Posts filed under ‘brands’

Doing good and doing well

Vera Kiss writes:

In his controversial 1970 New York Times article, Milton Friedman set the tone for a generation when he argued that the sole responsibility of businesses was to generate profit for their shareholders. But today’s Millennials disagree. Even those in corporate ranks. A recent Deloitte survey of a thousand Millennial employees of the firm reveals that 92% reject the idea that the sole measure of a company’s success is profit.

Importantly, more than 50% believe the primary purpose of business is innovation and societal development. This resonates with the Futures Company’s 2011 Global MONITOR survey, which found that 63% of Millennials believe that companies have a responsibility to support the society in which they operate.

Of course, not all Millennials are engaged with social issues. The Futures Company’s Millennial segmentation reveals significant variation between four global groups of Millennials. Against a global average of 62%, 55% of ‘Striders’ and 43% of ‘Satellites’ consider it important in their lives to make a difference. 76% of ‘Steppers’ and 85% of ‘Spirits’, in contrast, agree with this statement. Spirits, the poster children of the generation, stand out for their interest in global and local issues and are concerned with the ethics of consumption.

Millennial attitudes towards business tell us two stories. One now familiar story is about higher expectations of ethical conduct. The newer story is about the increasing appeal of business-inspired and even business-led solutions for global challenges.

We have seen a proliferation of business-inspired initiatives in the development sphere. Microfinance organizations have mushroomed around the world, pinning the hopes of poverty reduction on micro-entrepreneurs and small scale businesses. Websites such as Kiva provide easy connection between micro-donors and entrepreneurs in developing countries.

Importantly, the corporate sector is increasingly drawn into addressing societal issues through solutions that are designed to do long-term good while also being profitable. The founder of microfinance, Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, now tours the world engaging big business in social enterprise initiatives that seek to maximise their social impact rather than shareholder returns. He has already partnered with Danone to address childhood malnutrition in Bangladesh through a business selling fortified yoghurt products. Inclusive business strategies are also gaining visibility, with development agencies partnering with large companies to include bottom of the pyramid consumers as small investors and suppliers.

Business-influenced strategies won’t provide all-encompassing solutions to global issues, or replace public and non-governmental organisations. The point is that businesses can increasingly act as legitimate agents of social change. Perhaps it shouldn’t come as surprise (especially given the sample) that most respondents to the Deloitte survey think that business has the greatest potential of any sector to achieve societal change.

This creates opportunities for businesses and brands to connect with socially conscious Millennials – but they have to understand the differences within the cohort, and be able to demonstrate real impact through their business practices.

The picture of the Danone Grameen logo on the side of its factory at Bogra is from the Danone Communities Flickr photostream, and it is used with thanks.

12 March 2012 at 8:36 am Leave a comment

The new 5Ps of marketing

Fran Walton writes:

Earlier this week, we presented our latest research on the post-recessiom UK consumer, Feeling The Pinch 6, to clients in London. The overall message is one of gloom: 43% of consumers think the UK economy will get worse in 2012, and 46% plan to spend less. But that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing that brands can do.

So here are our new 5Ps for marketers:

  1. Protection. How can you reduce the risks of purchase, or  help consumers manage risk in other parts of their lives? 63% of consumers now agree, ‘ I find myself thinking twice before making even the smallest purchase’. An interesting example is the German peer-to-peer insurance company, Friendsurance, which reduces insurance costs (and fraudulent claims) by letting people create groups of 15 people to help cover an insurance claim.
  2. Practical. How can you empower people and help them to be self-reliant? 58% of UK consumers agree that ‘Since the recession I feel a greater need to be as self-sufficient as possible’. One response, from the Spanish food company Gallina Blanca: if you send them a a list of the ingredients you happen to have at home, they’ll suggest a recipe.
  3. Purpose. How can you help consumers make new connections or make living with less a positive experience? 53% of UK consumers now agree that ‘since the recession I have learnt how many things I can do without and still be happy’. Sainsbury’s ‘living well for less’ campaign captures this well. It’s not just about the food. It also means making the most of the good things in life, sharing moments or maybe cooking memorable meals together. And without paying the earth.
  4. Permission. How can you help consumers feel like they are achieving something worthwhile? Perhaps depressingly, 53% agree that ‘some of the goals I had before the recession are now probably out of reach’. Say it ain’t so! The French business Onefeat has a model where you set some goals, or ‘missions’, and get support from your friends to help you achieve them.
  5. Pride. How can you help people take pride in small things or help people to be proud to be part of their community? In our qual research for Feeling The Pinch 6, one of our respondents observed that ‘the value of working with your hands seems to have been forgotten about’, also a theme of Matthew Crawford’s surprise best-seller. Transform Your Patch, launched in January. in which Pepsico and Britvic have teamed up with the charity Groundwork, is an ambitious scheme to create new parks and playgrounds and football pitches from waste land across the UK.

Of course, a lot of these are small things, but one of the lessons of the recession is that small things matter. The other lesson is that it’s more important than ever to be able to stand in the shoes of your customers and see the world through their eyes.

The picture at the top of this post is from the Swedish co-operative Lantmannen, which has a scheme which pairs singles to share leftover food. It is used with thanks. To find out more about Feeling The Pinch, and our research on consumer attitudes to the economy in Britain and Ireland, please contact Fran Walton

3 February 2012 at 1:32 pm 1 comment

A future of advertising

Andrew Curry writes: I have been meaning to post this for a while, but better late than never. The Wire, which is the in-house magazine of WPP, our parent company, had a feature in its last issue on how advertising would change over the next ten years. 16 contributors, 150 words each, you know the kind of thing. The editor warned us off social media as being too obvious, and I stayed away from data analytics because others in the group know far more about that than I do.

Sadly, the whole piece is behind a firewall, unless you happen to work for a WPP company, although it would seem like a good opportunity to showcase thinking within the group. But here’s my contribution:

Advertising is being squeezed from two sides. The generation of millennials now cresting into adulthood, brought up with screens surrounding them, can de-construct an advertisement quicker than you can say “Roland Barthes“. There’s no trick you can play without them noticing it, storing it, and tagging it for the next time. Governments meanwhile, squeezed for budgets, have noticed that the public purse tends to pick up quite a lot of the costs of private consumption, and are increasingly willing to regulate advertising in an increasing range of categories, darkening markets or persuading companies to darken their markets themselves. Sao Paolo passed its ‘clean city’ legislation which banned outdoor advertising four years ago, and it has huge support from its citizens. Other places have followed suit, if on a smaller scale, an early sign that Adbusters’ Mental Environment Movement is just starting to gain traction. Advertisers will be able to say less and less about less and less. End of message.

The picture of Sao Paulo is from the blog Out of Home Media, and is used with thanks.

8 June 2011 at 10:30 am 2 comments

Pride and confidence

Will Galgey writes:

A couple of weeks ago I spoke at the launch of the WPP BrandZ report on the Top 50 Chinese Brands, which Oliver blogged about here, and I wanted to add some thoughts to his post.

When I was last in China a few months ago, I came back from breakfast to find my hotel room being cleaned. The maid, who spoke no English, beamed a broad smile and immediately started trying to tell me something, gesticulating with her fingers to make the number ‘two’ and pointing at the television, which she had tuned to CNN. My Mandarin was no better than her English, and it was only after she left that I saw the news that China had just overtaken Japan to become the second largest economy in the world.

The story exemplifies for me the intense pride the Chinese have in their country and its achievements, which we also see in our proprietary Global MONITOR data. (How many Britons, or Italians, or Canadians, would know or care about their country’s ranking in the world economic league table?).

Many commentators conclude that this national pride will increasingly lead the Chinese to turn inwards, and favour domestic brands over their western counterparts. But this is wrong. The reality is that the Chinese are sufficiently self-confident in what it means to be Chinese, and their ability to choose selectively from other cultures, that they are actually very open to other cultural influences and don’t bristle at the idea of accepting western brands. In our Global MONITOR survey, the Chinese (along with Saudis) are the least likely to feel that ‘our society is too Americanised’.

But simply playing to notions of status and elitism through an association with the West is no longer enough for western brands looking to succeed in China. Chinese consumers are now far more savvy about price and value and are adopting a much more sophisticated attitude to brands – both foreign and domestic.

It sounds obvious, but both foreign and local brands must remember the difference between what it takes to claim the indoors and the outdoors. Haier and Lenovo do well in China because their products are kept in the home, while Nokia and Chanel do well because they’re on public display. Of course, this is a crude division – and becoming more so every day. To cross it requires a much deeper analysis of the underlying values and attitudes that are driving consumer needs and wants in China, something we are currently helping a number of clients to get to grips with.

The picture at the top of this post comes from an article on Chinese brands in Business World, and is used with thanks.

9 February 2011 at 12:58 pm Leave a comment

Winners and sinners in the Superbowl ads

Alex Steer writes:

I’ve been in the US a few months now, and still know nothing about American football. So when I watched the Superbowl last night, I watched the advertising. I was looking for ads that showed some insight into how consumers here are thinking and feeling in the recovery. There were some clear hits and some obvious mis-steps. Here’s my (personal) take on the most expensive 30-second slots in the advertising year.

Some winners

Everybody was talking about Volkswagen’s Passat commercial before the game, and with good reason. On the surface this endearing spot about a small child in a Darth Vader costume does no more than use some human interest to sell a minor product feature (remote engine start), it tapped into an insight about our desire for technology to fit around our lives in subtle, even ‘magical’ ways. Its gentle tone hit a sweet spot for consumers who are seeking more humanity in the marketplace.

The insight behind Best Buy’s ‘Buy Back’ offer was really smart. They recognized that if consumers are no longer in recessionary lock-down, they’re weighing up their spending (especially on big-ticket items) much more carefully. Best Buy is helping its consumers feel more futureproof, and that matters. The ad, with Ozzy Osbourne and Justin Bieber, was one of the most catchphrase-worthy of the night. (‘How many bloody Gs are there?’)

Verizon kicked off its ad with an almost-too-close parody of an iPhone 4 commercial – ultra close-up, heroing the product, a little overblown – before getting to the point: ‘Does your network work?’ Demand for utility is really strong in the US marketplace at the moment, and Verizon deftly exploited a gap between consumers’ opinions of the iPhone and the AT&T network, often criticized for poor call quality.

The real winner for me in terms of insight was Chrysler, with its ‘Imported from Detroit’ ad. It wasn’t the only car marque to run with a ‘made in the US’ message, but it was the only one to explore what that means in the United States now. More an ad about Detroit than Chrysler, it was one of the few spots of the night that showed foresight as well as insight, using Detroit (and the car) as shorthand for a recovering nation’s sense of injury, self-reliance and determination. There’s a lot of discussion – and divided opinions – about this ad in our US offices today.

Some sinners

We’re a bit divided, too, over the Motorola Xoom piece, which tried to do to Apple exactly what Apple did to Microsoft in its famous ‘1984’ ad. I don’t think it reflects a genuine insight into how people think about the iPad. For that reason it’s less strong than Windows Phone’s amazing ‘Season of the Witch’ and ‘Really’, which tapped into exactly how a lot of us feel about smartphones.

Like the VW spot, Chevy’s ‘Status’ commercial was a fairly human take on a minor product feature, but it the feature was baffling. A voice that reads your Facebook status updates as you drive feels like an awkward attempt by a car to borrow the brand halo of a social network, but just when enthusiasm for ‘always on, always sharing’ feels like it’s waning.

My worst offender, by far, was Groupon, whose campaign idea, ‘Save the Money’, is based on the idea of treating money like it’s a precious resource. The insight’s not bad, but their three ads badly misjudged US consumers. By making light of the threats to whales, Tibet and forestation, they seemed shallow and self-obsessed, and worse, prompted an immediate backlash online. Even if consumers find environmental concerns slipping down their list of immediate priorities, it doesn’t mean they want to mock them.

In all, it feels like the most-loved ads were those which had a powerful and durable insight behind them. The Superbowl’s the one night of the year when we pay real attention to the ads, but we expect those ads to be paying attention to us, too.

7 February 2011 at 9:26 pm 1 comment

Millennials and money

Alex Oliver writes:

We’ve been out and about talking about the millennials generation and their financial attitudes and behaviours. At the Financial Services Forum event in the City of London recently I presented some of our proprietary research about the millennial cohort growing up and ‘coming of age’ with lifestyles to match.  Millennials are now fluent consumers and intuitive users of technology, and are clearly adept at navigating the increasingly blended worlds real and virtual, work and play, but their self-stated lack of engagement and frequent misunderstanding of financial matters is stark.  Tough economic times, alongside a general lack of interest in managing their finances means millennials need support to weather the storm.

But although this ought to be an opportunity for financial services providers, there is something of a mismatch between the brand values and service propositions which millennials look for and those which financial services providers tend to have. Millennials want to see  ‘authenticity’ in brands, and they want easier access to services (for example when they’re ‘on the go’ or using dead time to catch up. There are some easier wins for financial services providers – for example, they may be able to nudge them to some good but low engagement behaviours (such as saving more for retirement) by smart service design. But there’s potentially a big win here. The provider which gets this right, at a time when many millennials are financially squeezed, could capture a cohort of customers for life.

The picture is from dcist, and it’s used with thanks.

7 February 2011 at 9:07 am 1 comment

China’s top brands

Oliver Wright writes:

BrandZ has recently released its flagship reports on the value of global brands, and took the moment to launch a companion report on the Top 50 most valuable Chinese brands. Given China’s buoyant economy, the results are bound to be of interest to companies looking to expand into new markets.

A glance at the top 10 brands is revealing. China Mobile is in top spot, with large banks taking many of the remaining places, rounded out by Tencent (also known as QQ; an instant messenger and mobile provider) and local language search engine Baidu – Google doesn’t figure in the top 50. Although China has the reputation, at least in the West,   of being a large exporter, supplier of components, and the manufacturer of so much of our ‘stuff’, the top 10 are almost exclusively service providers with a strong national base. Of course, this is unsurprising, given the necessity of these services in a rapidly expanding economy.

Looking further down the list, there are a couple of internationally recognisable brands. Most will have heard of Tsingtao beer (35), one of a number of alcohol brands in there, but how many could claim to recognise ChangYu (22), an premium wine brand?  Haier (29) and Lenovo (16) have both made an impact in the US, with the former increasing its (albeit small) international business by fostering a reputation for reliable but affordable appliances.  But Midea (25) is another appliance brand with a larger brand value than Haier, built on a different strategy: its growth has largely come from focusing on China’s many tier 2 and 3 cities, where the presence of other brands is limited.

Retailers and apparel producers also feature further down the list. But like other Chinese brands seeking to establish themselves internationally, value remains the overarching brand association outside of China. Within China, of course, consumers are becoming more brand conscious; 53% shopped with a brand shortlist in 2010, compared to 41% in 2006.

However, as Kunal Sinha of Ogilvy notes, Chinese brands with an international presence are a marker of quality for consumers back home. Tom Doctoroff also makes the important point that many of these brands have yet to test their mettle in their home markets against international brands, as relatively few have had much impact yet. There’s still a lot to play for.

28 January 2011 at 9:00 am 3 comments

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The Futures Company was created through the merger of Henley Centre HeadlightVision and Yankelovich in 2008. This is the blog of the new company - but the former posts from the former Henley Centre Headlightvision blog still can be found here.

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