The We First Blog.

Cultural Leadership: How to Command Attention on a Global Scale

August 20, 2014 Comments

In our latest G+ hangout, Leveraging Cultural Conversations to Build Your Brand, Community, and Impact, we spoke with Aaron Sherinian, VP of Communication and PR for the UN Foundation (and one of our fantastic speakers at our upcoming Brand Leadership Summit) about how organizations can become leaders in cultural conversations and build movements.

While it’s very easy to get lost in the executional strategies of social technology tools, marketers are now being challenged at a higher level: to engage consumers and citizens in ways so they feel that your brand is meaningful and relevant to their lives. To achieve this, you must go beyond marketing and play an authentic role in those cultural conversations that are on the forefront of the public’s consciousness.

Global communities are redefining culture:

As technology breaks down physical barriers, everyday citizens can now play roles of both local and global activists. We can truly see how interconnected we are, in real time, which helps people understand issues in the context of a bigger picture.

For example, it used to be difficult to speak on the issue of climate change, as it was a broad stroke, somewhat amorphous topic for many. As well, it was difficult to tap into an audience beyond the small groups already in the know. But now, through the power of social storytelling and digital community architecture, climate change has become a cultural topic that is deeply personal and shareable. People are now able to articulate why and how climate change affects their lives, moving beyond the initial conversation of weather to bigger philosophical questions such as, in which sort of companies will we invest, what kind of food are we going to eat, and what sort of places and environments do we want to be available in our world in the future.

Now, not only is it easy for brands to get involved in issues like climate change, poverty, and health, but it’s actually deleterious for a brand to not have a strong point of view on our society’s most pressing problems.

Global communities mean global crowdsourcing and partnerships:

Something that the UN Foundation knows through its many experiences is that no one sector can tackle global problems by itself. Last year, the UN used digital media and mobile technology to engage with hundreds of thousands of people around the world in shaping the next generation of anti-poverty goals, building on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which have helped to reduce by half the proportion of people living in extreme poverty in the course of the past decade.

Today, we can’t afford not to lock arms with each other and with organizations that are value-aligned. If you’re a company, you should be partnering with a nonprofit today as it keeps you authentically in the know. As well, nonprofits must partner with brands that have the ability to leverage large resources and constituencies in order to affect change on a greater scale. If you are not partnering with a brand or vice versa, you will probably do some good work alone, but you won’t be maximizing results. By talking about your cause courageously in the public square, it allows people to poke at the efficiency and efficacy of your plan, which will only improve your strategy and bring other like-minded parties to the table.

3 tenets for commanding attention on a global scale:

Leaders, non-profits, and brands that go beyond creating awareness and step up to offer solutions, now have the opportunity to transcend their categories and industries and position themselves as cultural leaders. Here’s how:

  1. Ask questions: For instance, the UNF constantly asks, how do you give back? If you are not asking what matters to people, you will never truly understand the issue or how to affect change.
  1. Celebrate and share: Too often, organizations and brands try to own the change, wanting all the credit for a movement. Instead, celebrate your community, celebrate your core values, and share the responsibility to bring change to life. By building bridges and uniting others, your brand will not only demonstrate authentic commitment, but your impact will be that much bigger.
  1. Tools, not rules: The key to the power of #GivingTuesday was the decision to provide the community with the tools, resources, and assets they need to personalize the campaign and make it their own. Inspire the creativity in your community members, and they will come up with incredibly unique ways to share your campaign, far beyond what one marketing or PR team could have come up with on their own.

Today, each of us has a role to play in the future of our world, whether you’re a solopreneur working from your kitchen table, or a social enterprise in a high growth company, or a major corporation with long standing practices in marketing, or an NGO or nonprofit. We need a holistic solution pointed in a new direction and just as our problems are complex and interwoven, our solutions need to be inclusive and interwoven, leveraging the talent and resources of many smart people around the world.

If you are interested in learning how to tell your purposeful brand story and embrace the role of cultural leadership, join us at the 2014 Brand Leadership Summit. Promo code HANGOUT saves $500, but hurry- ticket prices increase Sept. 1st.



Live G+ Hangout: Leveraging Cultural Conversations to Build Your Brand, Community, and Impact

August 7, 2014 Comments

As society expects companies to be more responsible and demands demonstrable impact from both the private and non-profit sector alike, the smartest organizations are stepping up to lead cultural conversations and partner with other brands and leaders.

If you are interested in learning how organizations can identify and become leaders in cultural conversations and build movements, please join We First and the UN Foundation on August 11th for a free Google+ Hangout: Leveraging Cultural Conversations to Build Your Brand, Community, and Impact.

G+ Hangout Leveraging Cultural Conversations to Build your Brand, Community and ImpactYou’ll hear from:

-Simon Mainwaring, Founder and CCO of We First, who will lay out how a new breed of purpose-driven social brands are transcending their industries and shaping culture

-Aaron Sherinian, VP of Communications and PR for the UN Foundation, who will discuss how climate change transcended the realm of politics to become a cultural topic, what he and his team have learned from the uber-success of #GivingTuesday, and the UNF’s plan to crowd-source the new Millennium Goals.

We’ll have a live Q&A, so submit your questions directly on the Hangout event page and start tagging all your questions on social media with #WeFirst14

This will be a great way to connect with other leaders and change agents from all over the globe, so please share with others who are passionate about building business while make a difference in the world.

Aaron Sherinian will also be one of the fantastic speakers at our 2014 Brand Leadership Summit, Oct 7-8 in L.A. This event is limited to 200 leaders but there is still time to reserve your spot at



How Brands And Consumers Build A Sustainable Future

July 31, 2014 Comments

A study by Mckinsey and the CECP, Shaping the Future: Solving Social Problems through Business Strategy,  lays out four alternatives for our future:

1. Corporations respond to expectations for greater social responsibility and government allows corporations to voluntarily meet these expectations.

2. Corporations try to adopt socially responsible practices but customers don’t trust them, so government and NGO’s stop partnering with them creating bifurcated capitalism.

3. Companies refuse to work for global change, forcing government regulations and adding to expenses and fuelling customer distrust.

4. Society and corporations cannot match expectations, creating a downward spiral of social responsibility plus economic, environmental and social decline.

In the video above, We First Founder and CCO, Simon Mainwaring, discusses how these four versions of the future presume that we want a better world and that we want the private sector to play a role- but positive outcomes will not come unless business makes authentic commitments and embraces collaboration with both consumers and other industry partners.


Brands cannot survive in societies that fail

Caring about the future of society and the planet is key to the future of business. After all, if there is no middle class to buy your products you won’t have a business. If the infrastructure of society collapses, you won’t even be able to conduct business for long. Based on this realization, what does this mean for marketers?

1. Remember that old adage, If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem? Well, if your company is not responding to the crises of the world we actually live in, your brand will be viewed as a destructive force.

2. As the data continues to show, consumers expect brands to be more responsible and are extremely aware of the power they have with brands because of consumer activism.

We can build a better world and build our business

We live in a mutually dependent global marketplace and the best brands are rising up to lead cultural conversations and even partner with other brands. In return, these smart companies reap the benefits of purposeful marketing and engagement including:

1. Clarity of business strategy

2. Employee retention, satisfaction, and productivity

3. Consumer goodwill, loyalty, and profits

4. Brand awareness, PR, and community engagement

For example, according to the Stengel 50, a study done with over 50,000 brands over ten years, establishes a cause and effect relationship between a brand’s ability to serve a higher purpose and its financial performance. Notably, investment in these 50 companies over the past decade would have been 400% more profitable than an investment in the S&P 500.

The Stengel 50: Sustainability MatterSmart brands embrace purpose

Some examples of brands that have listened include Yoplait, with its Save Lids to Save Lives initiative to raise donations for breast cancer; Starbucks’ Shared Planet proposition, a commitment to only give consumers ethically and responsible grown coffee; and Pampers’ partnership with UNICEF for 1 pack = 1 vaccine to help eliminate maternal and newborn tetanus, a preventable disease that has taken many lives of newborns and many others.

Sustainability now is no longer dismissed as merely good intentions, but is now properly recognized as key business driver that has mass impact. And with fast moving social technology on our side, the cultural conversation around holistic sustainability and what citizens expect from business will only intensify. 

For 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.



How Coca-Cola Brings New Life Into Its Bottles And Brand

July 22, 2014 0 Comments

Coca-Cola is currently rolling out an innovative and environmentally responsible initiative called Coca-Cola 2nd Lives, starting in Vietnam and then expanding across Asia. At the heart of this effort is the intent to give their disposable bottles a second life …

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What The Lego PR Crisis Can Teach You About How To Protect Your Brand

July 17, 2014 3 Comments

Much has been written about the impact of social media on marketing and the demand for greater transparency and accountability from brands. The business landscape is now littered with examples of its impact from the ousting of high profile CEO’s …

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Understanding How the World Sees You and Your Fascination Advantage

July 15, 2014 0 Comments

Sally Hogshead is Hall of Fame speaker, international author, and the world’s leading expert on fascination. Sally sat down with the We First team for a Q&A to share why she wrote her latest book, ‘How the World Sees You: …

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Sustainability Stories: Three Common Marketing Mistakes

July 9, 2014 0 Comments

Originally published in CSRwire In today’s radically transparent social business marketplace, the reputation of a company extends way beyond its marketing to include its supply chain, manufacturing processes, employee treatment and customer engagement. Likewise, full circle sustainability requires that companies …

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Self-Disruption: Personal Innovation for Public Relevance

July 8, 2014 0 Comments

I recently had the pleasure of keynoting at the PromaxBDA conference in New York City, attended by many of the entertainment industry’s top studio and network executives. This conference is a fantastic forum for leadership of all types in digital, …

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About Simon Mainwaring

Simon Mainwaring is the founder of We First, a leading brand consultancy that provides purpose-driven strategy, content, and training that empowers companies to lead business, shape culture, and better our world.