The We First Blog.

Yes, Consumers Actually Care and Purpose Pays Off

July 1, 2014 Comments

These days many companies are making efforts to put mindful and sustainable business practices into action. Yet despite daily stories of consumer activism, many still ask the important question: Does caring convert into action when it comes down to a buying decision? New data from Google and Nielsen find that the answer is yes, and for a growing number of consumers around the world.

The path to purpose is the path to purchase: A growing motivation for consumers to go online is to enrich themselves and find information to help them fulfill their passions. As such, Google reports that these consumers choose brands that engage them on their passions and interests 42% more often than those that simply urge them to buy the product being advertised. That’s why they also consider it critical for a brand to demonstrate its principles at all times when a customer is looking at different options. Finally, these purpose-driven customers are more valuable, being 70% more likely to have purchased something online in the past month and 1.6x more likely to rate a product or service online at least once a week (versus consumers driven simply by entertainment or connection).

People will pay more for purpose: According to the 2013 Cone Communications Social Impact Study, U.S. consumer likelihood to choose brands associated with a cause, given comparable price and quality, has jumped from two-thirds of the population in 1993 to nearly the entire population in 2013. Moreover, 55% of global respondents in Nielsen’s corporate social responsibility survey were willing to pay extra for products and services from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact—an increase from 45% in 2011.

Authenticity and inspiration are the new currency: Capitalizing on these cultural behaviors is becoming increasingly difficult as more and more brands come to market with a message of purpose. It’s not enough to simply put a ribbon on a package or talk about “sustainability” in broad sweeping terms but instead, takes a commitment to clarity, authenticity, and expert storytelling to connect with consumers. Consumers are media savvy and faced with seemingly limitless content and media options, so clarity around what companies are doing to effect change and exactly how consumers can play a role is critical.

Reaching these powerful new consumers is hard work, but it’s also a major opportunity for brands that truly understand what Google terms as “Gen C.” Generation C is not defined in the traditional sense of age parameters, but because they thrive on Connection, Community, Creation and Curation. About 65% of Gen C are under 35, but regardless of how old they are, for these tastemakers, knowledge and inspiration are their currency and they openly welcome the right brands into their circles. In fact, three in four Gen C consumers share the brand they love.

The degree to which purpose influences purchases is eye-opening and is quickly becoming table stakes for long-term market leadership. But for those brands that have defined their higher purpose, view citizens and customers as partners in change, and leverage technology to tell an inspirational and shareable brand stories, the sky’s the limit.

If you’d like two days of hands-on training on how to define, frame, and share a purposeful brand story and build out your own 2015 Social Branding Blueprint™ based on the latest marketing research and case studies, join us Oct 7-8 at the 2014 We First Brand Leadership Summit.

Written by Dana Byerlee, VP of Marketing at We First.


Why Restraint Was The Key To GoPro’s Success

June 27, 2014 Comments

The IPO of GoPro this week was an enormous success with the share price jumping 36 percent from its 24-dollar début. This is yet another successful milestone for a company that has gone from strength to strength under the guidance of its self-made billionaire founder, but while many point towards the brand’s over-the-top videos as the core of their success, there is a larger branding lesson to be learned that turns on its skill of restraint.

1. Stay focused on your core audience 
The miniaturized high definition cameras have allowed all manner of action sport heroes to document their most death defying feats. Yet, what GoPro did so well was to remain squarely focused on the most extreme examples of those videos, constantly resisting the temptation to dilute its brand by sharing videos that would actually make its products more accessible to a wider audience. Instead, they focused on their core constituency, those athletes who live on the extreme edge of every sport, and let the natural dynamics of those influencers propagate the brand amongst those who admire them. It was through this dynamic that GoPro brought life to their tagline, ‘Be a HERO,’ because these videos functioned as something to which the everyday athlete could aspire. Too often, we see brands enjoy initial success, then try to capture an ever-wider market share by diluting or broadening their brand voice, only to find that it loses the appeal which ignited success in the first place.

2. Allow your brand to become your customers’ platform 
What GoPro did so well was to position the brand in the service of the customer from the get-go. We almost take these extreme videos for granted now, but it is important not to lose sight of the fact that GoPro, like so many other camera or personal manufacturers, must have been sorely tempted to talk about its products and its functions. Instead, it let the product speak for itself by celebrating its customers and allowing the brand to be a platform. In doing so, the company engineered enormous goodwill because customers truly felt that GoPro existed to give them the tool to earn social currency and inspire others by sharing the videos of their extreme activities. So much so, that even to wear a GoPro, quickly became a badge of honor, whether or not that customer was an extreme athlete.

3. Celebrate user-generated content 
The final thing GoPro did so well was to recognize that the true power of social technology is not the ability to promote and sell your product to an individual, but rather to inspire a customer to talk about your product to somebody else. By focusing its brand message on the ability to capture and share a user’s experience, the brand created a seemingly endless stream of content that so many fans wanted to share. In fact, this dynamic elevated to the point where people started to compete to create the most extreme video in their category and we immediately started to see the emergence of top ten lists and global engagement around videos created by GoPro products. That is when the public’s imagination truly took ownership of the brand’s story and these miniaturized cameras became a signature artifact for a life lived at its most outer edge.

It was the combination of these three sound strategies propelling the success of GoPro that captured investors’ imaginations and underscored its successful IPO this week. Every veteran marketer would do well to learn some lessons from the founder of GoPro whose company and product was born out of an authentic commitment to bring new life to sports’ most memorable moments. The company’s focus on celebrating their users’ experiences rather than selling a product is what ultimately drove the success of the company. These dynamics are what continue to distinguish GoPro from a growing crop of competitors who have failed to leverage these powerful human dynamics to build their brand and product success.

Join us Oct 7-8 at the 2014 We First Brand Leadership Summit for two days of hands-on training on social branding, community architecture, and cultural leadership.


21st Century Leadership: 3 Master Strokes by Elon Musk

June 20, 2014 Comments

When Elon Musk announced last week that he would open source Tesla’s valuable intellectual property he commanded great attention across the auto industry and the private sector. Not only did he do something profoundly counterintuitive in terms of the traditional self-serving interests of a company discharging its fiduciary duty to shareholders, but he also demonstrated a new type of leadership that will not only propel the success of Tesla but also build a brighter future for the planet.

In doing so, Musk demonstrated three signature traits of what it means to be a truly inspiring leader in the 21st century.

1. The future of profit is purpose: Too many CEO’s never ignite the public’s imagination because they fail deliver the lofty promises they made at the outset of their tenure. Yet Musk continues to deliver on the promise he made in his first blog post about Tesla where he stated that his intentions were to reinvent the auto industry and overcome its dependence on fossil fuel in the service of a sustainable planet.

Musk did this because an auto industry that produces a hundred million fossil fuel vehicles annually is simply not sustainable. So by making his intellectual property open source, he is changing his business model to respond to the reality of the world we actually live in which is facing multiple ecological crises. He also recognized that this choice is good for business because if electric cars are to achieve their manufacturing economies of scale and become price competitive against fossil fuel cars, they need to scale rapidly. So on both fronts, the future of profit is purpose for Tesla.

This masterstroke is already paying dividends as the press has reported that Nissan and BMW are keen on talks to cooperate on building a network to expand Tesla’s existing 97 charging stations that currently dot a path across the continental U.S.

2. The evolution of revolution is contribution: Elon Musk is profoundly aware that the values of socially conscious Baby Boomers, Millennials, and Gen Z buyers are very different to those of past generations. So by putting the full might of the company behind a vision of a more sustainable planet, he is tapping into some of the most powerful business drivers that will determine which companies lead the future.

This does not come without a cost, however, as we have seen various states either legislate or organize unions to block the adoption of Tesla vehicles and their companion charging stations. 

Yet Musk is willing to weather these storms in the service of his mission and because he realizes that by contributing to the well-being of the majority, Tesla is ultimately serving its own self-interest most effectively.

3. The best hope for business is the business of hope: Musk knows that he is marketing to an intimately connected and media-savvy consumer base who are very aware of how many social crises the planet is facing from resource scarcity, to loss of bio-diversity, to over population. As such, Musk has positioned his personal and professional commitment to Tesla in alignment with his customer base who want to live in a brighter future, who believe that it is possible, and who will work together with the company to realize that goal. In doing so, he has won the goodwill and admiration of existing and potential customers throughout the country for his commitment to the greater good. This sentiment is not only reflected in the industry press, but also in Tesla’s stock price, which rallied to an all-time high on the announcement of the news.

The world in which we live today is profoundly different to the one that gave birth to the auto industry. Like many others, Musk recognizes that we now live on a planet of finite resources challenged by countless environmental and social crises, and that the window of time in which we must change our behavior as a species is rapidly closing. As risky as it may seem to open up the IP of your company to competitors, it is far riskier to perpetuate a dependency on a fuel source that is ultimately unsustainable and doing harm to our planet.

The gap between practices of the past and new behaviors of the future is a difficult gap to bridge and will require more examples of powerful leadership as we see in Musk. If you want to tap into these new business drivers and build your business on the strength of a personal and professional commitment to a brighter future, then interrogate your business model, product line-up, and marketing strategy through the lens of these three master strokes and related questions:

1. The future of profit is purpose

– Have your defined a higher purpose for your brand?

– Do you products reflect values you share with your customers?

– Are you giving customers ways to work with you to fulfill a common goal? 

2. The evolution of revolution is contribution

– Have you built contribution into the way customers consume your products?

– Is your company making a contribution in alignment with its purpose?

– Are you building a competitive advantage by using contribution to differentiate your brand?

3. The best hope for business is the business of hope.

– Have you told your customers how you will make the world a better place?

– Is the tone of your brand marketing optimistic and inspiring?

– Do you share your positive progress with customers?

The sooner companies from all industries rise to this challenge, the sooner their efforts can compound to reverse the tide of damage currently being done to the planet and our futures. Fortunately, the fastest way for a company to ensure its own well-being over the long-term is to reframe its business strategies around the same principles listed above, and in doing so, a CEO or CMO can not only build a brighter future, but also position the company for long-term leadership as well.

Join us Oct 7-8 at the 2014 We First Brand Leadership Summit  for two days of hands-on training on how to define, frame and share a brand story that empowers your company to lead business, shape culture, and better our world.



Insights from Coca-Cola: Listen and Let Your Customer Be the Star of the Story

June 13, 2014 1 Comments

As the Global Marketing Director for Sustainability Strategy and Communication at The Coca-Cola Company, Javier Rodriguez Merino’s role is to share how Coca-Cola helps communities around the world and all the new ways it’s driving sustainable innovation. He’s also one …

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Unilever, Coca-Cola, and Facebook to speak at the 2014 Brand Leadership Summit

June 4, 2014 0 Comments

Connected customers now expect greater responsibility from brands and are willing to reward them for it. As such, the opportunity for leading brands is nothing short of building their reputation and sales by literally stepping up to lead cultural conversations …

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How Target Built a Brand Story That Benefits Employees, Customers, and Community

May 28, 2014 3 Comments

Many large corporations find themselves in a difficult bind. They are fully aware that their customers want them to be more socially responsible. Specifically, the Cone Communications / Echo Global CSR Study found that only 6% of global consumers believe …

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How Social Media Can Kill Your Brand and Three Ways To Avoid It

May 13, 2014 6 Comments

It’s common knowledge today that brands now operate in a consumer activist marketplace where their ability to dialogue with brands and each other is shaping brand behavior. Brands are responding because it is far better to avoid or mitigate negative …

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How Autism Awareness Brings Out the Best in Big Brands

April 30, 2014 7 Comments

One of the most powerful forces reshaping the cultural, marketing, and technology landscape is collaboration. Whether it’s citizens uniting around world to demand an end to political injustices, consumers rallying around causes they care about to demand greater social responsibility …

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About Simon Mainwaring

We First training and consulting helps the world’s most innovative brands tell the story of the good work they do in ways that build their reputation, employee productivity, sales and social impact.

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