The We First Blog.

Why Quitting Cigarettes Was the Best Thing CVS Could Do for the Health of Its Business

February 6, 2014 Comments

A lot of buzz has been generated by the decision of CVS to stop selling cigarettes in its 7,600 stores nationwide. The response has been evenly split between those remarking on how much it will cost CVS in lost revenue and those who recognize the need for CVS to align what they sell with the fundamental health care proposition behind CVS Caremark. Yet few have recognized what an important opportunity this represents for CVS to not only lead its industry as the healthcare market evolves, but also to shape culture at large.

As CVS Caremark CEO, Larry Merlo, states above, they are the first pharmacy chain to do so and, as such, have instantly established important credentials in the healthcare space that will pay great marketing dividends over the long term.

Obviously CVS has recognized the clear incongruity between promoting healthcare and selling cigarettes, but it has also observed the market share gain and sales growth earned by purposeful industry leaders such as Unilever (Sustainable Living), Starbuck’s (Shared Planet) and Chipotle (Food with Integrity). Merlo acknowledges as much when he states that CVS is the first pharmacy brand to ‘step up and take this action,’ almost challenging his rivals to follow suit.

This opens up a powerful conversation between the alignment of products sold and a brand’s core values in the context of pressing and growing social crises for which brands are increasingly being held accountable, such as public health, diabetes, and obesity, and as some commentators noted, the candy aisle could be next.

This is the start of a very lengthy and difficult conversation for CEO’s and CMO’s that must rationalize their social responsibility with their duty to shareholders or as Merlo explains, in their case it was simply ‘the right thing to do.’

That very sentiment has underscored the rise of purposeful marketing evidenced by some of the world’s largest corporations, and a growing number of social enterprises such as TOMS, Warby Parker and B Corp-certified entrepreneurs. No matter their size, these brands are responding to the undeniable demands for new levels of authenticity, transparency, and accountability in terms of the social responsibility of brands.

Yet such decisions also represent very good business. By responding to customer expectations, companies mitigate the risk to their social license to operate, enhance their reputation, and drive consumer loyalty goodwill and sales. Additionally, they create a brand story based on values they share with those customers who in turn can use social media to amplify the company’s good work. CVS provides a great demonstration of this with their dedicated twitter page and hashtag: #CVSquits.

CVS is also rising to the challenge of becoming a leader in its sector as socially responsible brands play an ever increasingly role in pressing public debates like health. This move and those that no doubt, will follow it, give CVS and its corporate officers the chance to become spokesmen and women for the coming healthcare movement that must address the demands of a growing population and persistent chronic diseases. We have seen other brands like Starbucks lead discussions around job creation, same sex marriage and political gridlock, Chipotle fuel the debate around sustainable agriculture, and Unilever lead the charge on sustainable business practices.

CVS is stepping up to become a healthcare leader that is well positioned to shape culture that in turn will build its business. The short term costs are real but the long-term reputational and competitive advantage gains are far more valuable as the brand leverages its first-mover advantage and positions itself as a model of what responsible pharmaceutical and health care should look like in the future.

Find out more about how to position your company as a purposeful social brand by
clicking here.


Inside charity: water’s Powerful Video Strategy

January 29, 2014 Comments

Paull Young, Director of Digital for charity: water, was one of our fantastic 2013 speakers at the annual We First Brand Leadership Summit. In a nutshell, charity: water is a nonprofit organization with a mission to bring clean and safe drinking water to every person on the planet. But what makes charity: water remarkable from the brand leadership lens, is that it is really a digital organization that’s become expert at community architecture and has been reinventing charity as we know it. As the first non-profit to have 1 million Twitter followers, charity: water raises the majority of their funds online and sends 100% on donations direct to local partners to do work.

We sat down with Paull to get the inside scoop on how charity: water’s deep investment in shareable video content and powerful partnerships has helped create an unparalleled donor experience for their vast network of passionate supporters.

What does it mean to be a Director of Digital? Paull’s main role as charity: water’s Director of Digital mostly focuses on the fundraising platform and inspiring the grassroots movement to fundraise for charity: water. Since coming on board, Paull has helped raise about $23 million using the platform. Here’s how it works: Anyone can set up a fundraising page and 100% of the donations from friends and family goes directly to a local partner. After 18 months, donors receive documented proof of their impact through things like photos, videos, and interactive GPS water maps.

Grassroots powers growth. charity: water has had some big names involved, from Will Smith to Adam Lambert. But Paull says the main success comes from inspirational individuals, like the children who choose to raise $100 for charity: water instead of getting birthday presents, or the children who set up a lemonade stand and donate the funds.

Differentiation through inspiration. charity: water believes the biggest way it differentiates itself is through inspiration and their medium of choice is video. In fact, charity: water has its own in-house videographer and recently created an 8 minute video in India. They ran this video as their September 2013 campaign with a goal of inspiring 2000 new people to set up fundraisers with the goal of raising $2 million by the end of September. This goal was actually achieved within days, by September 5th, because of this authentic and shareable video story.

Strength in numbers. charity: water leverages partnerships to help tell their story and get their message out to as many communities as possible. They’ve developed partnerships with many major companies such as HubSpot, American Express, and Google, and these partners often lend their own services or offer grants for charity: water to use to help spread their campaigns.

3 takeaways from the We First Brand Leadership Summit:

1. It’s about your audience, it’s not about you. As a brand you can start things, but you need inspired individuals to take that content and make it their own.

2. You must make it easy and give the right tools for different people and partners to turn your brand into their own story.

3. Be human. Humans love to connect, they love positive stories, and they love making a difference. If a brand can break down its walls and be human again then that’s where the opportunities lie.

Visit now for a 50% discount to the 2014 We First Brand Leadership Summit (offer good through Jan 31st). As part of our ‘One for One’ model, you also get to invite your favorite non-profit for free.

paull young of charity: water


How To Name a Company To Succeed In Social Business

January 21, 2014 Comments

We First Why we make money in the first placeAs a start up or social enterprise, you have one advantage over big and well-established brands: You get to start with a clean slate and that includes your company name. Most multi-national corporations and industry monopolies were framed in days when most of their attention and advertising spend was self-directed. Tall buildings were emblazoned with ever-longer lists of founder and partner names, or acronyms that saved on space but did little to add compelling meaning. This presents start-ups with a tantalizing opportunity to establish a competitive advantage by naming their companies in ways better suited to today’s social business marketplace.

Let’s take a look at a few examples and exactly why the positioning improves their chance of connecting with social consumers and accelerating their success. When you look at the wide variety of research that reveals the new expectations of global consumers (Edelman’s ‘GoodPurpose’ and ‘Trust Barometer’ Reports, Cone/Echo’s ‘Global CR Study’, Havas Media’s ‘Meaningful Brands Report’ and TBWA’s ‘The Future of Social Activism’), it quickly becomes apparent that customers want brands to be more socially responsible and are willing to work with a company to support a cause based on shared values.

This research presents young companies with an opportunity that few embrace to select a name for their company that is a value proposition to which their customers can aspire. Take TOMS for example, the rightful poster child of social entrepreneurship that has popularized the ‘1-for-1 model’ and most recently launched TOMS Marketplace featuring different brands equally committed to contribution. The name ‘TOMS’ was derived from ‘Shoes for Tomorrow’ later shortened to ‘TOMS Shoes’ whose values-based business model has propelled the company to popular and business success.

Similarly, Thrive Farmers Coffee is a revolutionary, farmer-direct, sustainability model that returns 50% of the net profits from its retail sales to the farmers. As a business based on a core commitment to farmer well-being, they built this proposition into the company name itself. By engaging customers around this shared mission, by expanding its farmer base to over 5000 small coffee farmers grateful for the support, and by catching the attention of enterprise partners such as Chick-fil-A that recognize the bottom-line value of this values proposition, the company has leveraged its core mission to establish rapid growth and public awareness.

Another great example is B Corps (B stands for Beneficial in contrast to traditional C corporations), that exists to provide a framework and certification for companies wishing to benefit society as well as their shareholders. B Corp certification is to sustainable business as Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk, and today there is a growing community of more than 922 Certified B Corps from 29 countries and 60 industries working together toward one unifying goal: to redefine success in business. Like TOMS and Thrive Farmer’s Coffee, the values proposition of the company is built directly into the name empowering the organization to readily become a movement inspiring engagement around a common purpose. We see this clearly in B Corp’s most recent #BtheChange campaign that rallies new companies and consumers to enlist business in the service of positive change.

This strategy is so important to young companies seeking success in the social business marketplace and the same principle was applied in naming our company. We First is a values proposition framed in opposition to a ‘Me First’ mentality and encourages companies to play a meaningful role in social change while also building their business. Like the examples above, We First as a name served as a platform for a movement that could inspire stakeholders of all types to enlist business in the service of social change.

By building your company’s core values into its name, you position your brand to become a movement that will build your business. Naturally, such efforts must be done with integrity as today’s media-savvy consumers are intolerant of “green washing” or “cause washing”, but when a business and its customers align around a common goal encapsulated in the company name, they can be assured that their own efforts will be met with equal enthusiasm by today’s socially responsible and connected customers.

If your interested in learning how you define, frame and share your company story to become a movement, visit now for a 50% discount to the 2014 We First Brand Leadership Summit (offer good through Jan 31st). As part of our ‘One for One’ model (hat-tip to TOMS), you also get to invite your favorite non-profit for free.



Social Brands Must Take Precautions to Protect and Empower Both Employees and Themselves

January 14, 2014 4 Comments

The perils of using social media are now widely appreciated as PR disasters have filled the press for several years ranging from insensitive CEO remarks, wayward employee posts, and outright foolish marketing. It’s not surprising that much has been written …

Read more

How P&G Is Leveraging The Winter Olympics To Build Its Customer Community

January 13, 2014 3 Comments

Originally published in Forbes Proctor & Gamble became a poster child for social media engagement in 2012 with its ‘Best Job’ television spot for the London Olympics. Not only did it become a viral sensation across multiple social media channels, but …

Read more

Steve Jobs, Virgin America, and Millennials: Key Insights from 2013

January 3, 2014 0 Comments

It’s always fun to review the year and see which stories resonated most. Taken together they represent a landscape of the community’s focus and what will shape 2014. Here are the Top Ten posts of 2013 from the We First …

Read more

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

December 27, 2013 0 Comments

It’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 …

Read more

8 Steps to Accelerate Your Brand’s Growth in 2014

December 17, 2013 0 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 …

Read more

we first training

About We First (Sidebar)

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.

Recent Tweets