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  • Posted by: Interbrand on Thursday, May 22 2014 02:56 PM | Comments (0)

    Closing the Gap: Bringing Sustainable Solutions to Customers

    A great deal of innovative CSR work is happening in the business world every day, but there are still too many gaps and missed opportunities.   

    When a recent survey by Walmart's Global Customer Insights and Analytics group revealed that 96 percent of Walmart shoppers indicated they had purchased sustainable products in the past year, the company realized that low prices are only one of numerous expectations. Further, with nine billion people projected to inhabit the planet by 2050, driving efficiency across the current food system is imperative. For Walmart, the key to bringing sustainable solutions to all of its customers is collaboration. Now, the retail giant is joining forces with CEOs from more than a dozen global companies to sign new commitments that accelerate innovation in sustainable agriculture and recycling.   

    Collaboration and supply chain transparency are also core elements of Verizon's commitments to CSR and its mission to use its technology to solve some of the world's most pressing problems in education, healthcare, energy management and sustainability. Recognizing Ericsson with Verizon’s first Top Performance Award for Corporate Social Responsibility, the company acknowledges that working with responsible suppliers enhances competitiveness by improving the way it does business around the globe.   

    IKEA is also doing its part to prove that doing good is good business. From meatless meatballs to wind turbines and solar energy investment, the Swedish retailer putting its money and corporate citizenship on the line. “I’m convinced we are in the middle of this clean revolution right now, but I’m also not convinced we are doing it fast enough,” said IKEA Chief Sustainability Officer Steve Howard. “All the challenges are solvable with the solutions we have today, but we don’t have the right leadership, policies and priorities in place. Most political and business leaders are in a state of denial. Sustainability will be a decisive factor in terms of which business will be here in 30 years time. It’s also the future of business.”   

    In a similar vein, The Hershey Company, recently unveiled its evolved CSR framework—“Hershey Shared Goodness: Good Business, Better Life, Bright Future. Surpassing environmental targets and exceeding its year-one cocoa certification goal, Hershey is delivering on its belief that operating ethically and effectively is simply Good Business. “Our bold, aspirational goals have enabled our people and business to grow significantly,” asserted CEO John P. Bilbrey. “Hershey Shared Goodness directly reflects Milton Hershey’s founding principle of ‘doing well by doing good,’ and positions us for greater growth today and into the future.” 

    Coca-Cola is also doing good—this time, in China. The company is launching a socially responsible bottled-water brand that will fund projects to bring clean drinking water to schoolchildren in rural China, where people have to walk long distances to reach a water supply.  Since socially conscious brands are not as present in China compared to some other markets, Coke saw an opening to do something innovative. While Coke has initiatives in many markets to make soda and water bottles more sustainable, the Chun Yue brand is the first created specifically with the goal of charitably helping communities.

    With resource challenges ahead and many real world problems to be solved here and now, companies like Coca-Cola, Walmart, IKEA, and Hershey are proving that doing good improves both consumer perception and business practices—and that, in turn, boosts profitability. Today's commitments, according to Walmart’s CEO Doug McMillon, “are about creating real systems change from one end of the supply chain to the other—meaning how products are grown and made, how they're transported and sold, and how we touch the lives of people along the way." Now that’s what we call shared value.   

    To find out more about future-proofing, the positive link between sustainability and executive pay, how sustainability helps companies like HP through tough times, and how brands are actively engaging employees in sustainability efforts—or to get more details on the stories above—check out this month’s installment of Closing the Gap!

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  • Posted by: Elyse Burack on Thursday, April 17 2014 04:09 PM | Comments (0)

    Analysts have long debated whether or not the Cable and Satellite TV industry is doomed. Subscriptions to Pay TV are at their lowest level in four years as consumers are seemingly beginning to “cut the cord” and cobble together their own solutions for cheaper and more flexible entertainment options. To add to the matter, the American Customer Satisfaction Index reveals that scores for TV service are, on average, lower than any other consumer sector. The lack of satisfaction is attributed to chronic rate hikes, clunky set top boxes, poor customer service, and a lack of control over which channels one pays for.

    As pent-up frustrations with traditional Pay TV providers increase, customers are turning to “over-the-top” (OTT) providers including Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. Late last year, the Xbox One, PS4, and Chromecast emerged making it even easier to watch web-based video. Additionally, emerging disruptive startups continue to reshape the landscape. Aereo, for example, allows consumers to watch and record live TV over the Internet—without having any hardware installed—for a mere $8 a month.

    While there is debate about whether OTT will ever completely replace TV, it’s clear that the way consumers watch video is changing. Streaming services have broken down traditional barriers to viewing content and, as the world becomes more mobile, consumers want to watch content wherever and whenever on any device. Additionally, consumers are increasingly “binge-viewing,” or watching at least 2-3 episodes of a single series in one sitting. According to a 2013 Harris Interactive survey, 61 percent of adult viewers binge watch on a regular basis. This trend is shifting the economics of the industry, given that traditional providers rely heavily on advertising and syndicated reruns.

    Until very recently, Pay TV providers have been able to successfully dig moats around their current business model, only making incremental tweaks to their products and positioning in the marketplace. Recent deals between Verizon and Intel or Comcast and Netflix suggest the incumbents are making significant investments in innovation. Traditional providers have also made technological improvements such as On Demand programs and “TV Everywhere” apps that allow customers to watch certain channels live on mobile devices. While these are certainly positive product improvements, they are not going to revolutionize the video and TV industry. The truth is, incumbents are reluctant to take the risks required to really innovate the category more radically. It’s the disruptors that are remaking the industry.

    Case in point: the fall of Blockbuster and the rise of Netflix. Blockbuster executives were too shortsighted to see the future of the home video industry and failed to recognize how quickly consumer behavior was shifting. Rather than adapting its business model to embrace streaming early on, Blockbuster pursued short-term growth by expanding its stores into outlets for books, toys, and other merchandise. Eventually it jumped on the DVD delivery trend, but it was too late at that point. Blockbuster soon filed for bankruptcy.

    In light of recent trends, many industry speculators are quick to proclaim the demise of the TV industry. But perhaps the true threat lies in the missed opportunity. After all, big companies have big capabilities. Having more resources, more reach, and an established customer base, traditional cable providers actually have greater potential than smaller, disruptive players to invest in innovation and reset industry norms. They can not only adapt, but also lead. By rethinking how they deliver their services and repositioning their brands as visionary, nimble, and cool, traditional cable providers can recapture lost subscribers and market share. This involves not only developing a campaign, but also closely examining and responding to unmet needs. Today, consumers crave seamless interoperability between devices, control over their video options, compelling content, and attentive customer service. They’re engaged by 30-second YouTube clips, but are also increasingly prone to watching 30 hours of their favorite TV series on demand. What does that mean for traditional programming? Should TV evolve into something more social? Or is more personalization the key? It’s a complex landscape and there are no easy answers, but the providers that apply their creativity and resources to the challenge will ultimately lead the charge to innovate.

    While no one can be certain of the future of TV and video consumption, it’s safe to say that it will continue to evolve. As for incumbent providers, the opportunity is theirs to seize or overlook: Do they want to actively shape their industry’s future or simply follow suit?

    Elyse Burack is a Strategy Consultant at Interbrand New York.

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  • Posted by: Kevin Perlmutter on Tuesday, May 14 2013 09:42 AM | Comments (0)
    It Can Wait

    At Interbrand, we think very highly of those that organize around a cause – FEED, water.org, (RED), Heifer International, and others. We applaud corporations that find a voice in support of important causes – GE, Starbucks and others. Then, every once in a while, we are in awe of a situation where the incredible happens, and companies put aside the day-to-day course of competitive business in support of a commitment to a particular issue.

    AT&T is a great example of a company that is putting a good cause ahead of day-to-day business practices. AT&T believes that no text is worth dying for and for years has been using its scale to bring attention to the issue.

    The facts are clear: people who are texting while driving are 23 times more likely to be in an accident and every year there are more than 100,000 texting-related auto accidents. AT&T has been creating awareness and commitment through advertising, events and, more recently, by securing advocacy from many other brands.

    Now, AT&T has inspired its staunchest competitors to get on board with the It Can Wait movement.

    AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile Unite

    Today, AT&T announced that its biggest competitors – Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile – are all joining the movement to save lives.

    The US telecom industry is one of the most head-to-head competitive landscapes that exist in marketing. These four companies are locked in a very public, years-long battle to demonstrate their superiority and with billions of dollars spent to lure customers from one carrier to another.

    Each of the four companies has supported no texting and driving messaging and activities, but by coming together, the US telecom industry has done something remarkable and unprecedented to change human behavior and put an end to texting and driving. It’s another great milestone for the initiative that AT&T started back in 2010, for the industry as a whole, and, most importantly, for the cause itself.

    In addition to these telecom industry leaders, more than 200 organizations have joined the cause including companies like USAA, Walmart, RadioShack, Goodyear, Best Buy; non-profits like The National Organizations for Youth Safety; and government departments like the US Department of Transportation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board. Each will bring to life advocacy in ways that are unique and relevant to their core constituents. USAA and AT&T, for example, will bring a texting-while-driving simulator to over 400 local events, including military audiences through a 15-stop tour to military installations, whereas Goodyear will support the message at events overhead on its blimps.

    AT&T’s Movement Against Texting & Driving

    In 2010, with a significant advertising investment, AT&T launched a series of true story ads showing the last text message that was sent or received before someone’s life was altered, or even ended, because of texting and driving. Timed to impact people’s behavior around New Years Eve 2010, AT&T launched The Last Text, a 10-minute Documentary featuring deeper stories about real people texting and driving has deeply impacted. AT&T achieved its goal, making it available as widely as possible. The Last Text was viewed 100k times on day one, 1M+ views within week three and 3.5M+ to date.

    In 2011, AT&T launched AT&T Drive Mode, an app available on Blackberry and Android devices that can turn off texting capability while driving. Most recent versions can do so automatically through GPS technology that detects the vehicle’s movement. More than 300,000 apps have been downloaded to date.

    In 2012, AT&T intensified its efforts, calling on all Americans to pledge to never text and drive. AT&T launched www.itcanwait.com to aggregate content about the issue, and to feature an online pledge that people can sign.

    AT&T also declared September 19, 2012 No Text on Board Pledge Day. With more than 70 local events, 27 states running don’t-text-and-drive messages on their LED highway signs and a national event in DC with AT&T Chairman Randall Stephenson, FCC Commissioner Julius Genachowski and US Sec. of Transportation Ray LaHood, the day dramatically amplified the message.

    Going into the pledge day, only 200,000 pledges were logged and within days after 9/19/12, AT&T obtained more than 1 million pledges. To date, there are more than 1.4 million pledges. September 19, 2013 will be another day of action for advocates to rally awareness and commitment, in addition to year-round activities.

    AT&T recognized that it was beginning to have a real impact on this important issue. Research results demonstrated greater awareness about the danger of texting and driving and peoples’ intent to change behavior.

    Instead of declaring victory, AT&T decided it was just getting started, and that with the help and support of others, it could accomplish so much more. Heading into 2013, AT&T began to seek the support of other organizations to become advocates of the cause. To date, hundreds of corporations and non-profits have become advocates and are in discussions about offering varying levels of support – from evangelizing among their employees, to being a public endorser of AT&T’s efforts, to putting significant investment behind incremental efforts – all in support of the It Can Wait movement.

    How You Can Join AT&T to Save Lives

    Anyone can become an advocate for this movement. This first, most important, step is to make a personal commitment to not text and drive. At www.itcanwait.com you, your family and your friends can take the pledge.

    Also, any organization – corporate, community, government, non-profit – has a range of options to get involved. At the most basic level, they can evangelize the cause among employees. AT&T has also made it easy for organizations to take a stand among external audiences with easy-to-replicate messaging and communications templates.

    AT&T is also inviting organizations to champion the movement in a big way with a financial commitment and a customized communication effort. All of the details on how to get involved can be found at www.att.com/itcanwait.

    No matter what you choose to do after reading this, please don’t text and drive.

    Kevin Perlmutter is a Senior Director of Brand Strategy in Interbrand’s New York office, and Interbrand’s global telecom sector leader.

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  • Posted by: Hugh Tallents on Friday, October 5 2012 10:48 AM | Comments (0)


    Photo Credit: T-Mobile USA


    T-Mobile announced, Tuesday, the formalization of a deal to merge with Metro PCS. The deal is still subject to regulatory approval, but is unlikely to face too much objection. Ever since the FCC and DOJ combined to block AT&T’s merger with T-Mobile USA last year T-Mobile has been viewed a little bit of a lame duck in the industry, garnering little in the way of investment from its parent company Deutsche Telekom while hemorrhaging customers over the past year to the other 3 networks.

    Metro PCS conversely, with its expanding footprint and customer base in the no contract space (where most of the acquisition growth in the industry is), was viewed as a prime industry takeover target, albeit one whose network was starting to show signs of creaking under the strain of smartphone adoption. Sprint-Nextel, the previous frontrunner, saw its share price tumble on the news, especially since Sprint-Nextel’s and Metro’s networks were the most compatible. The marriage of the two looks set to create, on paper at least a viable 4th player in the market with around 42m customers.

    Metro PCS and T-Mobile USA announced that they will both continue to operate as customer facing brands under the T-Mobile parent name. Their propositions, on the face of it, look perfectly set up to position the new entity as the crossover brand in the industry – the lower end contract customer meets the higher expectation having no contract customer. This solves a problem for T-Mobile because they never really looked like they wanted to be in the no contract business anyway. The margins are smaller, revenue less predictable, their contract brand gets tarnished and the distribution footprint required is fundamentally different. They buried their no contract offer in all communications and it only really gained traction because their master brand became tarnished enough for people to decide between a contract or no contract from T-Mobile.

    Metro PCS conversely is very happy in the no contract space. It stacks them high and sells them cheap and has done very well with a particular affinity amongst a pragmatic group of cost conscious and predictability focused customers. T-Mobile, the parent may even be excited by the idea of having a place to send low value customers while Metro may possibly be encouraged to up sell some of their own customers into a T-Mobile contract.

    In short, you can see why they did it.

    So where’s the problem?

    The problem is the customer. Traditional wisdom was that people went no contract because they couldn’t get credit and thus couldn’t get a contract. Companies like AT&T and Verizon even started pre pay or no contract brands to catch the almost 40% of applicants who fell into that bracket. But this is changing.

    Now there is increasingly attrition from post paid to no contract driven not solely by economic hardship but by a desire to find a smarter and more predictable monthly payment without too much of a drop off in terms of quality.

    T-Mobile is either going to have to retain their no contract offer, which will be duplicative and expensive, or try and migrate their customers to the Metro solution. They can overcome a number of issues via intelligent integration of their distribution, but the attitudinal differences and perception of a quality drop off between T-Mobile and Metro may cause many of their pre pay or no contract customers to go elsewhere which may make the deal less impactful than they may think.

    Metro, also may not want some of the lower value customers that T-Mobile will try to send them and will try to usher them elsewhere – further exacerbating the frustration of a customer base still reeling from 2011’s failed merger. What T-Mobile may quickly find is that it is their disenfranchised contract customers that now walk into the waiting arms of Metro PCS. While that may be preferable to losing them to their post paid competitors, it is rarely a good idea to voluntarily lower the barriers to exit for customers when your company is failing.

    The differences between these two companies are at the same time paper-thin (the width of a contract) and cavernous when it comes to customer profile. If this is a merger predicated on cross selling and upselling, then I’m afraid they are likely way off base. If it is built on consolidating and creating stability for two companies headed in different directions, then it might just work. Regardless, the industry now has a 4th competitor and the FCC will likely see that as a good thing. Whether that 4th player is able to deliver effectively for their customer is another thing entirely.

    Hugh Tallents is a Senior Director of Strategy at Interbrand New York.

    To read our Best Global Brands 2012 analysis of the telecom sector and explore charts on the top 100 brands, please visit www.bestglobalbrands.com

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  • Posted by: Jason Baer on Tuesday, April 20 2010 02:43 PM | Comments (0)

    Bing Crosby told us to “accentuate the positive." I wonder if he’d give that same advice to Audi today.

    If you’ve seen this year’s Audi commercials, created by Venables Bell & Partners, you know that the spots make clever use clichés to stereotype the competition. Lexus, BMW, Mercedes and Audi’s other luxury segment competitors all get a thorough walloping, with their car owners portrayed as soulless drones, vertically challenged wannabes, and bland housewives. And the impact of this advertising is undeniable. After all, who wants to be typecast as a materialistic automaton?

    But what is Audi offering in return? The carmaker is certainly promising to break the pattern of monotony, but how, exactly? Truth in Engineering is a powerful tagline, but Audi’s advertising could help shape this line a bit, and tell us exactly what it is that the brand stands for—as opposed to what it is that their competitors stand for. Sure, the car looks amazing, but Audi doesn’t have a monopoly on good looks.

    Then again, attack ads are nothing new, as the Apple/PC, AT&T/Verizon, and Coke/Pepsi wars can all attest. But speaking strictly for myself (and perhaps for good old Bing Crosby), it would be nice to see Audi start to carve out a unique position in the marketplace. Don’t you think?

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