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  • Posted by: Liesje Hodgson and Forest Young on Tuesday, September 9 2014 10:15 AM | Comments (0)

    As the media and behavior landscape evolves to include connected physical, digital, and social experiences, brands and businesses must understand how to meaningfully adapt to create value. This means a willingness to get out of the way when the brand isn't relevant, and a readiness to take center stage in moments that matter.

    To consistently exceed expectations, an organization must understand when and how to best support the customer in key interactions, regardless of industry or instance.

    This requires more than a shared language of how the brand looks, feels, and behaves. It requires tools, methods, operations and frameworks for making technology, partnership, and product decisions that places customers, and their needs, at the center. We work with teams to ensure that the products and services which customers touch are meaningful components of a broader brand experience. Watch the videos below for a sense of how we view the role of brand in delivering customer experiences.

    We partner with our clients to drive a unified vision for customer experience across teams and business units—and help them prioritize the interactions that can impact their relationship with customers and broader stakeholders. By defining what a relevant brand experience design is, we help organizations to make technology, partnership, and product decisions with an understanding of how they will shape the customer's relationship with the brand over time.

    Liesje Hodgson is a Senior Consultant of Innovation at Interbrand’s New York office. You can follow her on Twitter at @liesjeh.

    Forest Young is a Creative Director in Interbrand’s New York office. You can follow him on Twitter @ten_ten.

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  • Posted by: Interband on Friday, July 25 2014 11:38 AM | Comments (0)

    Corporate Citizenship

    From more sustainable sourcing to social innovation, companies are doing more every day to create positive social change and sustainable solutions—and consumers are increasingly “rewarding” brands that take social responsibility seriously.   

    Super Market News reports that American supermarket chain, Safeway Inc., has made great strides in its efforts to sustainably source all fresh and frozen seafood by the end of 2015. The brand is already more than halfway to its goal, proving its leadership as a sustainable seafood retailer. In addition, Safeway has saved over 75 million gallons of water, eliminated 300 million plastic bags, and donated 72 million pounds of food.   

    Speaking of plastic bags, the infamous question of “paper or plastic?” may soon be a thing of the past. According to PackagingDigest.com, standard materials are being replaced with non-toxic, lower weight, biodegradable, reusable and recyclable alternatives. Also, bio-plastics are showing a growth rate of more than 20 percent with production expected to increase from 1.39 million tons in 2012 to 6.18 million tons by 2017. Why? Because packaging influences purchasing decisions—and more consumers are showing a preference for sustainable materials and design.   

    Picking up on the real-world solutions trend, Eco-Business reports that more organizations are moving beyond donations and philanthropy. Instead, they are becoming actively involved in projects that benefit business and have a positive social impact. Whether showing a focused commitment to a particular issue through a corporate foundation or embedding CSR into company operations, CSR programs and foundations boost employee morale and enhance corporate reputations. And the choice does not have to be one over the other—a greater CSR strategy can work simultaneously with a foundation.   

    As these efforts illustrate, businesses are doing a lot to give back—but are they doing enough? According to the 2013 UN Global Compact-Accenture CEO Study on Sustainability, as Sustainable Brands reports, two-thirds of CEOs admitted that businesses could be doing more to address sustainability challenges. Although CEOs see engagement with consumers as the single most important factor motivating them to accelerate progress on sustainability, they are often out of step with what motivates consumers to make responsible purchasing decisions.   

    To engage more effectively with consumers, companies must close the gap between performance and perception, according to Interbrand’s annual Best Global Green Brands report. Commenting on the report, Vikas Vij of JustMeans.com said, “The consumers of today hold the world’s top brands to an exacting standard and expect these brands to act responsibly.” As Interbrand’s research indicates, reducing the gap between socially and environmentally responsible business practices—and consumer perception of those practices—is critical to building brand value.   

    To find out more about the value of Corporate Citizenship, be sure to check out this month’s installment of Closing the Gap!

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  • Posted by: Meghann Fraser on Thursday, July 24 2014 09:50 AM | Comments (0)

    How leading companies advance their business and brand by creating shared value  

    Canadian Tire Jumpstart

    The world now faces an increasingly complex set of challenges: growing income inequality, climate change, and food scarcity, to name just a few. While governments and NGOs continue their work in these areas, the corporate sector is now standing up to help address these issues, recognizing that the world is moving towards a new center of balance where societal impact is just as important as profits. Leading companies around the globe are acting to create meaningful change that not only advances business objectives and the world in a sustainable way, but also continually strengthens brand value. 

    However, a review CSR reports, even among leading Canadian companies, reveals that many organizations are simply going through the motions, either aiming for minimum targets for regulatory compliance or recasting standard business practices through a politically expedient lens. In both instances, these organizations are missing valuable opportunities to create positive social impact, enhance the long-term viability of their business, and share more compelling and differentiating stories with the marketplace. By shifting focus from compliance to creating shared value, these companies can strengthen both their business performance and brand.    

    What is Shared Value?  

    Shared value is the idea that a company can create measureable business value by addressing social issues that directly intersect with its business. The notion goes beyond philanthropy or sustainability efforts to identifying specific challenges that will grow the company’s profits while creating positive outcomes for society. Michael Porter and Michael Kramer, who coined the term, identified unique ways companies can create these shared value opportunities, including product innovation that focuses on societal benefits, efficiencies in the supply chain that reduce environmental impact, and supportive industry relationships in the communities where a company operates.    

    Many leading companies have realized the benefits of creating shared value, such as GE. Since launching its Ecomagination business in 2005, the company has earned over $105 billion in revenue from associated products and services. Focused on building innovative solutions for today’s environmental challenges, the Ecomagination business has grown at twice the rate of the rest of the company. Walmart has realized similar success with its own shared value initiatives. In its efforts to reduce product packaging and optimize delivery routes, Walmart has lowered its carbon emissions while saving $200 million in costs—a clear and dramatic example of redefining productivity in its value chain.    

    Shared Value and Brand Value  

    But beyond driving revenue and improving margin, shared value initiatives provide companies with the opportunity to build brand value. No matter what the goal—from enhancing employee clarity on the company’s purpose to differentiating the brand or improving perceived authenticity and relevance—creating shared value fortifies the attributes that strengthen B2B or B2C brands. The result is a brand better able to drive choice, enhance loyalty, and ultimately increase brand value.   

    Shared Value and Internal Clarity  

    A key tenet to any strong brand is an internal sense of clarity. After all, how can employees be responsible for delivering a brand they don’t understand? This includes being aligned with what the brand stands for—its purpose in the world—so they can engage fully and deliver on its promise. Studies show that companies enjoy significant benefits from highly engaged employees, and frequently see uplift in every business performance indicator: profitability +16 percent, productivity +18 percent, customer loyalty +12 percent, and quality +60 percent.    

    Canadian outdoor recreation outfitter, MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op), understands its purpose in the world (inspiring Canadians to be active outdoors) and motivates employees accordingly. But to fulfill its mission, MEC understands it must go beyond providing equipment and play a role in conserving the outdoor spaces where people use MEC’s gear. Through its involvement in local communities and outdoor industry associations, and its integrated business and sustainability strategy, MEC embodies shared value. It is building supportive industry clusters that create, develop, and innovate opportunities within its market, while ensuring employees understand the brand’s purpose.    

    Shared Value and Differentiation  

    Canada’s leading telecommunications brands have struggled to differentiate and drive consumer choice beyond price, but one brand stands out for making significant strides to separate itself from the pack. With the launch of Bell’s Let’s Talk initiative in 2010, the company has made progress to put an end to the stigma surrounding mental health by raising national awareness and committing $62 million in funding. While Let’s Talk is playing a vital role in bringing attention to one of the most widespread health issues in this country, it is also helping Bell engage with consumers in a more meaningful way—on the very devices they provide to them. This effort differentiates the brand in a way that has been proven to drive consumer choice and loyalty.  

    Shared Value and Authenticity  

    To convey authenticity effectively, a brand’s communications must consistently align with its actions. For instance, as Canadian financial services brands send messages of partnership and support to customers, consumer debt levels head to a forecasted all-time high in 2014— largely due to easy access to credit. One exception is National Bank.    

    With its ClearFacts initiative, National Bank provides consumers with a plethora of free advice to help Canadians make more sound financial decisions today and tomorrow. Guidance spans from how to best manage daily expenses, such as cell phone data usage, to longer-term considerations like buying a home and planning for retirement. By creating a service that supports the financial health of consumers, National Bank is strengthening its credibility and the authenticity of its brand.    

    Shared Value and Relevance  

    In Canada, childhood obesity is expected to have significant impact on industries such as healthcare and insurance, yet one brand taking on the issue represents a different sector altogether. In 2013, Canadian Tire launched a national advertising campaign bringing broader awareness to childhood obesity, encouraging parents and kids alike to embrace sport and outdoor activity to live better. Canadian Tire extends this effort far beyond ad campaigns by continuously supporting its Jumpstart initiative. Founded in 2005, Canadian Tire Jumpstart enables financially disadvantaged kids to participate in sports by helping to cover the cost of registration, equipment, and transportation. These cumulative efforts notably enhance the brand’s relevance with Canadians by driving interest and engagement in sport, and ultimately, health and well-being.      

    The concept of creating shared value is equally relevant to the non-profit sector. In focusing on new ways to partner, non-profit organizations along with their corporate sector donors are transforming traditional corporate philanthropy into shared value opportunities. One NGO taking on this approach is Plan Canada. “We’re finding more and more opportunities to engage with our corporate partners, moving beyond donations to engaging their employees more holistically,” says Paula Roberts, Executive Vice President, Marketing & Development at Plan Canada. Not only does this approach support Plan Canada’s work in various regions across the globe, but it also strengthens employee engagement levels within its corporate partner base, a proven metric to enhance both productivity and profitability within a business.    

    In creating shared value, these brands demonstrate the opportunity at hand: to be leading Corporate Citizens while strengthening their organizations’ bottom line and brand value. By stepping outside category norms, each has shown how doing what is beneficial for society can, in turn, be beneficial to the business and brand. As more companies move from compliance to embracing shared value in their strategic business planning, we will hopefully see an exciting evolution in category norms altogether. 

    Meghan Fraser is a Director of Strategy for Interbrand Canada. You can follow her on Twitter @meghannfraser.

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  • Posted by: Interband on Thursday, June 5 2014 07:56 PM | Comments (0)
    What Marketers Can Learn From Best Swiss Brands 2014 Best Swiss Brands

    Best Swiss Brands

    Best Swiss Brands

    In 2014, Interbrand recognized the Best Swiss Brands for the 3rd time. In honor of the occasion, Interbrand hosted an event in its Zurich office on May 13th. Both clients and leaders representing the Best Swiss Brands joined Interbrand to celebrate. 

    For the first time, B2B brands were included in the ranking, indicating the growing importance of this sector. ABB, Swiss Re, Sulzer, and Syngenta are impressively demonstrating the role of consistent and mindful brand management and its rising influence on the company's performance. 

    With outstanding overall performance, the unrivalled Nescafé occupies the top spot in the ranking, but the Swiss luxury industry and the pharmaceutical industry, represented by powerhouse brands like Novartis and Roche, are also very strong.  

    A close examination of the ranking, and the leading Swiss brands it highlights, suggests factors that are indispensable for successful brand management. It reveals that the most successful brands understand the importance of brand management. These brands know when to evolve, when to reinvent themselves, and the importance of aligning their brand strategy with their business strategy. 

    When looking at the leading Swiss brands and assessing their strengths, some common themes and lessons emerge: 

    Evolution of brand management 

    The impact of the brand on a company's performance is becoming increasingly evident. Organizations that realize this are integrating the brand into the overall business strategy, with the brand strategy serving as the interpretation of the business strategy. However, when brands are viewed as the valuable assets they are and positioned to lead a business forward, it is essential to have a great vision for them. To fulfill the promise of that vision, it is often necessary to make changes and drive innovation. To bring that vision to life, to touch audiences emotionally and to create a truly outstanding brand experience also means placing a strong emphasis on design and clear, authentic communication.

    Brand experience across all touchpoints 

    Brands cannot be successful if people are not aware of them and impacted by them. In order to reach target audiences and keep them engaged, the establishment of a compelling brand experience is necessary. Not just relying on the brand’s classic offline brand appearance, the experience also includes the digital experience and, even more important, a cross-channel approach. By enhancing the customer journey through design, communication, and service at every step, companies can create a seamless brand experience that will anchor positive emotions in the customer’s mind. 

    The importance of employer branding 

    A clear and powerful brand position is not only key to attracting and sustaining the interest of customers, but also plays a significant role in attracting and retaining highly skilled professionals. Brands inspire and strengthen commitment internally and motivate existing employees to become brand ambassadors. Projecting this authenticity, appeal, and credibility—internally and externally—is something successful brands seek to do effectively. 

    Brand value determines brand activities 

    A corporate brand is sometimes thought of as a cost center, but organizations are better served by viewing it as a business asset. A company needs to understand its brand, gauge its effectiveness and potential, and manage the brand as it would any other asset. Brands have the innate potential to either strengthen or hinder a company, and it is up to the organization to determine which of these two possibilities becomes reality through the ways in which it leverages the brand. To leverage the brand effectively, Brand Performance Management must be established. Measuring and tracking a brand’s value helps companies decide which initiatives are necessary to build its brand power.  

    Brand communication means leading a conversation 

    In a digitally-connected world, where communication is taking place everywhere, at all times, it’s no longer enough to craft messaging and blast it out, hoping people will respond favorably. Today, there are many brands competing for attention and mindshare and static communication will not engage, build relationships with customers, or break through cultural noise. Today, brands must participate, interact, respond, and express passion for their corporate culture and offerings in an authentic way. Creating a platform to receive and discuss customer feedback, expectations, ideas, and requests gives brands the opportunity to learn about changing customer needs, meet those needs better, and ensure a positive impact.   

    The future of brand management 

    The Best Swiss Brands report illustrates how brand management is practiced today. To recap: 

    • Brand Management 3.0 is more about facilitating than controlling brand communications. It means shifting from “Brand Cop” to the “Brand DJ.” 
    • To achieve maximum impact, experiences must be thoughtfully designed, powerful and consistent across touchpoints, resulting in a memorable brand experience. 
    • Employer Branding is a key investment for any company’s future. Strengthening one’s reputation and image as an employer is an effective way to attract the best people, while a strong internal brand is crucial to retain talent. The talent a company attracts—and keeps— can boost future earnings. 
    • Measuring and tracking a brand’s value helps companies decide which initiatives are necessary to build its brand power. 
    • A vivid dialogue means benefits for all stakeholders, but marketers must bear in mind that fruitful brand conversations happen when brands are positive, passionate, open and responsive. 

    For the full ranking, detailed information, and interviews with marketing leaders visit www.bestswissbrands2014.ch

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  • Posted by: Bill Chidley on Monday, September 16 2013 06:05 PM | Comments (0)

    Kirkland Peanut Butter

    Costco recently let its members know that it is back in the peanut butter business. Pallets of Kirkland Natural Peanut Butter were absent from its warehouse club for almost a year because of a shortage of the Valencia peanuts critical to its beloved recipe. In response, Costco has worked directly with farmers to ensure an unbroken supply of the special peanuts going forward. As most retailers continuously challenge themselves with how to be brands and not just stores, Costco has just behaved like a truly amazing brand, just by being true to itself.

    Peanut butter seems like an unlikely hero in a business the size of Costco, with the thousands of items it routinely stocks, but to US shoppers it is a fundamental ingredient of everyday living and they can’t be without it. Delisting a key SKU like peanut butter could mean losing not just a sale but an entire trip, as shoppers may substitute Costco with their grocery store, and pick up other items on their “Costco” list while there.

    The future win outweighs the short-term loss. The peanut butter story will become lore for the Kirkland brand (which is a proxy for Costco) that is extendable across all Kirkland merchandise. It all must have be worthy of the same quality scrutiny, so shoppers will trust the brand when they are doing their laundry as well as when they are making their sandwiches.

    At the core of Costco’s business success is its unwavering focus on creating member value. Costco’s focus on creating value beyond price is the ingredient that drives brand value for any great brand. It's doubtful that anywhere in a Costco internal marketing document, brand manifesto or operations manual it's stated that products should be discontinued if there is a potential reduction in the quality of the product experience; it’s just the Costco way.

    Members may just love the taste of the Kirkland peanut butter, and not associate it with the small Valencia peanuts, and likewise, members may love Costco and not associate their feelings with all the seemingly small decisions Costco makes about their store and merchandise. Branding is a collection of smaller things that individually may seem not to matter, but collectively can add up to greatness.

    For branding to be successful in any organization it cannot be seen as a tool to “manufacture” greatness, it must clarify and amplify what should already exist, or help uncover and activate what could be. For Costco, evaluating every decision in terms of its impact on member value is a reflex, like the muscle memory of a great athlete.

    Bill Chidley is SVP, Executive Consultant, Interbrand Design Forum.


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