Turning Your Purpose Into Action

Doing good has become the ultimate competitive advantage for brands in the 21st century.


6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


You can’t go a single day without hearing the phrase “brand purpose,” but what does it actually mean? In short, it’s a brand’s reason for existence beyond making money. Today, a growing number of companies are jumping at the chance to signal their social and environmental credentials. For good reason too — it’s what people want. Consumers are determining the fate of brands with their purchases. And when all things are equal, they will choose to buy from a brand that has a positive impact.

Doing good has become the ultimate competitive advantage — a golden ticket to future-proofing your business. Getting it right will earn you a place in popular culture, improve your reputation and increase your market share. Getting it wrong could spark public outrage, claims of insincerity and the possibility of a boycott. The stakes have never been higher, and success depends on converting brand purpose into action. After all, purpose without action is pointless. It’s like buying a book and never reading it.

Related: Young People Will Reward Brands That Take a Stand

Get the basics right.

The journey towards social impact starts with making sure that your brand is doing no harm. It can be easy to forget that business is a part of society. Thus, companies have a duty to make a positive contribution to people’s lives. For brands, this begins with paying tax: an agreed fee for doing business and making a profit. Yet, most brands view tax as a cost to be minimized, rather than an investment back into society. Corporation tax helps to fund essential healthcare, education and social services for the very customers and employees who buy and work for a business. In truth, there’s not much point in having a lofty brand mission if you’re not even holding up your end of the bargain.

Sadly, some of the world’s biggest brands are using tax loopholes to legally avoid paying its debt to society. In the U.K., Facebook only paid £15.8m in tax last year despite collecting a record £1.3bn in sales. Avoiding tax can cause long-term reputational damage, as seen in the past with Starbucks, Amazon, Google and others. In contrast, brands that pay their fair share will no doubt win public approval. A great example is Patagonia, who used $10 million in U.S. tax savings to combat climate change. So, when Patagonia says, “we’re in business to save our home planet,” people believe them. Fulfilling your responsibility as a business provides a foundation for brand activism. It begins with paying your taxes, looking after your employees and not destroying the environment.

Related: 10 Companies That Are Doing Good While Doing Well

Think long-term.

Building a meaningful brand is hard work. It requires changing the way things have always been done. If it were easy, everyone would do it. But it’s not. You need courage, conviction, vision and a champion at the very top. The scale and depth of transformation demand a long-term approach. A rare commodity, considering that the average CEO spends less than five years in the job. To make matters worse, most companies are under constant pressure to deliver short-term results for shareholders; often at the expense of building long-term value. This is despite overwhelming evidence indicating that long-term companies deliver superior financial performance.

The good news is that we’re reaching a tipping point, characterized by mass adoption of socially responsible and environmentally sustainable business practices. For example, renewable energy is set to become cheaper than fossil fuels by 2020. To quote Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Sørensen, “In the long term, social and environmental issues become financial issues.” In 2010, Unilever launched an ambitious plan to decouple business growth from environmental impact. Nine years later, Unilever’s sustainable brands are now delivering 70 percent of its growth. Such success is predicated on making society a stakeholder in your business. This can be achieved by aligning your business objectives with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals: a set of 17 goals, agreed by 193 nations of the UN to end poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change.

Embrace co-creation.

The complexity of global issues is far too great for anyone to tackle alone. Such problems require new thinking, innovative approaches and an unprecedented level of collaboration. To use a famous African proverb, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We can’t save the world in silos; doing so requires collective, collaborative action. To change things for the better, brands need to look beyond their own boundaries. This means collaborating with start-ups, individuals, civil society and so-called competitors to co-create a more equitable and sustainable future for all.

Co-creation represents a substantial growth opportunity for brands. It’s a chance to embed new thinking, practices and doing good into the core of their business. One of the best examples of co-creation is Lego which has teamed up with Sesame Workshop to help Rohingya and Syrian refugee children to learn and heal through play. Lego is realizing its brand purpose by investing $100 million into the program. This move will help Lego win the hearts and minds of a new generation of fans — 87 years on from the company’s inception. To reap the full benefits of co-creation, brands need to make sure their new project or partnership reflects their own offering as a business. Finding the right strategic partner will help turn a global mission into local, grassroots social and environmental activation.

Related: Innovation? It Needs to Be Woven Into Every Aspect of Your Company’s Culture

What it all means.

Doing good has become the ultimate competitive advantage for brands in the 21st century. In an increasingly overcrowded market, your brand’s contribution to society becomes the decisive point of difference for consumers. The first step in the process is making sure that you’re not doing any harm. Once that’s established, brands can then begin to do good by adopting a collaborative mindset and a long-term approach to problem-solving.

By in large, brand activism fueled by conscious consumerism is going to fundamentally change the nature of business. The scale and depth of change are comparable to the rise of digital technology in the 1990s and early 2000s. In a similar way, those who embrace this new reality will win the hearts and minds of a new generation of consumers. On the flipside, those who fail to adapt risk entering the annals of irrelevancy, which already includes a long list of extinct brands. In the end, like most things, the difference between the two scenarios will boil down to the level of talk versus action.

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How Spider-Man Can Help Your Brand Keep Its Edge

Want better branding? Stop thinking about web design, and start thinking about web slinging.


5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Marketers seeking wellsprings of inspiration would do well to take inspiration from the recently announced nominations for the 2019 Academy Awards. In fact, marketing teams might want to ditch the ho-hum status meeting this week and head to the nearest cinema to check out Best Animated Feature nominee “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”

It turns out the innovative animated reimagining of the Stan Lee comic offers a host of branding possibilities for creatives tired of boring, predictable storytelling formulas and looking for something new to help their brand maintain its competitive edge. One viewing of this novel twist on a classic Marvel Comics tale will surely produce more than an itsy-bitsy amount of original, unprocessed creativity to move your branding strategy in a new direction.

Related: Maintain Your Competitive Advantage by Focusing on Your Most Valuable Asset — You

Branding with fresh fangs.

Skeptical that a family-friendly, feature-length film studded with comic book design elements could clear the cobwebs from your marketing campaigns? Don’t be. Many of the film’s directorial, script and production choices can serve as jumping-off points for marketers seeking stronger consumer connections and an authentic brand voice.

1. Powerful visuals without the venom of mediocrity.

What makes this Spider-Man adaptation visually memorable? In addition to computerized 3D animation, the film’s creators sought opportunities to include nods to old-fashioned comic book drawing techniques and styles. From unexpected captions to lightning-fast inside jokes, the movie commands attention from both the eye and the ear.

This technique could be a smart decision for your brand messaging as well, especially as 65 percent of people learn best through visuals. Carl Reed, co-founder and chief creative officer at Lion Forge Labs, knows how meaningful, memorable and powerful animation can be. “Savvy marketers are turning to captivating media for driving their brands’ stories forward,” he notes. “Comics are an excellent choice for this. They are great for explaining abstract principles and are limited only by the imagination of the artists.”

Spidey sense suggestion: If your group has had trouble expressing a tough-to-describe concept, why not experiment with comic-style visuals? Consider the visual aspects of your corporate branding. Although cartooning may seem appropriate mainly in the realm of infographics, it can be effective elsewhere. Map out what story you want to tell, and take stock of your resources (i.e., creative talent capable of illustrating a comic). If you don’t have the resources you need on staff, you can always hire a freelancer or an agency to handle the comic creation.

Related: How to Create the Stunning Visuals Critical to Startup Success

2. Relatable characters woven into a well-considered story.

Spoiler alert: The film takes place in an alternate universe. In fact, many universes converge in this animated Oscar front-runner. Yet the story seems wholly believable because the characters are fleshed-out and genuine. Consider the original Spider-Man, Peter Parker. He makes his entrance not as a slim, fit guy ready to take on the baddies, but as a paunchy Gen Xer mired in a midlife crisis of sorts.

Peter may have mad spider skills, but he’s no different from the neighbor down the street. In other words, moviegoers see him not as unrelatable, but as a familiar persona. Brands must create identities with this type of relatability in mind, and they can do it by generating stories that connect with their preferred audiences. Buyers are drawn in by accessible brands that humanize the business behind the product or service.

Spidey sense suggestion: To become a relatable brand, craft a message that accurately represents your intended audience, meets your audience members where they are, and helps you earn consumer trust. For instance, Old Spice, once associated with a predominantly older demographic, began targeting a younger male audience with campaigns that included hosting interactive live streams. By using a platform that its target demographic prefers, the company was able to better relate to that audience.

3. A different perspective on an old standard.

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” proves that no matter how well-worn a story is, it can always be viewed from a unique perspective. The creators of the film didn’t force another prequel or sequel on viewers, but infused the Spider-Man franchise with a fresh blend of characters and situations.

Legacy brands that think they can never shed their too-tight skin are ripe for this type of reinvention. Smart branding, like good storytelling, involves taking risks. Your company might not want to go the irreverent mile that the Spider-Verse sometimes does, but you can’t attract young consumers with dated imagery and concepts.

Related: 6 Ways to Modernize Your Brand While Staying True to Your Legacy

Spidey sense suggestion: Stay true to your core values while simultaneously giving prospects a new way to think about your brand. Take McDonald’s, which was fighting the image of being branded an unhealthy hamburger chain. The company rebranded to be more health-conscious, offering lighter meal options and revamping its locations to offer a cafe-like atmosphere. This new image is still in line with the fast-food giant’s brand mission to be its customers’ favorite place to eat and drink, and clearly, customers agree. The company’s stock has more than doubled since it started this rebranding shift about four years ago.

If you want to remain at the leading edge of modern branding strategies, look no further than today’s Oscar-nominated films for inspiration. With great marketing power comes great marketing responsibility.

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Exactly What You Can Do to Define What Makes Your Brand as Unique as … M&Ms


5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


“Melts in your mouth, not in your hand,” the slogan for M&M’s candy, was trademarked as far back as 1954 and is one of the best-known ever. It’s cute. It’s memorable. And it’s helped make M&M’s brand the success it is today — and not just because the phrase is catchy.

Related: Shark Tank Star Daymond John Says This Is the Biggest Branding Mistake of All

In fact, the slogan, when introduced, actually helped set the company apart from all other companies slinging sweet treats. It made the brand different and was, and is, its unique selling proposition (USP).

Every company needs a USP in order to stand out from the crowd. But many business owners fail to come up with one that sets their brands apart. If you’re an accounting business, for instance, what could be different about you versus your peers?

Defining your brand’s uniqueness and USP, then, isn’t as simple as stating, “Our product is pink and the rest are blue.” It needs to be more meaningful and to originate from that sweet spot between what you do and what your customer needs. So, how do you find it? Here are some ways to do that.

Research your competitors.  

No business is completely and utterly unique. You’ll always have competitors who’ll be doing something similar to what you do. Most of these companies will have a unique selling proposition in order to attract consumers. This isn’t a disadvantage for you; it means there’s already a market for your business, a fact which can actually help you discover what makes your brand unique.

Take a good look at a number of your biggest competitors. Look at what they’re offering, whom they’re marketing to, what marketing messages they’re using and so on. By comparing what they’re offering with what you offer, you can find out what you’ve got that they don’t.

Related: Why ‘Make America Great Again’ Beat ‘Stronger Together’

This strategy might have been how Tattly discovered its uniqueness. Tattly makes temporary tattoos. But instead of being made for children as most other temporary tattoo are, Tattly’s product is marketed toward adults, making its brand more unique.

Image credit: Tattly 

You can easily discover a hidden edge to your company by looking at what else is out there already. You can’t beat ‘em if you’re the same, but you can come out on top if you’re doing things differently.

Look closely at your buyer personas.

Next, you’ll want to take a close look at your buyer personas. A “buyer persona” is a fictional character created to represent your ideal customer; and you need one. A detailed buyer persona can include basic demographics like age and gender, but it can also include the goals of your ideal customer, his or her motivations, occupation, personality traits, frustrations and more.

Looking at these factors can help you discover something really unique about your brand. For instance, if you’re making pizzas, and one of the frustrations listed in your buyer persona is “lack of gourmet ingredients,” you may have just found what makes your pizza unique.

If you haven’t created a buyer persona for your company yet, get started now. There are tons of free templates online to help you create a detailed buyer persona that will aid you in determining what makes your brand unique.

Pinpoint your differentiators.

In trying to find what makes your brand unique, you should pinpoint everything that makes your company different. So, make a list of those differentiators. This list can be anything big or small about your product/company and anything that’s tangible or represents a feeling or belief — it makes you you. Write that down; just remember to be specific.

If your biggest differentiators are the features of your products, don’t choose just a feature as your unique selling proposition. Your audience isn’t as impressed or swayed by features as you might think. They’re more attracted to how your business or product can change their lives.

So, define that feature as something meaningful to your audience. Successful products usually solve a specific need for consumers and that need is communicated to customers in their own words. For example, when the Apple iPod was introduced, ads didn’t talk to customers about the number of gigabytes; they said “10,000 songs in your pocket,” which was much more meaningful. 

Image credit: Swoop Agency 

Related: Why Weight Watchers’ Name Change Will Fail, But Dunkin’s Won’t

Over to you.

Don’t just define what makes your brand unique and leave it at that. Use your unique selling proposition in everything you do.Splash it across your marketing, sprinkle it throughout your website and incorporate it into your company culture; you’ve got to fully live it. Once you’ve defined what makes your company unique, you won’t just have a few casual customers, you’ll form better connections with them; and consumers will flock to your brand to become loyal customers.  

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5 Startup Branding Trends to Watch for in 2019

Illustrations, minimalism and millennials are among the trends you should be paying attention to for your branding strategy.


9 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


When it comes to starting a new business, all entrepreneurs want to be ahead of the game and up to date on the latest trends. Still, it can be hard to predict what is changing in the complex and intricate world of branding.

Related: 7 Branding Trends Every Business Owner Should Watch Out For

From naming techniques and brand campaigning, here are five trends for new and growing businesses to watch out for:  

1. Illustrating, for engagement

Brands are constantly searching for new ways to engage audiences, and many of them are discovering that art and illustration is a good way to go about this.

Jennifer Hom, an illustrator working for Airbnb, noted that brands are realizing the power of illustration. “Companies are starting to understand its value — that the images can inform and delight their audience,” Hom wrote in a recent case study.

More and more businesses are incorporating art and artists into their branding arcs. With Google incorporating art and illustration into its own onboarding processes and Facebook adding illustrations to its branding, companies are using art to connect to audiences, to become more personable, and easier to connect with. 

 

Google calendar uses these illustrations to help users achieve their goals.

Image credit: Google design on Medium

Facebook’s illustrations for security tips and tutorials

Image credit: Facebook

Whether it is the use of animation in marketing videos, partnerships with artists for new product lines or illustrations for websites, art has emerged as a popular way to engage audiences. In 2019, in fact, it’s a branding trend precisely because of its ability to humanize and differentiate brands while deepening consumers’ brand connections and maybe their brand loyalty, too.

Related: 6 Digital Marketing Trends That Will Explode Your Brand Awareness in 2018

2. Incorporating minimalism to the max  

Connected to the art trend is the minimalist trend; in fact, we’ve seen a sharp uptick in minimalist branding, and it seems likely to stay a while. With Marie Kondo’s hit books (and her Netflix show, Tidying Up), brands are going to start asking themselves, “Does it spark joy?” just the way Kondo counsels her clients to do before they throw something out, as they rid their homes of clutter.

Minimalism makes sense because it’s visually appealing. It may especially be helpful in the case of B2B companies simplifying processes through tools like Intercom and Salesforce.

Back-to-basics minimalism is also resonating with customer-facing businesses like Brandless, which focuses on being straightforward and essential.Minimalism is essentially a bare-bones, pared-down approach that applies clean colors, simple graphics and easy-to-understand processes and interfaces.

3. Reflecting millennials’ influence

Millennials are gaining buying power, and more decision-making power because, well, they’re now adults with jobs and incomes. Because of this, we are continually seeing branding trends shift to up their appeal to millennial tastes.

While proclamations are subsiding about “the latest industry the millennials have killed,” it is true that this age cohort holds sway over the future of many industries.

Another thing to remember about millennials is that they are known to be more politically driven than baby boomers, and that they shop with brands that appeal to their moral standards. As such, brands are catching on to this trend and marketing themselves towards young people’s changing perceptions.

In this light, we recently saw Gillette reap mixed responses from its user base for its ad critiquing toxic masculinity. While some customers balked at the ad and called it accusatory, others praised the shaving company for its bold, progressive stance.

Regardless of the various opinions the ad prompted, it did make Gillette relevant again, something the company direly needed, what with smaller competitors like Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s positioning themselves to become industry pillars.

The Gillette ad was a good example of a brand trying to appeal to younger age groups. Gillette has faced millennial criticism for its pricing disparity between male- and female-use razors. So, the ad campaign apparently aimed to overwrite the bad rap Gillette had gotten.

On the other hand, Abercrombie & Fitch took a hit from millennials for not being inclusive enough back in 2013. Alleged discriminatory hiring and branding made the company fall out of ideological favor that year.

Planet Fitness, meanwhile, is a gym that appeals to millennial values by fronting affordability and its policy of being a judgment-free zone. As such, the franchise chain has seen rapid growth and success.

Many brands are similarly trying to make the shift from baby boomer-focused brands to millennial-forward ones. As the latter group continues to gain more and more buying power, its members are controlling more branding trends, leading to an increasingly political slant in brand campaigns (witness the “girl power” themes of this year’s Super Bowl ads).

All of this, of course, is also a run-up to Generation Z’s introduction as a moving force of consumer sway. In 2019, look to see more talk about Generation Z. Its young members are graduating and entering the workforce, meaning that their buying power is now going to hold more sway.  

Gen Z, in fact, is turning up the dial on millennial buying habits. Gen-Zers have an even shorter attention span and greater unrest when it comes to social issues.

Using social issues to connect to younger age cohorts has become a popular branding strategy; after all, brands should always try to resonate with their audiences.

4. Utilizing creativity in online domain names 

With more and more businesses taking up more online, it is increasingly difficult for new businesses to find a traditionally desirable exact match online. In this context “match” means a situation where the company URL exactly matches the company name. This is not always possible: For example, when Dropbox initially launched, its  website URL was “GetDropbox.com.” 

The extension .com is still king, but the scarcity of exact-match domains is forcing many businesses to get creative with their domain names and social media handles.

At the same time, establishing a strong domain name is an important investment; it’s how a business is found online, and so worth the effort. A budget of $2,000 can open up various creative domain options. However, finding a real English word with an exact match to the company’s name means setting aside a hefty premium domain budget.

Domain-name phrases offer a great way to get around premium domain price tags, which is preferable for startups and new businesses looking to save a few thousand dollars. Additionally, some exact match domains are already in use — domain phrases allow companies to use names in different industries.

Some of the most creative domain phrases we’ve found include Square’s SquareUp.com, Ruby Receptionist’s CallRuby.com and Trusted’s UseTrusted.com. Such phrase-based names offer a creative way for businesses to prompt an action or remain memorable to users.

Extensions and other TLDs –.co, .gg for games, .io for tech companies, and .ai for AI-driven software companies — are also part of the new domain strategies. Taco Bell, for instance, is using ta.co as a short, catchy domain name.

The same principle is being applied to social media handles, as well. We recently did a research study into the top 50 startups to determine how necessary an exact-match social media handle actually is. We found that only 20 percent of the most successful startups we studied were using exact-match social media handles.

5. Getting more personal, not corporate

“Personal” is hot: Having named over 20,000 companies, we have noticed a lot of first name businesses like Oscar and Edgar. This is a micro-trend meant to attract millennials and gen-Z-ers, who tend to distrust corporations. They like to engage with people they know and trust.

We see many brands using real people in their branding, but what if the company could be the person? That comes across as young, edgy and cool.

Still, you shouldn’t just jump on this just because it’s cool. A name can align your business with audience values the way Greenpeace does, or set you apart from the competition as a fresh, innovative company the way Apple did. So, choose your name carefully — it can set up a solid brand foundation and concretely boost your business.

Conclusion

Overall, brands are putting effort into connecting with audiences in a meaningful way. Each of these five trends is all about appealing to your target audience as a way to find success.

If you’re looking into some new marketing strategies for the new year, consider these approaches to branding. A great key to success is awareness of what is happening in the world so you can test it out for yourself.

At the same time, be judicious. There are always brands that don’t follow trends and still remain successful. Regardless of the rise and fall in those trends, the more authentic a brand is, the better it tends to do in today’s market.

Related: From Branding to Recruiting, Check Out the 10 Business Trends to Make Next Year a Success

Being true to yourself is still the way to go when it comes to branding. Be who your company is meant to be, and don’t try to jump on every trend. You will risk coming across as inauthentic. Be contrarian, be a trendsetter, be you to the max!

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5 Signs Your Employer Brand Is in Trouble

For every six employees, there is one doing what he or she can to tear your brand apart.


7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


On Oct. 27, 2015, outdoor recreation specialty retailer REI sent a letter to its 5.5 million co-op members. It would be closing its stores on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. The company would also give all of its 12,000 employees a paid holiday so they could get outside and enjoy nature, something at the heart of the REI message. Later, as the national “shop ‘til you drop” fiesta grew closer, the company released a television ad about the shutdown featuring the Twitter hashtag #OptOutside. They launched a website, optoutside.rei.com, where users could find trail suggestions and other outdoor recreation ideas. 

It was a doubling down on their brands — both their consumer brand and their employer brand. Did the risk pay off? On the consumer brand side, it appears the answer is a resounding, “You bet your hiking boots!” Apart from garnering REI enormous press coverage, the Black Friday closure boosted the company’s online sales on Black Friday by 26 percent. More than 1,408,000 people joined the campaign on the company’s social media channels. 

More important, the decision was a full-throated shout of authenticity backing up the co-op’s stated brand and values — bold and trust-building support of REI’s promise to both its customers and employees. 

Related: The Ultimate Guide To Keep Momentum Up In Your Company

Jumping on the brandwagon.

Today’s businesses operate in an economy where brand is everything. A brand represents a set of promises made to the consumer. Companies are constantly working to build, enhance and defend their brands. But when the world began this decades-long love affair with the brand, we forgot that the brand’s promise affects employees, too.

Your brand promise or “employer brand contract” consists of everything your culture, marketing, reputation, media coverage and the behavior of your people does to create expectations in your employees. What makes this contract tricky to manage is that it can, and will, affect employee expectations before employees even become employees.

Before employees have their first interview, your brand has already made certain promises about culture, reputation in the community, working expectations and company values. These promises may or may not be explicit, meaning they don’t have to be written down and presented to candidates before they apply for the job. However, they have already formed an idea, gathered through your website, word of mouth, recommendations from other employees, social media, community involvement and even their own experience with your products or services. This brand contract makes certain promises about what the company will offer employees.

Your ability to recruit talent is either enhanced or damaged by your brand. Employers in all industries are reporting being ghosted by potential hires that no-show for interviews or their first day on the job. What is the word “out there” about your company? Does it attract talent, or run off any potential recruit before they even click on the job link? Your employer brand also plays a key role in whether employees will choose to engage in their roles once they climb aboard. 

Related: Here’s How to Stay One Big Step Ahead of Your Changing Talent Pool

Your brand is in trouble.

The problem is, some blame their ineffective recruiting and high employee turnover on the economy or other factors, rather than taking a good look at how the employer brand may be hurting or helping. 

So, how do you know when your employer brand is in trouble? The five signs below are sure indicators that your brand is suffering. 

  1. Recruiting difficulties. Sure, we’re operating in a time when there are more job openings than employees to fill them. But similar to a consumer brand, potential buyers — employees in the case of the employer brand — will flock to those with an appealing brand. When it starts being more and more difficult to recruit talent, even taking into account a difficult recruiting environment, your brand may not be attractive. If you are seeing a slowdown in the number of applicants for open positions, if job ghosting is a problem, if your quality of new-hires seems lower, or if your level of employee-employer “fit” seems to be declining, your employer brand may be in trouble.
  2. Decreased engagement. Every organization should be conducting periodic engagement surveys of its people, both formally and informally. If you do, and you see marked negative changes in engagement indicators from one survey to the next, that’s a red flag that you may have issues with your brand contract. True, it may also be a harbinger of other problems, but lower engagement scores should get you looking critically at what your brand is saying to employees. Research in the Customer Experience (CX) world parallels what we find in the Employee Experience (EX) world — both promoters and detractors spread the word. In the first half of 2018, employee engagement firm DecisionWise analyzed the survey results from more than 200 firms asked to evaluate the statement, “I would recommend this company to others as a great place to work.” The results showed that for every six promoters (those responding “strongly agree” or “agree”) there was an average of one detractor (those responding with a “strongly disagree”). That’s a 6:1 ratio, meaning that, on average, for every six ambassadors you have employed in your company, there is one employee doing what he or she can to tear your brand apart.
  3. Increased employee focus on pay, benefits and perks. It’s been proven time and again. When employees feel part of a larger purpose and believe that their employer shares their values, they care less about compensation, perks and other “hygiene factors.” That’s not to say those things aren’t important. They are. But if concern for those factors rises — if you see an increasing number of employees asking about raises or grousing that a competitor has a better benefits package, for example — that might be a sign that your brand is no longer communicating a purpose or set of values that resonates with them. They look to other factors (more pay, increased perks, etc.) to justify their employment. When that happens, you need to revisit your employer brand. 
  4. Cynicism. Cynicism is cancer to any organization. It starts small, spreads quickly, and can be deadly. Employees are cynical when they become convinced that the organization cannot be trusted to keep its promises, including the promises made in the brand contract. They doubt the future. For instance, you’ll hear them complaining that a new management initiative is “more of the same.” That’s an indicator of a brand contract emergency and needs to be addressed ASAP. 
  5. Fear of change. A consistent, strong brand and culture give employees a sense of safety that keeps them feeling confident, even when the organization is changing. Fear of change and risk hampers innovation and creativity. If your people are exhibiting a greater fear of change, or if innovation appears to be stalled, you have a problem with your employer brand.

Related: How to Build Your Employer Brand With Social Media

REI gets it. Your consumer brand can make or break your organization. So can your employer brand. The employer brand sets expectations around the employee experience. So, ask yourself the question, “What is my employer brand, and is it enhancing or detracting from our success?”

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How This Brand Is Making Cannabis Feel Like a Luxury

Plastic baggies? Forget it! Canndescent is selling its product in high-end packaging that consumers will be proud of.


3 min read

Opinions expressed by Green Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


In 2017, when Adrian Sedlin launched a line of cannabis flowers called Canndescent, he thought a lot about how most consumers had previously purchased cannabis. It likely came in clear plastic baggies, with its origins and potency unknown — hardly what someone would pay a premium for. He wanted to make a clear and unambiguous break with that past, and court a consumer who’s willing to pay for quality. His solution: Create packaging that evokes luxury brands. Here’s how his team designed Canndescent in the least-baggie way possible.

 

Name and number

Canndescent’s flowers are named for their intended effect — Calm, Cruise, Create, Connect, and Charge. But each name is also followed by a three-digit number: “Calm no. 102,” for example, or “Create no. 301.” What does it mean? The numbers are supposed to “evoke the class of a BMW,” said Sedlin. Just like BMW has a 1, a 5, and a 7 series, Canndescent identifies its strains and effects by numbers (100s are calm, 300s are creative, etc.).

Related: Is Canndescent Paving the Way For the Future of the Cannabis Industry?

Color

Canndescent’s products arrive in a burnt-orange box, a nod to the French luxury brand Hermès as well as the “soft, warm glow” of a light bulb filament. The company went through hundreds of orange samples to find one that would pop on shelves without reminding customers of Home Depot. 

Related: LucidMood’s Great Trick: Selling Cannabis to People Who Don’t Like Feeling High

Logo

Like many luxury brands’ logos, from Louis Vuitton’s to Fendi’s, Canndescent’s was built off the first letter (or letters) in its name. The Canndescent logo arranges the letter C into what Sedlin calls a “bloom-like” pattern: “It felt like it was clean and bold, and represented the effort and intricacy that goes into producing our flower.”

Related: Marketers Are Overcoming Unique Challenges to Build Campaigns for the Nascent Cannabis Industry

Jars

Premium food, beverage, healthcare, and personal-care products tend to come in glass — a signifier that what’s inside is worth handling with care. Sedlin wanted his branding to appear at the top of the jar, so as to not obscure the flower inside. That way, it showed that Canndescent isn’t hiding anything about its product. “We wanted to establish trust with our consumers,” he said. 

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Young People Will Reward Brands That Take a Stand

A new generation of consumers are choosing to engage with the brands that share their values and beliefs.


4 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Through much of the last century, advertising obligated people to pay attention to what brands have to say. A handful of television, radio or newspaper channels left the public with no choice but to consume the message that was being communicated. In short, attention was easy to capture, and consumers were powerless to the will of big business.

In the 21st century, we face an entirely new reality — thanks to the internet and the near universal use of social media and digital devices. Nowadays, consumers are confronted with an infinite number of choices; turning attention into one of the most valuable commodities. This is why some of the world’s biggest brands are struggling to connect with people in a meaningful way, in spite of spending billions on advertising.

The power has shifted from brands to the people.

Today, online advertising is getting in the way of what people actually want to do with their lives; whether it’s reading an article, watching a documentary or surfing the web. As a consequence, ad-blocking is becoming the new normal. More than 12 million people are blocking adverts in the U.K alone. Unsurprisingly, the highest rate is amongst 16-24-year olds. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that this behaviour is only going to rise with the emergence of a digitally native generation that expects to control every aspect of their online experience.

Like most things in life, this is obvious to the man or woman on the streets, but news to the marketing department. As someone who works in advertising myself: I have experienced at first-hand the amount of time, effort and resources that goes into crafting an advertising campaign. Only for it to be summarily executed at a swipe of a button by one of my friends. Young people’s distaste for adverts also helps to explain the meteoric rise of subscription-based services like Netflix, Spotify and Twitch. These platforms act as a safe house from the constant barrage of adverts.

Related: How Ad Blockers Benefit Both Consumers and Advertisers

Young people are engaging with brands that share their values and beliefs

Instead, young people are choosing to engage with the brands that share their values and beliefs. In fact, 64 percent of consumers around the world now buy on belief. At the same time, one in two will choose, switch or boycott a brand based on its stand on a societal issue. The consumers of today are more informed and empowered than ever before. They have all the tools at their disposal to control the relationship they want to have with brands. In this new age of Information, it’s no longer enough to communicate a message, in the hope that it will resonate. To remain relevant, brands need to talk less and do more for people and planet.

The brands that have a purpose beyond profit will not only survive but thrive in this new age of conscious consumerism. Research carried out by Havas shows that meaningful brands have outperformed the stock market by 206 percent over the last 10 years. Enlightened brands recognize this reality and are transforming their entire modus operandi to meet young consumers changing expectation.

You only have to look at Adidas’s pledge to use 100 percent recycled plastic by 2024, Unilever’s mission to Improve health and well-being for more than 1 billion people and Ikea’s ambition of becoming climate positive by 2030. The results are also clear to see: Adidas sold 1 million shoes made of ocean plastic last year, Unilever’s sustainable brands are growing 50 percent faster than the rest of business and Ikea has seen sustainable product sales grow to a cool $1.9 billion.

Related: IKEA’s Secret To Success

What it all means.

Historically, the role of a brand has been to simplify people’s increasingly busy lives. Today, that’s no longer enough. Young people expect brands to go beyond selling products, services or increasing profit for shareholders. They expect them to stand up for something, to improve lives and to play an active role in tackling global poverty, inequality, and climate change.

Doing good is not only the right thing to do but also a commercial imperative. For brands, this requires a move away from Corporate Social Responsibility — since under such initiatives, doing good is often separated from the core function of the business. In its place, brands need to make their products and services in a way which benefits people, planet and profit by taking responsibility for the overall value chain.

The brands that manage to adapt to this new reality will end up being richly rewarded with a natural place in popular culture, a deeper connection with consumers, business growth and longevity.

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