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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 Comments

CausoraGuest 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 with hungry children or homeless puppies that pull at your heart strings, charities have tried it all. Researchers have been studying the issue and they’ve found that some gifts work well, while others, like little trinkets, do not incentivize people to give. Here are some insights on giving we’ve come to understand as we build Causora, a one-for-one giving platform that rewards donations.

Studies show that one way to get donors excited and to come back is to reward them with small gifts that are related to the nonprofit’s mission statement. Describing thank-you gifts not as rewards, but as a means of furthering the charity’s goals, also works well. For example, a mug or tote bag that has the nonprofit’s logo printed on it to raise awareness for the cause allows the donors to feel that they are helping the charity by accepting the gift.

Secondly, public recognition of donations continues to be an effective strategy to drive donations. Gifts that send a social signal about the donor like tickets to exclusive galas and auctions may positively affect the propensity to donate.

Another interesting study was conducted by the German researcher Armin Falk who looked into the size of gifts and the reciprocity effect. As a social construct, reciprocity suggests that in response to receiving something or benefiting from a favor, people tend to feel a subtle return obligation and might be more inclined to donate, and Falk’s study concluded that a bigger “gift” amplifies the readiness to donate. His study was comprised of 10,000 requests for charitable donations that were sent to three groups: Participants in the first group received a letter asking for a donation, the second group got the letter and a free postcard and envelope (“small gift”), whereas the last group received a package with four postcards and envelopes (“large gift”). The study showed that the group who received the small gift donated 17% more while those with the large gift donated 75% more than the no-gift group.

Taking these findings one step further, Causora is a new one-for-one giving platform that has hit on a way that allows charities to reward donors with significant rewards (no return address stickers or tote bags) while tying the gift to altruism, a feeling that increases giving. Causora’s online platform allows you to give to your favorite nonprofit and in exchange, receive a gift card from socially conscious merchants for the same amount (eg. donate $20, get $20 to spend). Nonprofits can sign up for free and will receive over 90% of all funds generated on the platform.

Here’s how Causora works like a ‘loyalty program for charitable giving’:

1. Causora users donate to their favorite cause, choosing from over 200 charities including the Red Cross,, Habitat for Humanity, Boys & Girls Clubs, and Amazon Watch.

2. Users receive the same amount in Causora credits that never expire.

3. Users redeem their Causora credits for exciting rewards like restaurants vouchers, spa visits, wine, flowers, Zipcar credits, or a GOOD magazine subscription.

The rewards are donated by socially-conscious merchants who believe in giving back, so donors can feel good about supporting both their favorite charity and these merchants, while also getting a reward for themselves or their friends. By leveraging the power of human altruism, reciprocity, and sense of community, we can re-imagine and re-scale philanthropy.

For more information about the author and Causora, go to



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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How Virgin Atlantic Just Gave Us a Master Class in Social Branding

November 13, 2013 0 Comments

Many brands are doing surprising work today but Virgin Atlantic is one that consistently captures the attention of not only the airline industry but the media landscape at large. Last week, they did this yet again with the launch of …

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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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