the effectiveness of value-driven campaigns such as #Likeagirl, they often overlook that the brand in such case (Always) has a built in right to cultivate a conversation around woman empowerment. Without a genuine right to join or lead a conversation—a brand stance will fall flat. 

    Have we uncovered and articulated our core values?
    Brands have personalities like people—and they can often hold values. Not all brands have done the work needed to define what that guiding "north star" is and without this—they risk sailing into consumer activist waters without a compass. 

    Do our core values align with our value proposition to the consumer/customer?
    Does the average Nordstrom consumer have the same values as a Budweiser consumer? Brands must go beyond traditional demographic data and see their consumers in more nuanced ways. 

    Is our brand's business operations a good representative of the values we are championing? 
    Audi's Superbowl ad looked different from the faces and gender of their executive ranks. Brands that haven't aligned marketing with business operations must way the risk and rewards of taking a stance especially if there is a gap between communications and operations. 

    Does the societal issue fit into our higher purpose at the company/corporate level?
    Does your brand operate under a broader "corporate" brand structure or are they the same? Either way when engaging with consumer's and taking a stance—a brand's values should align with the corporation. 

    Who will we possibly alienate—who doesn't share the same values we do? 
    Taking a stance doesn't guarantee that everyone will agree with you even if the company and CMO think it's the right thing to do. Brands will need to be prepared to handle scenarios where even the most positive messaging may be as interpreted as offensive or disingenuous.  

    SNL's Cheeto skit may have been fictitious but it's closer than they likely know in terms of how brands will wrestle with when they should stand for something or not or if so, how. And in polarizing times—the stakes have never been so high. 

     
  • feedwordpress 17:23:21 on 2017/02/06 Permalink
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    Superbowl Helps Brand Activism Go Mainstream 

    Screen Shot 2017-02-06 at 10.47.23 AM

    This year's Superbowl was historic on two accounts:

    1. It is the first Superbowl to have ever been won in overtime 
    2. It will be known as the Superbowl that brought Brand Activism into the mainstream

    What Is Brand Activism?
    Simply put—it's when a brand decides to take a definitive stance on a societal issue and bring it front and center into its messaging or value proposition. And it's not totally new—one of the most well known examples of Brand Activism is P&G's #Likeagirl campaign which artfully brought the societal issue if gender equality into its core message of empowerment. Brand activism is part art, part science and part sociology. When done right, it aligns the brand and company's values with the values of consumers. When done wrong—it's heavy handed, forced, contrived or disconnected from how the company and brand functions. 

    When Should a Brand Take a Stance?
    A complex question to answer and it's a different answer for different brands. Some brands will look to Brand Activism as a way to remain or obtain relevancy with consumers and audiences. Others will do it because it is in line with either the company's or brand's stated values. And yet others may have a direct stake in the issue. 

    84 Lumber for example (a brand most people have never heard of) is in the midst of a recruiting campaign and logically who and how they hire is an issue likely on their minds:

    "Under owner Maggie Hardy Magerko, the daughter of founder Joe Hardy, 84 Lumber currently operates more that 250 stores across the U.S. and it's planning to expand further by putting up new outlets on the West Coast.

    Sunday's Super Bowl ad comes as the company is in the middle of a recruitment campaign."

    Source: Fortune

    But there may be more than just employment at stake—from 84 Lumber's Website:

    Screen Shot 2017-02-06 at 11.11.23 AM
    Brand Activism When Done Right Means Both Living and Speaking a Brand's Values 
    One can make the case that what 84 Lumber is doing is using a platform and compelling storytelling that supports the values which are true to the company. It took a chance to communicate those values on such a large stage and as a result—has the attention and awareness of a broader audience. Is this what the brand hoped to achieve? Likely—but there may be deeper foundational forces at play.

    Brand Activism in a Politically Charged Climate
    Given recent events regarding Brexit and the election of Donald Trump in the U.S.—the world is debating with itself. Individuals are questioning traditional institutions such as government and media and an air of uncertainty remains constant. In this world, brands are beginning to become more vocal around the issues they know their consumers think about and in the next four years at minimum, as brands look to fill the trust gap left by government and media—Brand Activism will become part of how they are built and maintained. 

     
  • feedwordpress 22:26:30 on 2017/02/05 Permalink
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    In The Rush to Remain Relevant: Brands Must Reevaluate ROI 

    Screen Shot 2017-02-05 at 3.38.54 PMIf a brand is irrelevant in our lives—it is a brand on the decline. Some brands have to work harder than others to remain relevant. Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and other brands that we interact with on an hourly, daily or weekly basis are easily made relevant in our lives given our interactions as users. Other brands often have to work harder to remain relevant. 

    This year's Super Bowl is a good gut check for brands who will be working to remain highly relevant in the hearts and minds of consumers already in a committed relationship with the brand as well as those who aren't. Advertising and brand storytelling often reflects the culture, trends and increasingly the societal issues of the day. But in bringing the three together it also presents a tall order for today's brands who will likely hit the target with some and totally miss with others:

    Culture:
    The context of which we live in often reflected by entertainment, news, media etc. 

    Trends: 
    What's getting our attention at the time—things that impact how we live and work ranging from technology to art, music etc. 

    Societal Issues:
    The topics of our time reflecting social-economical and cultural context. The things we debate or deem critical to society. 

    Screen Shot 2017-02-05 at 3.53.37 PMSource: NPR

    Many advertisers during this year's big game find themselves at the intersection of culture, trends and societal issues. As a result, they are going to need to answer the question of "was it worth it" in a more nuanced ways. On face value—measuring the effectiveness by a Super Bowl ad in terms of views is the most traditional way to do it. But for brands who are dialed up at the intersection of culture, trends and societal issues—measuring views will not be enough. They must also break down sentiment indicators such as:

    • Likes/Dislikes
    • Positive Responses (media, social, search)
    • Negative Responses media, social, search)
    • New Subscriptions and Followers
    • Lost Subscriptions and Followers

    Screen Shot 2017-02-05 at 4.12.44 PM

    One of this year's Superbowl Ads which is operating at the intersection of culture, trends and societal issues is Audi—taking on equal pay through its ad and subsequent hashtag #Driveprogess. From Adweek:

    The 60-second spot, posted Wednesday to YouTube and Facebook and closing in on 5 million views as of noon Friday, has a remarkably high ratio of negative sentiment—almost 40,000 dislikes to just 4,000 likes. There are two separate criticisms—one, that the ad is simply leftist propaganda; and two, that it is hypocritical because of the company’s heavily male leadership team. (Audi AG’s board of directors, too, has six men and no women.)

    The Pressure to Remain Relevant for Brands In a Politically Charged Culture is High
    2017's Superbowl advertising is a reflection of today's culture in that brands increasingly feel the need to be a part of the dialogue despite societal divisions—so we're likely to see more brands attempting to be relevant at the intersection of culture, trends and societal issues. As a bonus—it also demonstrates a level of "responsibility" especially if the brand feels like it's taking the right stance on the right issues. However, success in this space cannot be discerned by reach alone. Sentiment metrics will become increasingly important for brands asking the question:

    "Was it worth it'? 

     
  • feedwordpress 17:56:06 on 2017/02/03 Permalink
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    The Action-Reaction Cycle: Consumer Activism Ignites Brand Response 

    Screen Shot 2017-02-03 at 11.18.35 AM
    We're entering a new era of consumer activism as a result of societal divisions, a lack of distrust in once trusted institutions such as media and the mainstreaming of peer to peer information sharing enabled through social media. But how far should brands go to take a stance?

    Screen Shot 2017-02-03 at 11.32.09 AMSource: Vanity Fair

    The answer to this question is as complex as the issue itself. For some brands, it's a matter of public perception, for others— a matter of principle and for others, it means aligning the values of their brand with the values of their consumers: 

    Screen Shot 2017-02-03 at 4.05.16 PMSource: Greatcompany.org

    Taking a Stance Is Not Without Risk
    This Sunday, Budweiser will be airing an ad that takes on the issue of immigration head on. It does so in a powerful and emotive way—tying it to to its heritage and making the case that the brand would not be what it is today without immigration. 



    Screen Shot 2017-02-03 at 11.42.16 AM
    Source: The Virginian Pilot

    Budweiser's message for what they stand for and believe in is clear—but the question left unanswered at this point is how the message will resonate with the millions of consumers who have affinity for the brand. Will some cheer the move while others feel alienated by it? Will the typical Budweiser consumer appreciate the not so subtle stance? For every action there is a reaction which prompts a response from brands and for Budweiser, what's yet to be seen is the full reaction to their message. 

    Balancing Consumer With Brand Activism
    If we're seeing a perfect storm for consumer activism, then by logic the cause and effect becomes a form of brand activism. And this is where brands will need to do a gut check on their values and the alignment with the values of their consumers. Much like how social sentiment and search engines provided indicators for what people REALLY thought about Donald Trump—brands will have to have the finger on the pulse of their core consumers now more than ever. The stakes could not be any higher for the relationship between consumer and brand.  

     
  • feedwordpress 21:54:25 on 2017/01/30 Permalink
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    The Rise of Consumer Activism in an Era of Distrust 

    Screen Shot 2017-01-30 at 2.54.43 PM
    Consumer Activism: Just Getting Started
    Since the inauguration of president Trump, we've seen protests seemingly organized on a dime whether it be The Women's March, The March for Life or the recent immigration protests at local airports. These actions, however will not be limited to the protests in public but also in protests of the purse or at least the #hashtag. Case in point—when Uber announced that it would be removing surge pricing to pick up the slack caused by NYC cab drivers who joined immigration protests it was seen by some customers as profiting from an issue they vehemently disagreed with.

    And from this, the #Deleteuber "movement" was born with people screen grabbing their deletion of the app, swearing allegiance to Uber's competition and encouraging peers to do the same. While consumer activism isn't new by any stretch of the imagination—today's record levels of distrust in once trusted institutions (see Edelman's Trust Barometer) combined with peer connectivity sets the stage for a dramatic increase of the phenomena.

    Screen Shot 2017-01-30 at 3.09.14 PM
    From Brand Awareness to Consumer Activism
    For brands to raise their level of readiness in an era where consumer activism becomes more commonplace—marketers must think about four key stages in addition to the traditional funnel. Each stage carries with it a positive or negative impact for a brand. 

    Awareness
    + Positive: Consumer has general awareness of a brand and its values and finds them relevant
    -  Negative: Consumer has low awareness of brand and its values and brand is not relevant 

    Affinity 
    + Positive: Consumer has a high affinity for the brand and preference as a result 
    -  Negative: Consumer has low affinity for the brand and does not show loyalty 

    Advocacy 
    + Positive: Consumer will recommend brand to others and actively promote it 
    -  Negative: Consumer will speak negatively about brand and actively criticize it 

    Activism 
    + Positive: Consumer will actively defend or take action which benefits brand
    -  Negative: Consumer will actively take action which damages brand (reputation or financial)


    Screen Shot 2017-02-01 at 4.40.56 PM
    Source: Buzzfeed

    Earning Trust in an Era of Consumer Activism 
    Emerging societal demands and divides combined with peer connectivity provide the perfect storm for consumer activism and brands must find ways to earn not only the loyalty but trust of their consumers. Edelman's 2016 Earned Brand study outlines that most brands engage consumers in a way that interest and involve them but fall short of getting them invested to the point where consumers would advocate on their behalf or act as "activists" in their favor. 

    Screen Shot 2017-01-30 at 3.29.06 PM
    Some brands are taking a proactive stance as this emerging dynamic intensifies. *Starbucks recently committed to hiring 10,000 refugees in in five years while clearly articulating their values. AirBnB announced that stranded refugees could stay for free and Lyft pledged a million dollars to support the ACLU.

    Handle With Care: Consumer Activism Will Force Brands to Examine Their Values
    If nothing else, consumer activists will force brands to ask themselves "what do we stand for"? The biggest risk for a brand in dealing with a low trust environment is to act inauthentically, contrived or in a way that feels opportunistic. Still, consumers will continue to evaluate brands not only by how relevant they are in their lives—but how responsible they feel they are. Or to put it another way, how much they feel they have in common in terms of their values. If a brand today cannot express or articulate those values—it risks leaving its intent and action open to interpretation.  

    *Starbucks is an Edelman client

     
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