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Last July, I wrote a blogpost about what makes or breaks branded content. One of my learnings and tips for successful content marketing read:

Be Brave: have a point of view. This will help reinforce your USP.

Since then, I have been exposed to many brands on a daily basis. And until only recently, I can’t honestly remember any of them coming to my attention for taking a stance on a worthy cause. Yet it is what we as consumers have come to expect – quoting the 2013 WARC Trends report:

Brands need to show consumers they are trying to help solve the issues society faces. (…) That may mean a greater focus on corporate ethics and authenticity.” 

In other words, brands need to make a positive difference to society, over and above selling products and services. This means identifying the social mission at their heart, showing true commitment to it and letting it be known.

The fact is that brands that go the extra mile like Patagonia, the outdoor apparel company, or female antiperspirant brand Secret, remain a minority still. Patagonia is not afraid of taking a political stance to help protect the environment. Secret famously fought for the rights of female athletes to be allowed to compete in this year’s winter olympic ski jumping games.

Then, this month, something magic happens. Hopefully, a sign that brand activism is slowly but surely becoming the way one does business.

4 brands unexpectedly grabbed my attention for taking a stand very publicly. They stood up for a cause worth fighting for. For what they believed was right and true to their mission. And by doing so, they have won me over. Or rather, they have won my gratitude as a consumer. As a result, I am more likely to buy from them and spread the word, with competitors fast disappearing in the back of my mind.

Google with its Sochi Olympics-themed doodle in support of gay rights was the first of such brands to come to my attention.

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Scottish Craft Beer company BrewDog also stood up for the Russian gay community by simply mocking Putin’s anti-gay laws and Putin himself. They created a special edition beer “not for gays” called “Hello, my name is Vladimir” – hilarious and useful; you can buy it online here. This only shows what a powerful weapon humour can be against oppressors.

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On a smaller-scale yet in the same spirit, hats off also to Russian snowboarder and Olympic Athlete Alexey Sobolev, who defied his country’s government by flaunting his Pussy Riot-themed board during the competition.

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Coca Cola celebrated a multicultural America in one of its Super Bowl ads this year. Simply, beautifully and very openly with more than 100 million viewers exposed to it. A bold, commendable move from a great, iconic American brand. We want more of these please.

And as I am wrapping up this blogpost, I came across one other brand that publicly supports diversity and inclusion. This time, a brand closer to home.

ANZ, one of the top 4 Australian banks, has been one of the major sponsors of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras since 2006. This year it became Principal Partner and to celebrate this, it turned its ATM’s into GAYTM’s on 23rd February:

Some may see seasonal brand activism (around major events only) as opportunistic and a mere PR exercise only, bringing into question the authenticity of the brand’s commitment to the cause – as opposed to being deeply integrated into their business model and company’s DNA (Raven+Lily and ecoATM are both great examples of this).

Regardless, seasonal or not, if it helps the community, it is a good thing. It may also be the start of bigger things to come or the manifestation of a long-term yet punctual commitment (ref. ANZ example).

Finally…

I thought of ending this post on a high… At first. Ending it on a low however is just as effective.

Subway grabbed my attention for the wrong reasons this month.

First, for its lousy Super Bowl ad – why spend millions of $$ on a made-for-TV ad at the Super Bowl?

And most importantly, shame on them for using the same chemical in their “freshly-made” sandwiches as the one used in shoe soles and yoga mats – yes, you read right.

The company has since withdrawn the chemical following a petition from 50,000 consumers. In my view, it should withdraw itself from the market altogether for making us eat plastic in the first place.

This simply reminds us of the enormous power we also have as consumers to make positive changes and punish (banish?) brands behaving badly.

Now… Any brands close to your consumer heart, that stand for something big and you want to give a shout out to? Or any brands you love to hate for the right reasons?

Let us know by hitting reply!

By Cecile Ferre

Everyone (or nearly everyone – my mum hadn’t :) has heard of Google Glass in some shape or form. It is by far the most talked about wearable currently. Yet, it is also one of the least mainstream with only approximately 10,000 users in the world as I write this – all carefully selected for the ongoing testing phase of the product.

Following in the footsteps of Nike’s Fuel band, Glass has stolen the spotlight as its deserving successor. Newsworthy in its own right, the extensive and constant media coverage is also no doubt partly the result of Google’s well-oiled PR machine.

Not surprisingly, quite a few other connected wearables have since launched, all equally eager to tap into our insatiable hunger for new and shiny hi tech objects. Some loosely reminiscent of Glass in design offer super niche functionality with only limited audience reach (e.g. Nissan’s 3E HUD), whilst others are of questionable use – if not taste (e.g. a collar camera for your petMicrosoft’s bra).

Despite everyone’s best efforts, Glass remains unsurpassed to date in my opinion. And as I was getting tired of the abundant PR, one particularity suddenly piqued my curiosity and has since made me follow the product evolution with great interest.

Unlike most – if not all – other wearables, the device strength appears to lie in its ability to constantly evolve and extend its many practical uses. This in my view makes Glass stand out and puts it firmly ahead of the pack.

Below are some of the most recent product evolutions that are good cases in point:

Glass as the surgery tool of the future

As I found out recently on the Australian Popular Science website:

Glass as a publishing platform for apps

It may not be mainstream yet but by the time it goes to market, Google Glass will come with hundreds if not thousands of apps. I came across one of these recently – the ColorSnap Glass from Sherwin-Williams:

Glass as a life changing experience for the disabled

Google has been paying close attention to how the disabled use its eyewear, as a way of improving their lives.

Glass as a way of modernizing orchestras

More recently, a conductor and music professor has been experimenting with Glass in a number of ways. It has proven to be a useful feedback tool for her students in particular. The eyewear is also being considered as a possible alternative music stand and paper score.

According to Hunter Walk, “Google is Love + Greed”. It may well be, but for as long as it endeavors to change our lives for the better, it is okay to be greedy.

I have just come across an article on Forbes that outlines the results from Havas Media’s 2013 Meaningful Brand Index.

The MBI measures consumers’ perception of a brand’s influence on society, environment, economy, health and emotional wellbeing – in other words, the higher a brand in the MBI, the more positive impact it is seen having on consumers’ lives.

In this year’s results, tech giants Google, Samsung and Microsoft are the top 3 (interestingly Apple hasn’t made it to the top 10 – a sign that perhaps we are suffering from Apple fatigue?). And according to Havas Media: ‘’What the results tell us is that tech companies have done some powerful things over the last few years to focus on people’s lives and they’re starting to reap the benefits of that.’’

I couldn’t agree more.

However, this brand ranking takes on another dimension when read in conjunction with the following stat:

“The majority of those surveyed worldwide say they wouldn’t care if 73 percent of brands no longer existed tomorrow, and only 20 percent of all brands are viewed as having a positive role in consumers’ lives.” (Just to put this into perspective: 134,000 consumers were interviewed in 23 countries on 700 brands.)

If that statement doesn’t shake things up in the corporate world, then what will?

In short, as a brand you ‘d better play an active role in improving your consumers’ lives if you want to stay ahead of the pack – and more to the point, stay in business in the years to come.

The current economic climate has further reinforced the need for brands to play a meaningful role in our day to day lives and the community at large, and stop taking our custom for granted. Recent research shows that consumers are expecting brands to help solve the issues society faces and provide tangible proof of their efforts – that’s where CSR and Fair Trade come into play (ref. WARC Trends Toolkit 2013 report).

Finally, as I ponder over the correlation between the MBI score and Net Promoter Score (the score we give a brand on how likely we are to recommend it – a key performance indicator for most brands), I would say the higher the MBI ranking, the higher the NPS – which means all brands efforts should focus on the former to help increase the latter.

I have just come across yet more insightful research from our Google friends, which the advertising types amongst us will no doubt find useful.

This time the research focuses on mobile searches – specifically, mobile user search behaviours and the correlation of mobile searches with online and offline conversions.

You can view the full Mobile Search Moments study here – for now, I just wanted to point out a couple of striking stats.

First – their research shows that a staggering 77% of mobile searches happen at home or work (i.e. a location likely to have a PC), with only 17% on the go.

This surprised me at first as I had thought until now that smartphones were used for searching mainly on the move (i.e. when no PC is available). Then I remembered my own behavior at home: since trading my old phone for an iPhone 5, my smartphone has fast become my #1 device of choice for initiating all sort of activities from the comfort of my sofa including checking emails, reading online articles, playing games and … searching.

The study goes on by explaining that the key reason for users preferring their mobile phone over a tablet or PC when searching at home is the convenience and speed it offers. A respondent explains: “It was easier on the mobile device as I didn’t have to get up to turn on the computer and wait for it to boot up”. I could indeed have said this myself to justify my own behavior.

One other key insight that stuck with me is how powerful a conversion tool mobile is:

Not only 3 out of 4 mobile searches trigger follow up actions (e.g. visiting a retailer’s site, sharing the info you have found etc.), but also – and most importantly – 55% of purchase-related conversions (i.e. store visit, phone call or purchase) occur within one hour of the initial mobile search, with that number increasing to 81% within 5 hours.

As the ultimate “always on, anywhere anytime’’ companion device, the ever increasing take up of smartphones and with both a purchase intent and conversions this high, it is easy to see why smartphone users need to be at the top of any marketer’s priority list (sadly not always the case).

And for the time-poor amongst us, the below infographic sums up all other key insights for future reference – Thank you Google!

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