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When big brands stumble: Starbucks and Toyota on hyper-transparency

October 4, 2013 Comments

The Guardian logoBring up the topic of failure, and most people steer the conversation back to success. But not Starbucks environmental impact director Jim Hanna, who challenged corporations and nonprofits to be “hyper-transparent” about their social impact in a speech at the We First Social Branding Seminar in Los Angeles last week.

“Hyper-transparency is a must. It’s not something we should be afraid of; it’s something we welcome,” said Hanna.

As Starbucks, Toyota, Coca-Cola and many other corporations around the globe figure out how to engage with customers on sustainability, transparency has become a marketing buzzword. In a sense, it’s the antithesis to the traditional marketing idea of controlling the message. And everything, it seems, is fair game – from the supply chain to product development to social media.

When Hanna says “hyper-transparency”, though, he’s talking about what he calls “pre-competitive trust”. One way to do this is by setting clear targets for environmental impact and corporate responsibility, such as Starbucks’ 2015 goal to make all of its paper and plastic cups – some 4bn per year – recyclable, according to Federal Trade Commission guidelines, in every Starbucks store around the world. In a few years, Starbucks has gone from 5% to 24% of global markets accepting cups for recycling, he said.



The Top 3 Trends About to Put You Out of Business

September 20, 2013 Comments

As originally published in Forbes

One of the most costly consequences of doing business in such a crowded, noisy and fragmented marketplace is that it’s almost impossible to keep track of the big picture. Specifically, it’s extremely difficult to identify where the market is headed and how those changes will positively or negatively affect you business. Three threats are certain, however, and while they are each dangerous to your business, together they are potentially fatal. Here’s why.

1. COMPOUNDING GLOBAL SOCIAL CRISES: Thanks to the web, social media and smart phones, more people are better informed than ever as to the challenges our planet and societies face. These include climate change, loss of biodiversity, disparity of wealth, obesity, lack of access to clean water, healthcare costs, and the list goes on. While each of these crises has a very real and tragic impact on the lives of so many, they also threaten your business for one very specific reason. As these issues compound and make the experience of life more acute for more people, companies will increasingly be viewed as either part of the solution or problem. For example, soda or fast food companies will be held responsible for issues as far ranging as obesity, healthcare costs and access to clean water, while all companies will be held accountable for their environmental impact or treatment of workers. The issue for you, then, becomes how to authentically position your brand on the right side of social needs so that individuals and your customer community want to see you succeed. This is both risk mitigation and reputation enhancement, both of which are required in an increasingly competitive marketplace in which customers are demanding greater social responsibility from brands.

2. FAST-CHANGING SOCIAL TECHNOLOGIES: One need only look at the variety of screens in our lives, the myriad social channels we can choose from, and the amount of time we spend on our computers and smartphones to know that marketing is more complex than ever. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, the key challenge is not keeping up with this technology but rather defining a clear and consistent brand story that transcends whatever technology or media is commanding attention. Yet too many companies are either undefined, schizophrenic or rushing past the ‘story’ to the ‘telling’ leaving their customers with no compelling reason to buy, recommend or stay loyal to your brand. Only when you enlist these ever-changing technologies in the service of a story that makes your company meaningful and relevant to your customers’ lives, will the power of these technologies be unlocked to build your business.

3. RISING CUSTOMER ACTIVISM: One need only think of Netflix and Quickster, the push back again the insensitive remarks by the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, and the public outcry over the devastating loss of life due to the collapse of the apparel factory in Bangladesh, to realize that companies are now in a dynamic dialogue around accountability with their customers. This is simply the result of a shift from broadcast traditional media to dialogue-based digital and social media. This can serve your business well when you crowdsource an idea, funding or marketing campaign, but when you rile your community it can mean devastating damage to your reputation, stock price, and sales as both Netflix and Abercrombie & Fitch discovered.

Importantly, these three trends are not mutually independent, for the social crises are informing new customer expectations that are being shared through social media and smartphones. Companies that fail to adapt can be undone by any one of these trends, but united they can put the most famous household names out of business.

So what should a business owner do? First, you must identify your authentic brand story that will ensure your company and products are meaningful and relevant to customers. Second, you  must frame that story in a community-facing way to ensure you establish a dialogue in which your customers feel recognized and heard. Third, you must share  this story in ways that inspire you customers to promote your brand and build your business with you. Without these three clear and critical steps, society, technology and customers are primed to put you out of business overtly (by criticizing your brand) or covertly (by moving to a competitor). This applies equally to large companies or start-ups for customer distrust or disloyalty is a silent business killer. The time to respond to these challenges is now for when these challenges are obvious and pressing it is too late and your customers will have moved on. You must position your brand to rise to meet the market, and once you do these same drivers will transform from threats to your business to tent poles of your success.

Learn how to define your brand, frame your story and inspire customers to share it at the We First Seminar on September 24-25th in Los Angeles. You’ll hear success strategies from global marketing leaders at Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Toyota, the UN Foundation and charity:water about how to build your reputation and customer community to protect your business future. Every attendee will leave with a Social Branding Blueprint specific to their business that answers these three critical challenges to your future success. Register here and enter code: SIMON to save 50%. Last 3 days to register.


Top 10 Reasons to Attend the 2013 We First Social Branding Seminar

September 18, 2013 Comments

With all the competition for our time and resources these days, it’s important to be clear about what makes the We First social branding event so special. So please use promo code: INFOGRAPHIC to save 25% on remaining seats and here are your top ten reasons to spend two days together on September 24th and 25th at the W Hollywood.

1. EXPERTISE: Have you ever wondered how charity: water became the first non-profit to have 1 million Twitter followers and gets 75% of its fundraising through digital channels? Or how Starbucks is able to be both an iconic global brand and expert local community builder? It’s an incredibly rare opportunity to hear insights from global marketing leaders at Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Toyota, the UN Foundation and charity: water in an intimate setting and to ask questions about your toughest marketing problems.

2. URGENCY: Every brand, whether you’re for-profit or non-profit, is facing the compounding challenges of multiple global social crises, fast changing social technologies, and rising customer activism. Without a clear marketing plan and story it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep up and survive. Our latest infographic shows why ignoring the new demands of media-savvy, highly connected and socially concerned consumers is business suicide.

3. CLARITY: The content we’ll be sharing over the two days brings together so much information, research, and case studies from a wide variety of sources to really give you an effective handle on today’s overwhelming marketplace.

4. VALUE: After most events you leave with a lots of notebooks and business cards but little time to transpose your learning to your business or brand. That’s why over the course of two days you will work through a Social Branding Blueprint answering questions specific to your business so that you walk out with real value in your hand.

5. GUIDANCE: All the training materials are specifically designed to ensure you can not only define an actionable plan for your brand during the event, but also take all the materials back to your office show you can share your plan and learning with your marketing teams on your return.

6. RELATIONSHIPS: The event format has been specific designed to give you access to speakers and peers to start relationships that can lead to new business, partnerships and friendships. Here are just a few companies you’ll be joiningNestle Purina PetCare, Mattel, Chanel, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Staffmark, FirstCapital Bank of Texas,  In-N-Out Burger, Thrive Farmers, the UN Foundation and more!

7. CONTRIBUTION: Every attendee gets to invite their favorite non-profit for free giving them a direct experience in contribution to a cause they care about. The alignment of business and the non-profit sector really has the power to change the world.

8. EXPERIENCE: The event takes place in the stylish, LEED certified, W Hollywood hotel with fine dining, rooftop pool and luxurious rooms in sunny LA.

9. ENTERTAINMENT: The ‘We’IP dinner will feature fine dining and Harmonics Maestro, Freddie Ravel, keyboard artist for Santana, Madonna and Earth, Wind and Fire who will use music to reveal the human harmonics of business success.

10. COMMUNITY: By joining us at this event you’ll become part of a community of brand leaders literally working to reinvent the practice of business to better serve the greater good of all.

This is the last week to register for the event and with limited seats available please don’t wait to claim your 25% discount with promo code INFOGRAPHIC. And be sure to invite your favorite non-profit for free! We First is committed to providing you with invaluable training and an unforgettable experience and we look forward to working together on your brand.



Music Applied to Life, Leadership, and Success

September 17, 2013 1 Comments

Just like a successful band must integrate melody, harmony, and rhythm to create great music, a company must integrate leadership, team building, and time management to achieve success. As music legend, Freddie Ravel says, “The structure of music is the …

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The Fastest Way to Kill Your brand: Inauthenticity

September 4, 2013 0 Comments

It’s never been easier for large corporations to kill their brands quickly. Emboldened by examples as far ranging as Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street and Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks – and armed with connective technology that allows them to communicate and organize themselves in unprecedented …

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Live G+ Hangout: Mastering the Methods, Metrics, and Madness of CSR

September 4, 2013 0 Comments

With companies of all types facing a perfect storm of social tech, social crises, and customer activism, there’s no question that how quickly your company responds to these challenges will determine whether you survive or lead the future. But how can your …

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How One Comment on a Blog Post Saved a Child’s Life

August 30, 2013 0 Comments

There’s s a very special partnership underway this August that shows you just how powerful civil society and business collaborations can be. It’s a combined effort by Walgreens, the United Nations Foundation, and Shot@Life to give the children in the …

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SXSW 2014: The New Breed of Brands That Will Lead the Future

August 27, 2013 0 Comments

It’s that time of year again: the SXSW Panel Picker is live and the session I look forward to presenting is called “The New Breed of Brands That Will Lead the Future.” With companies of all types facing a perfect …

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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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