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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: Ilan Beesen on Tuesday, May 6 2014 12:43 PM | Comments (0)

    Brand Mashups

    To keep customers on their toes, brands have to figure out how to create unexpected connections. For some, that means exploring new ways to collaborate with others to create the never-before-seen. 

    The decision to pursue one type of partnership or another is definitely a strategic one. Think Intel chips in Dell computers—one brand lending a key capability to another. Of course, most co-branding/ingredient/sponsorship relationships feature one brand in support of the other. Attribution? Often unequal.

    But what happens when two brands meet each other as equals? They create something different. Unique. That’s the brand mash-up, and it’s sometimes expressed as Brand x Brand, or Brand + Brand.

    That naming convention suggests more than just one brand helping another. It’s the mingling of two different forces and promises—even industries—to create something that’s neither one nor the other—the unexpected third.

    It’s not totally new, but it’s still on the fringes—practiced by the most inventive. The Stussy x Nike mash-up pairs two very different styles and design sensibilities to produce shoes that are not entirely Nike or Stussy.

    Nike has been at it for a while, in fact. It was Nike + iPod in the early days that later produced the brilliant Nike+ set of products. This was the perfect marriage of design, tech, apparel, and fitness. Other notables include, M.I.A x Versus, Adidas x Opening Ceremony. Even retail stores like Target + Neiman Marcus are getting in the mix.

    While most mash-ups involve CPG and/or retail, GE is a notable exception. GE + Quirky pairs the resources of GE with the grassroots inventors of Quirky. The mix creates fun, jointly produced products that people wouldn’t expect from GE.

    Bloggers are getting in on the side-by-side game. Take Google x Berg for instance. This experimental collaboration may take Google out of the digital and into the real world. The key word being, “experimental.” The essence of the mash-up is nobody knows exactly what to expect.  

    We’re on the lookout for the next unexpected mash-up that will change the way we look at some of our favorite brands. What’s your dream mash-up? What would it change?

    Ilan Beesen is a Senior Consultant at Interbrand.

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  • Posted by: Margaret Baughman on Wednesday, November 13 2013 05:27 PM | Comments (0)
    Chipotle Scarecrow

    Content is weighing heavily on the minds of marketers. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 86 percent of B2C marketers and 93 percent of B2B marketers are investing in content marketing, and the reason is clear. Instead of pushing communications at consumers or engaging in a two-way dialogue, marketers must deliver brands with consumers and content marketing is leading the way.

    Consumers now control the conversation around brands, and brand-created content must provide genuine utility to compete in the attention economy. If the content is truly “useful,” consumers will share and amplify the brand’s message by their own volition. Effective content marketing pulls consumers in and enables them to deliver the brand across media channels to their networks. As a result, paid, owned and earned media are no longer distinct but converging and it’s becoming harder to distinguish advertising from information.

    Content marketing traditionally focused on churning out intellectual property. Today’s content marketing has shifted from content as expertise, to content as a service, as entertainment and even inspiration. Consumer and B2B brands are stepping into a new role as publishers and producers of content and are relying on consumers to expand their distribution power.

    Developing a successful content marketing strategy is no easy task. It requires new ways of creating and deploying content across digital touchpoints. These challenges were addressed at the ANA Content Marketing Members-Only Conference, hosted at by Thomson Reuters and presented by A&E Television in New York. The event included speakers from Charles Schwab, GE, A&E, Post Foods and L’Oréal and a panel with participants from Thomson Reuters, Ogilvy and Interbrand’s Chris Koller, Senior Director of Strategy.

    The five speakers and three panelists shared an inside look at how content marketing is playing an important role in their marketing strategies today. Below are three key learnings from the day.

    As brands become publishers, marketers must learn to think and act like journalists

    The role and scope of marketers is expanding, as they become brand “journalists” and “editors,” finding and curating stories that support the brand. Brands can longer push out whitepapers; they need to have a strong point of view and take a stand.

    GE Sponsored PostAt Charles Schwab, Helen Loh, VP of Content and Digital Marketing, leveraged the expert insights that were already a core part of the business and placed this content where it was most native to their customers, positioning Schwab as a trusted advisor.

    At GE, Jason Hill, Director of International Advertising, sees the role of his team as “telling stories that lay claim to our innovation.” Finding the inspiration for content that exists within the business requires marketing to become intimate with inter-workings of the business, which is especially challenging inside large, complex organizations. Hill and his team looked for narratives within the organization that demonstrated how “big” could also be “personal,” building humanity into the GE brand.

    Embracing content marketing means working with new internal and external partners

    Marketers are organizing to create effective content, developing new processes and partnerships. Brands are partnering with media companies, creating syndicated content, sponsoring content or co-creating content. In order to distribute content across a range of digital touchpoints, marketing is integrating more closely with technology and IT departments.

    Loh discussed the necessity of working closely with colleagues in IT and product development, who were critical partners in fueling and creating content on investing insights at Charles Schwab. Hill’s team at GE partnered externally, joining forces with The Economist to develop Look Ahead, a series of GE sponsored content that provides “A daily look at innovation that transforms global business.”

    Marketers are also implementing new styles of working and even changing their physical environment to create agile and collaborate teams. At Post Foods, Jennifer Mennes, Director of Media and Public Relations, alongside her agency partner, Dan Curran, President of Manifest Digital, updated their physical space to create a newsroom-like culture. At A&E, Lori Peterzell, VP of Marketing and Brand Strategy, and her team have created a “social media war room” to provide viewers with shareable content in real time when new episodes of Duck Dynasty are aired.

    Creating relevant content requires a deeper understanding of the customer

    An intimate understanding of the customer and the customer journey is key to determining how and when content should be provided. As customer data becomes more readily available, marketers are getting better at segmenting their audiences, personalizing brand experiences, and placing content where it is “native” to customers.

    Panelist Koller pointed to Chiptole’s cause marketing strategy as best-practice example of identifying an issue that’s important to customers and fully embracing it. Chipotle’s Scarecrow campaign takes a bold, even risky, position on the issue of sustainable food production while establishing an emotional connection to the customer.

    Duck DynastyTo reach customers when content is most likely to be relevant, Schwab provides investing insight in real time following an important shift in the market when customers are looking for immediate advice. The social media and marketing teams at A&E develop Duck Dynasty content in advance based on what moments in the show they believe will be the most shareable and make it available in real time as viewers watch the latest episode. This strategy has helped Duck Dynasty to arguably become the most social TV show in history.

    Content-worthy moments are also created when products and experiences are designed around customer insights. Panel moderator Stephen Sonnenfeld, VP of Corporate Advertising and Brand Integration at Thomson Reuters, described the first time he used the Chase banking app to deposit a check. He was delighted by this new service, which so perfectly addressed an unmet need in his daily life, that he gathered his family around to watch the event, becoming an advocate for the brand, unprompted. As Hill from GE put it: “Products are marketing.”

    Content marketing may be saving brands from irrelevance in the post-digital world, but it’s also creating richer, more valuable experiences for consumers and this is why it is one of most exciting times to be a marketer in our industry’s history. In addition to developing content that’s a win-win for businesses and consumers, marketers today have an opportunity to directly influence business operations and direct the future of their organizations. 

    Rather than create content as an output of innovation and product development, today’s content marketing positions marketing as a valuable input. Content marketing is branding at its best: An authentic representation of the business strategy that brings intrinsic value to consumers.

    Margaret Baughman is a Consultant, Strategy, for Interbrand.

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  • Posted by: Amy Edel-Vaughn on Wednesday, January 30 2013 04:49 PM | Comments (0)

    AVIAGE Systems, looking to position itself as “a global civil avionics leader,” turned to Interbrand to develop a new, cohesive global brand identity for the organization. AVIAGE Systems is a joint venture between GE Aviation and AVIC (Aviation Industry Corporation of China ).

    The company was unveiled in Zhuhai, Guandong China and will be headquartered in Shanghai, China with support sites in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA and Cheltenham, UK. AVIAGE Systems is working with clients on projects such as the COMAC C919, a new narrow-body commercial aircraft being built in China.

    AVIAGE Systems

    Nate Manning, General Manager of AVIAGE Systems, says of the logo, it conveys a “message of strength and optimism about the future.” The name AVIAGE Systems honors the joint venture between AVIC and GE and the Chinese name, 昂际, means “open to the future of aviation and soaringfreely without boundaries.”

    "In approaching the design for AVIAGE Systems, we wanted to honor aviation, a market where design elements frequently celebrate and reinforce tradition, through the visual of the cock-pit,” said Mike Knaggs, Interbrand Creative Director. "At the same time we wanted to push the design further than what is typically seen in designs for brands in this space and convey flexibility and innovation. Through the wings, the logo conveys AVIAGE Systems' openness to customers' changing needs, expressing the business opportunity of open systems.”

    “We wanted to create a symbol that would serve as a functional tool in both English and Mandarin and would visually capture the excitement for this unique venture's business opportunities," Knaggs notes.Manning adds, the logo symbolizes, “the improved flight experience and advanced operational environment brought by AVIAGE Systems’ open architecture and integrated avionics solutions.”

    AVIAGE Systems

    Rubén Galgo of brandemia says of the design, “Hoy nos hacemos eco del nacimiento de un nuevo gigante de la aeronáutica internacional.” (“Today we echo the birth of a new international aerospace giant.”) “Visualmente estamos ante una marca compuesta (símbolo + logotipo) o imagotipo, muy bien diferenciados. Hay gente que también verá en ella dos alas juntas o un avión en vista cenital… es como mirar a las nubes, cada uno ve una cosa diferente,” he adds. (“Visually this is a mark (symbol + logo) or very distinct imagotype. Some people also see in it two wings together or a plane overhead view ... it’s like looking at the clouds, everyone sees something different.”)

    He concludes, “Para mi, un buen ejercicio.” (“For me, a good exercise.”)

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  • Posted by: Jeff Mancini on Wednesday, January 19 2011 12:42 PM | Comments (0)

    There were plenty of goggles to wear at CES this year, but through a brand lens, things were fairly blurry. My colleagues and I were constantly reminding each other of where we were, as one brand environment flowed into the next. It wasn’t just the design that threw us for a loop; it was the 3D, the “other” ipads, and the “smart” — the "smart" everything. Smart phones led to smart homes, which contain smart appliances, including smart TVs, showing smart ads of smart cars. This begs the question: If everyone is smart, then, well, who is really?

    What is smart?

    According to Wikipedia, “Smart TV is also sometimes referred to as ‘Connected TV,’ (not to be confused with Internet TV, Web TV or LG Electronics's upcoming "SMART TV" branded NetCast Entertainment Access devices).”

    Confused? So are many consumers. While true technology enthusiasts know the difference between an ecosystem, a platform, and a device, the average consumer does not. The word “smart,” when used with such excess and frequency, just reads like white noise to their ears.

    To make matters worse, the word is actually used in different contexts by various brands. For example, industrial giants like GE and tech innovators like IBM use “smart” to talk about power networks with two-way digital communication — the smart grid.  Meanwhile, “smart” also refers to a platform for applications to run on, in the case of the mobile phone, and now the television market. Then, for other companies, like Samsung, which refer to its TVs as “smart,” it is a device branding technique. Finally, even GE got on the bandwagon with a “smart dispense” system, using the word for ingredient branding for a new appliance line.

    Two approaches to “smart”
    GE was one brand that  did a great job of branding its technology story both at CES and in its marketing communications, with a minimal use of the word “smart.” There is a nice overall connection to the ecomagination brand platform with some strong names like Nucleus and Brillion — components of its cost-tracking energy platform for the home. While it references the “smart” grid, a strategic focus for its product development strategy, the word smart does not become a core component of its branding strategy. Both Nucleus and Brillion recall intelligent technology and a larger initiative to make homes more connected and efficient. A few instances of “smart” sneak in when referencing a third-party smart meter and, of course, smart phone applications.

    Panasonic, which has a very similar brand platform — ideas for life/eco ideas — also makes a meaningful case for its technology. And yet, a quick google search for Panasonic + smart will pull up a frightful case of “smart” branding gone wild.

    Here’s a short list of Panasonic products from just three search results pages: Smart phone, Smart card, Smart Card Reader, Smart Board, Smart Networking (Viera), Smart Adapter, Smart Battery Charger, iPro SmartHD Video Server, Smart Movie Software, Smart Home, Smart Grid, Smart Lamp, Smart Air (conditioner), Smart Bed, and, of course, a Smart TV.

    So, to all brand marketers out there reading this, please consider the points above. There is a limit to how much we can take of one word, and this dog has already had his day. Maybe those of you reading now have a suggestion or two to post in the comments section below. Perhaps, together, we can make technology branding a little less "smart.”

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