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Pre-register for the 2014 Brand Leadership Summit and Receive a Free Branding Blueprint Kit

December 27, 2013 Comments

2014 We First Brand Leadership Summit SLS hotel beverly hillsIt’s official: Pre-registration is now open for the 2014 We First Brand Leadership Summit which will be held Oct 7-8 in Beverly Hills at the beautiful SLS Hotel.

And to celebrate the end of a fantastic 2013, we have a very special gift for you: Buy your ticket for We First ’14 before Jan 31st and you’ll not only save 50%, but you’ll also receive our 8-Step Social Branding Blueprint training program (a $700 value) for free! (View more about our video-based training at

Click here to pre-register for We First ’14 and get your free training kit >>

Free branding training kit with We First 14 ticketThis incredible offer gives you everything you need to succeed in 2014:

- On-demand video-based training (DVDs & online portal), an 80-page workbook, and downloadable slides that reveal the best practices of top social brands, and

- A ticket to our 3rd annual Brand Leadership Summit, the premiere 2-day training intensive for brand leadership and purpose-driven marketing.

Here’s why the We First Brand Leadership Summit always sells out:

- The future of profit is purpose: Compounding global crises, fast-changing social technologies and rising consumer activism threaten even the most iconic brands. How you define, frame and share your brand story is your most important strategic business decision today.

- 2 days of hands-on training: You’ll develop an actionable Social Branding Blueprint and lay out a scalable brand storytelling strategy that leverages the latest social technologies in unique ways for your brand.

- Learn from the best: Our speakers are master marketers and community architects from the most innovative brands like Starbucks, charity:water, Coca-Cola and the UN Foundation. Stay tuned for 2014 speaker announcements!

- An incredible group of peers: We First brings together 200 senior marketing, communications, CSR, and Foundation executives from top brands like Coca-Cola, Toyota, Starbucks, Nestle Purina, Chanel, Walgreens, ConAgra, Mattel, and more.

- Social impact: Each registration comes with a free ticket for your favorite non-profit or company Foundation!  We’re proud to report that in 2013, 43 non-profits were able to attend the Summit for free to super-charge their impact.

So save 50% on We First ‘14, invite your favorite non-profit, dive into your free branding training kit, and get ready to be immersed in the case studies, tools, and fresh ideas you need to lead today’s social marketplace.

Hurry, this special ticket + training kit offer expires January 31st! Visit to save 50% and get free your free branding kit now.


8 Steps to Accelerate Your Brand’s Growth in 2014

December 17, 2013 Comments

One of the most exciting opportunities for business is to inspire your customers to build your business with you. Here are eight steps to ensure your customers are sufficiently engaged, loyal, and motivated to share your brand with their networks in 2014.

1. As social business evolves, so should you: In a fast changing business landscape where consumers constantly adopt new experiences through digital, social and mobile technologies, the speed of what is driving sales can be constantly elusive. Keeping up with tech blogs like TechCrunch and Mashable, or experimenting with relatively new channels like Instagram, Pinterest or Vine, enables you to keep up with your customers and ask them how they’d like to interact with your company.

2. Deliver what your audience wants: Companies will be distinguished by the quality of their listening. For example, 73% of global consumers say they would switch brands if a different brand of similar quality supported a good cause. That means you must identify your brand’s core values, ask your customers what they care about, and make authentic and meaningful contributions to those issues if you want to build engagement.

3. Balance your story and its telling: Story will always transcend technology because human beings relate on emotional terms. This means the success of your business will be in direct proportion to the emotional impact you have on your customers. Yet too many companies rush past communicating what they stand for and focus only on marketing tactics (such as PPC, Facebook ads, email blasts, etc). A balance of both is required as you see with Coke’s Open Happiness and Starbuck’s Shared Planet, both of which are powerful stories brought to life in creative tactical ways.

4. Differentiating your brand: What’s your company’s purpose, what are its core values, what are you the only one of – why does your organization even exist? If you can’t articulate your company’s vision for the world, it’s very hard for consumers to connect with your brand or share that story with others. That’s why you need to clearly define your purpose and frame it in the interests of the customer to position your brand as the celebrant, not celebrity, of your customer community.

5. Aligned contribution: Make a contribution in alignment with your company’s core values to meet new demands for transparency, accountability and authenticity. A good example of aligned contribution is United by Blue where the company removes 1 pound of trash from the ocean for every product sold. By doing so, United by Blue made themselves a movement rather than another beachwear company and a badge of honor that customers want to wear and share.

6. Consistent engagement: With smart phones and tablets as constants in our daily lives, brands must learn to engage with customers anytime, anywhere. Real-time, personalized engagement will allow you to understand your customer expectations and meet them faster so you capture your customer’s attention and sales. Without this, customers can assume you are either not interested or less interested than a competitor that can be costly to your business.

7. Community architecture: As soon as you have engaged your audience you need to upgrade that engagement and reward them for doing so. That way you avoid community attrition and the frustration of watching your customers evaporate at the end of one successful campaign. Start by identifying brand ambassadors or fans, create the opportunity to co-create marketing with them, and then reward them when they promote your brand to their networks.

8. New horizon: Your customers now look to you for more than products and services. They expect you to play a positive and meaningful role in their lives. As such your horizon is now larger than the four walls of your business or sales projections. Every company has the opportunity to share culture at a local, national or global level. Millennial and Gen Z customers reward such commitments and it will empower you brand to transcend its category and become a mainstay of popular culture.

Each one of these points requires focused attention and work and getting them all right is a challenging blend of emotion and technology. Done correctly, however, you unlock the true power of social media to inspire customers to build your business with you in 2014.


Why the Principles of Inclusion and Exclusion Cut Both Ways in Social Marketing

December 10, 2013 Comments

Virgin America is inclusive while Abercrombie & Fitch is exclusiveMuch has been made of the sensational new safety video created by Virgin America featuring a star-studded cast of dancers. In one fell swoop, Virgin America took the archetype of boredom, the mandatory boarding safety video, and transformed it into pure entertainment. But what they did so elegantly was to leverage the dynamic of inclusion in several ways that inspired viewers to share the video thus enhancing the reputation and sales of the brand.

Inclusion was evidenced on several levels and if the following principles can be effectively applied to content as dry as a category as safety videos, they can certainly be extended to all manner of corporate content:

1. Virgin America recognized that they had a captive audience in their passengers that was effectively being tortured by unimaginative videos (presumably that is why they recreated the safety video in the first place).

2. Virgin America literally gave customers a way to participate in the co-creation of the content by opening auditions of the #SafetyDanceBattle.

3. They rewarded consumers for participation by offering prizes that motivated their engagement including free tickets and appearances in the next video.

4. They built social capital into participation by including star dancers and judges in the video and competition.

As for the ROI of taking such a risk, not only did Virgin America and the Virgin brand at large bolster its maverick reputation, but with millions of dollars of free PR exposure and over 8 million views of a video people would normally close their eyes to ignore, Virgin America has leveraged inclusion to the benefit of the reputation and sales of the brand.

The flip side of exclusion can be equally dramatic especially since consumer activism is now well produced and has long memories. Public outcry over the insensitive remarks of A&F CEO is a great example. Response to the CEO’s exclusionary remarks that “uncool” and “fat” people shouldn’t wear their brand contributed to a significant drop in sales for the last seven quarters.

As shareholder calls to remove the CEO get louder, this consumer video is likely to add salt to the CEO’s wounds. The same customer that A&E would hope to buy their clothes is now committed to making it the brand of the homeless to undermine its exclusionary attitude.

At the heart of A&F PR disaster is a failure to recognize that all brands must now demonstrate a commitment to the greater good in a social business market where consumers have the technology and expectations to question brand behavior. The public failure of their CEO is a good example of what happens when leadership loses touch with the marketplace, customers, and the technology now driving sales dynamics.

Success in today’s hyper-aware marketplace is simply a case of recognizing that your greatest asset is your customers and that when you serve and celebrate their interests, they will work with you to build your business. To achieve this, a brand must follow three simple steps:

1. Clearly articulate its purpose or promise to the world.

2. Frame that story in terms of celebrating the benefit to customers’ lives.

3. Invite customers to co-create marketing content and share ownership of the brand.

Executed correctly, and with inclusiveness its core, your customers will become media-savvy brand ambassadors amplifying your purposeful stories in creative ways that build your reputation, brand loyalty and sales.



How the Theory of Reciprocity Encourages People to Donate More

December 3, 2013 0 Comments

Guest post by Kai Buehler, CEO & Co-Founder at Causora Nonprofits have been long struggling with the age old question: How do you get people to give more? From solicitations in the mail with free return address labels, to commercials …

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Why #GivingTuesday Is The Most Selfish Thing You Can Do

November 26, 2013 2 Comments

It is so wonderful to see individuals and communities rally around the spirit of giving at a time when so much of the culture is focused on what we can purchase for ourselves. That’s why joining next week’s #GivingTuesday movement can be …

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Unilever and the Integrity of Brand Storytelling

November 25, 2013 2 Comments

With the launch of Project Sunlight, Unilever has taken another leap forward towards what is increasingly recognized as the future of effective social marketing. Central to such leadership is the recognition that a brand needs to lead with its social …

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Story vs. Data: A Battle to Fix the World

November 22, 2013 3 Comments

It was such a pleasure to attend the Social Innovation Summit at Stanford this week and the experience confirmed what we see as a fundamental tension between Story and Data, underscoring predictions of the future and how we facilitate social …

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Free Training Tuesday: 6 Case Studies From the World’s Smartest Brands

November 19, 2013 1 Comments

Today’s video, Social Branding Strategies from the World’s Smartest Brands, walks through six major brand case studies and lays out the strategy, tools, and tangible results of these super successful campaigns. These best-of-breed campaigns exemplify many of the concepts covered …

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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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