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Forget everything you know about Mobility!


A new generation of consumers is redefining what mobility means to them—and it’s turning business models upside down, especially in the auto industry.


“For me, it’s easier to not own a car than to own one.” 


This U.S. millennial’s casual conclusion will, without a doubt, keep some car executives up at night. What does this mean for mobility? “Mobility” has turned into a word of many meanings over the past few years. 


The automotive industry’s entire business model has been built on the assumption that the products it offers are the preferred means to take people from point A to point B, and back again. Over the past few decades, what we drive and how we drive has evolved dramatically, but the fundamental notion of “mobility” (as a business) has remained constant: building, marketing, and then selling a car that gets consumers around. 


What changed? Millennials. Gen Y. Generation We. However you label them, the way they define “mobility” is drastically different. Transportation is not entirely tied to a physical product, but revolves much more around “access.” For previous generations, getting your first car opened the door to mobility; for this generation, the important thing is to simply be mobile, which might have nothing to do with actually owning a car.


That's a scary thought for a car manufacturer as it puts a brand’s very identity—and survival—at stake. If not selling cars, what’s your purpose?  What do you offer, if not car ownership, what else can you offer? How else can you keep customers mobile? And how will you sustain revenue and profit, if a growing part of this large young demographic believes that mobility can come in forms other than car ownership?


Read on - the full article can be found here:




The 3 P's Brands Must Embrace: People, Purpose, Participation!


Building brands that are truly meaningful, admired and (sometimes) even loved has not become any easier over the years. If anything, it is becoming increasingly difficult. We’ve never lived in more connected, fast-paced, over-stimulated and challenging times; just ask any marketer and brand manager. And yet – as is typically the case – every challenge brings about an opportunity. Guess what? In this article I will give you three.

On a recent flight from Los Angeles back to New York, I sat next to a 13-year-old kid from somewhere in Oregon. Having had long meetings, a short night and definitely a bit of jetlag, an in-depth conversation was definitely not highest on my wish list for the next six hours. Little did I know that it would turn into one of the best and most insightful conversations I’ve had around brands and branding for a long time. And trust me, I do have many of those.

Kyle was visibly bored with the in-flight entertainment program, so it took about three minutes after take off before he asked me what I was doing in Los Angeles. I told him that I’d been on the West Coast to help a client develop what hopefully turns into a fantastic and very cool brand experience for the company.

“I like some brands. I looooove my Nintendo Wii,” was his short but pretty passionate reply. He immediately followed up with a series of questions:

“So your job is to build brands? How do you do that? Is that difficult?”

Asking a brand strategist how to build a brand is like asking a professional chef how to cook a good dessert. There is no straight answer. It’s a blend of science and art. And sometimes the right amount of each, down to an ounce, can make or break a great brand, as is the case with any delicious dessert.

Kyle was visibly not in the mood for a lecture about the many ingredients it takes – so breaking it down to some simple truths was both a challenge and a fantastic exercise to strip away the theoretical noise that at times keeps us marketers distracted from what ultimately constitutes the brands we fall in love with.

So here are my takeaways – broken down for a 13-year-old

Read on: the full article can be found here:

A “Good Pitch”: How powerful films inspire powerful action


The annual ‘Good Pitch’ in NYC is a rather unique event. Bringing together documentary filmmakers with thought-leaders from not-for profit and for-profit organizations is meant to inspire. But, most importantly, the gathering of the minds is meant to forge powerful partnerships, leading to powerful action that can solve some of the world’s most pressing issues!


‘Change’ is a tricky thing to achieve. Especially when it comes to social justice. It requires a strong vision of the ones that peruse it. It needs to carve out a powerful incentive for others to join in. And it needs persistence, because ‘change’ does not come easily.


All these ingredients were present in abundance last week in New York, when one of the global “Good Pitch” events opened its gates to various filmmakers: Each and every one of them introducing their personal vision of what needs to change in the world to make it more just, more tolerant, more sustainable or, simply more balanced.


‘3 ½ Minutes’, for example: the tragic story of teenager Jordan Davis who became victim of a deadly race and gun crime. Or ‘Seed’: a film that follows farmers and scientists trying to protect the diversity of agriculture and battle for the future of our seeds. Or ‘Virunga’: the incredible story of a group of brave people that risk their lives to safe a National Park in the Congo.


During his opening remarks, Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, said “the arts are a profound means of improving the human experience; and film is a timeless ally in the ongoing quest for justice”.


I could not agree more. We live in a world where the younger generations are often more inspired by short films and youtube video clips than they are by the written word. And the fact that there was no dry eye in the room when Jordan Davis’ parents talked about the unimaginable pain caused by the injustice inflicted upon their son was a testimony to the power of visual storytelling to inspire transformative action.


That’s where ‘Good Pitch’ adds a unique (and indispensable) ingredient to the filmmakers’ vision and persistence: it allows others to join their fight by facilitating participation and engagement of influential allies and the civil society. Whether its on-the-spot financial support to complete a film’s production, or PR and media connections that help amplify its reach:  the collective action this get together of change makers inspires far transcends the room it takes place in. It reaches out to all of us. Not only to watch these films. Not only to bear witness to the injustices we won’t accept. But to join in. To become a visionary, as well.


This is a form of participation we will increasingly see.  It is yet another pathway to empower us all to stand up and take sides with the causes that matter most to us. Kickstarter,, – all these trails of change will only be enriched by thought-provoking documentary films. Why does it matter? Because being aware of a problem is the first step in fixing it.


And the fact that the event gives “branding” a seat at the table speaks to the important role some of the most recognized brands play in this conversation. The Fords, Patagonias, Googles, Netflixes of this world can – and have to – use their sphere of influence to scale the vision of these filmmakers, so that we all, collectively, can be part of creating the change we want to see in this world. 

“What if…?” we could change the world?


When KoAnn Skrzyniarz opened this year’s Sustainable Brands Conference in San Diego, she passionately encouraged the more than 2000 attendees to ask themselves an endless lot of  “What if…?” questions. Why? So it would spark everyone’s imagination and audacity to bring up the much-needed debate around initiatives that might have the potential to create a more sustainable economy and society.


The conference did exactly that. Under the theme “Reimagine. Redesign. Regenerate” the gathered community of change-makers explored how purpose-driven brands increasingly succeed in the marketplace by enabling a more sustainable future for all of us.


But beyond all the optimism that stems from imagining a changed world, KoAnn also reminded everyone in San Diego that asking the bold questions can just be the beginning – a starting point and gateway. And she is right. What is really needed is taking collective action that turns “What if…?” into “Well done…!”


The conference seemed to provide the right feeding ground for such an endeavor, with a speaker list that read like the “Who is Who” of big brand names. Nissan, BASF, Coca Cola, McDonalds, Starbucks, Patagonia, Microsoft, SAP, Lego, AT&T, Walmart, Levis, Nestle, 3M, Unilever, Nike, Target, and many more. What better platform could there be than using the sphere of influence of some of the world’s biggest brands to scale sustainable behavior change?


Accordingly, the conference yielded many conversations around a “Tribe Culture”; an organic system in which the behavior changes of few inspire and trigger the behavior changes of many. A system in which more sustainable behaviors spread from one person to another, until we reach a tipping point that marks systematic change.


The thought is not new. But what is new is the realization of big brands that they actually can – and should – be at the forefront of this movement. Not only by educating and leading their customers, but also their own employees. For example:  Patagonia, the purpose-driven apparel company that is at the forefront of sustainable business practices, spoke about their campaign in which they encourage customers to rather have their 10 year old outdoor jacket fixed, than purchasing a new one. At the same time, the brand encourages its own employees to take a two-month long, fully paid internship at an environmental non-profit of their choice to “walk the talk”.


That is how brands step up and lead the charge on behavior change. And this is increasingly becoming a mandatory table stake, as activists become more empowered through social media to enforce behavior change in brands that don’t proactively do so themselves. It is not about staying ahead anymore – now it is about not being left behind!


Take the example of the 17-year-old teenager from Mississippi who recently ran various petitions on the online platform to have both Coca Cola and Pepsi bend to the will of the masses and remove brominated vegetable oil, a controversial ingredient, from its products. After bringing the beverage giants to its knees, the young activist said, "It's really good to know that companies, especially big companies, are listening to consumers."


The pressure and the responsibility that is put on big brands are huge. But so are the opportunities to tab into a new emerging consumer segment for which purpose-driven products and services are highly relevant. One of the key challenges here lies within marketers who still seem to struggle with an important question: “How can we make the more sustainable product choice look like the better and sexier one?” But there is hope: the much talked about electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla might have one or the other answer for the ones asking. Equally does Nest, the rapidly growing, Palo Alto based thermostat company.


We still have a long way to go until we reach the green(er) world we’d all love to live in. But, hey – we should not stop asking ourselves: “What if… tomorrow’s world was shaped by brands that take ‘sustainability’ from a movement to a lifestyle?” And then act on it. 

The New Branding Reality: "Game Changer" or "Game Over"


Dom Prinz explores the 5 Game Changing behaviors every brand should adopt to stay relevant and survive. Read more on

Measure your Social Impact – for Millennials Sake!


I visited the The Yale Philanthropy Conference, which was hosted on February 07 in New Havenm CT. It was a celebration of the strides organizations have made in recent history when it comes to “doing good”.  It also painted a picture of what’s next, and which trends brands should be aware of in order to stay current to the rising demand of Millennials. They want to be part of, rather than just witness, the corporate decisions which will impact the planet’s and society’s future.


A panel on “Measuring Impact” put a particular spin on the rising importance of recognizing the Millennials desire for more transparency when it comes to impact reporting. This should not come as a surprise, given that the younger generation of those born between 1982 and 1993 is now often the loudest voice in the room, demanding brands to step up and use their sphere of influence and consumer reach to affect positive change. But just “stepping up” doesn't cut it for them. Once an organization has taken on a challenge that addresses a larger purpose – be it around environmental issues, human rights, health care, or any other important cause – Millennials demand to see tangible results. And don’t be mistaken: the standard, annual Sustainability or CSR Report won’t suffice or even remotely satisfy the Millennials inquisitive nature to make sure a real, measurable impact   has been achieved. Brands will have to connect the sheer numbers game with meaningful stories of how their doings have positively changed people’s lives.


A great example for making Impact Reporting transparent is the Human Rights Watch (HRW), the international NGO that is dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. The organization’s annual report features one single page with all financial numbers (note that it is the very last page in the report). All other pages focus on powerful storytelling, impactful images and personal anecdotes of people whose lives have been positively affected by the work HRW is doing.  And the organization goes further to tell these compelling stories: film festivals, social media, photo essays, audio stories – there is no shortage in attempts to help people truly understand the importance of the organization’s work.


HRW manages to reduce the complexity of Social Impact Measurement, which so often turns into a beast these days, thereby making it uninspiring, and thus almost deems it irrelevant.


Paying close attention to the Millennials’ demand for powerful stories that inspire and connect us all will be a key requirement for brands who want to stay relevant and inspire people’s continuous engagement and participation. The outlook of “getting it right” is bright: count on the advocacy of the Millennials you’re talking to. Because remember: they are the loudest voice in the room these days – and are likely to be for a while.


How to successfully define, track, and communicate good your brand is doing 


by Dominik Prinz, Erica Chan & Thomas Goerner



What's your Impact?
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The Power of Participation


by Dom Prinz & Justin Stokes

The 21st century consumer has arrived: more informed, paying attention, and ready to take action to improve the world. And just in time. Economic uncertainty, political upheaval, and social unrest are forcing even the most stalwart of business leaders to reassess the role of business in society. We know that businesses can and must do more to crete shared value.


At the same time, technology is creating opportunities for people to congregate in numbers never before possible, and collectively solve society's most intractable problems. Brands, as the windows between the consumer and the business, are the platforms for organizing and activating this collective potential. Participation is the next stage of brand strategy.


The next generation of purpose-driven brands and corporate citizenship

Purpose-driven brands must find authentic ways to engage their consumers, to provide them with meaningful, inspiring experiences—empowering them to use their influence to change their world.


We are increasingly demanding brands that pursue a social mission and add meaning to our lives: in a recent study on global consumer attitudes on social purpose, more than half of consumers surveyed (53 percent) cite social purpose as the most important factor in choosing one brand over another one, when quality and price are the same—making it a key driver of preference and brand loyalty. These consumers are already taking action with their money: nearly half (47 percent) of them have bought (at least monthly) a brand that supports a cause, up from one-third of consumers in 2010.


Companies now understand the importance of being a good citizen in order to appeal to a generation that is much more attuned to the role the brand is playing in society. But just "doing good" and eventually telling one's customers about it, no longer cuts it.


The stakes are high. The 'cause' marketing bubble is about to pop as consumers are increasingly holding brands accountable. It's no longer enough to claim to deliver an affordable product responsibly. (See recent campaigns by 38 Degrees and UK Uncut.) Millennials, the pulse of the new consumer culture, are in relentless pursuit of authenticity and agency. They are more informed, increasingly skeptical of 'cause' marketing, and more engaged. With consumer activism on the rise, this poses significant risks for brands that are revealed to be telling a disingenuous story.


The message is clear. Brands must have a point of view on the company's role in society and a clear, authentic strategy to engage its consumers around the vision. Failure to deliver on the promise will risk becoming irrelevant. People want to be—expect to be—engaged. They expect more information, more value, more agency. It's not enough to publish a glossy annual CSR report; consumers want to be active participants with the brand in the pursuit of a compelling vision for change.

A new approach: The brand as a platform for meaningful participation and mass social engagement.


Today's most innovative brands are creating opportunities for their customers to meaningfully participate in a shared social purpose, strengthening the relationship and harnessing the potential of the brand as a platform for scaling social impact.

Our ability to connect with each other in new ways has dramatically lowered the barriers for participation and collective action. Today, we can rapidly create new sources of impact by aggregating the actions of many. If your brand is currently championing a social purpose, but isn't engaging its followers directly in the mission in a way that aligns with the brand strategy, you're leaving value on the table—both for society and your business.


While consumer expectations are rising as mobile and social channels spark innovations and new business models, many mature businesses find themselves in the midst of significant change, if not complete disruption. The tendency of established brands facing market change has been to further tighten their grip: control the messaging. Choreograph and stage moments of "public engagement." Avoid open-source campaigns. While a natural reaction, this is at odds with the characteristics and desires of the 21st century consumer. A strategy based on tight control risks compromising the value and relevance of the brand.


Instead, brands must truly commit to the cause and genuinely engage their consumers in ways that create opportunities for them to become a part of the brand and what it stands for. Cultivating this relationship will be critical to staying agile and competitive in an increasingly disruptive environment.


Once a brand has decided to be purpose-driven, committed to mobilizing its assets in genuine pursuit of a social purpose, the key strategic question becomes: How does the company pursue a strategy that both creates business value and delivers on our promise for real, measurable social impact? We believe the answer lies in how it deploys the brand to activate its customers and their communities.


In fact, today's most innovative brands are doing exactly this. In their quest for good, they are creating opportunities for their customers to meaningfully participate in their missions. And they are doing so in ways that connect directly to core parts of the business model, from the early stages of R&D to customer service and aftercare.


If done right, the benefits for brands are manifold. Consumer participation ultimately leads to a stronger brand—and secures future earnings.


A purpose-driven participation strategy creates a sense of belonging and forges closer bonds between brands and audiences; it drives choice, legitimacy, and loyalty. It allows a brand to provide meaningful experiences, ones that enable consumers to share stories with their friends, families, and peers.


Perhaps most importantly, such a strategy creates higher societal impact at a faster rate, by tapping the power of networks, as more people are partaking and working towards the same goal, ultimately creating a sense of purpose and collective accountability to shared value.


This represents a powerful way for a purpose-driven brand to deliver on its promise. Brands, the stories they tell and allow us to share, have to enable us to use our agency to drive social change. Market disruption, new consumer expectations, and changing behavior patterns always present challenges. But instead of creating a feeling of discomfort, this new rallying cry for participation should be seen as the long-awaited call for brands to play an even more substantial part in people's lives. Brands have the power to change the world. Now purpose-driven brands can wholeheartedly tap into an army of enthusiastic supporters who want to be personally invested in a brand's social purpose, and reward those brands that allow them to participate in the journey.




LIVESTRONG: Can you separate Good and Bad?

There is a curious thing about celebrity endorsements. They can be of tremendous worth for brands if the person they pick rides the waves of soaring success and limitless public admiration. Then there are those cases where all that falls apart within the blink of an eye – highlighting all the dangers associated with borrowed equity.


The latest case of Lance Armstrong makes these questions more relevant than ever.

It’s a case about the destruction of faith – and the almost aching disappointment that comes along with it. Armstrong was considered more than just a hero in sports. He was considered a hero in real life, too. What really inspired people about him is his personal story, overcoming all odds, beating a 20-30% chance of survival when suffering from stage three cancer and then returning to the world stage of cycling, winning the Tour de France for seven consecutive years. That’s the stuff legends are made of. And brands love to tag-team with heroes like that – because it can affect their own perception extremely positively.


The problem is that heroes like that are built and thrive upon three important and inevitable truths: credibility, authenticity and a story that people can believe in. The fact that Armstrong has repeatedly denied doping and stated, “there is zero physical evidence to support (these) outlandish and heinous claims” undermines all of those values in light of the latest reports.


If you think this case is already complicated enough to solve for by partners such as Nike and others, just hang in there for a second – it gets more challenging. There is Lance the sports man. But there is also Lance the humanitarian. And you might think whatever you want about his alleged involvement in doping, but all he has unquestionably done relentlessly for cancer research deserves nothing but deep admiration.


I personally have concluded that I don’t believe that there is anything hypocritical about separating Armstrong the cyclist from Armstrong the humanitarian. Actually, this might be one of the rare cases where his corporate partners can benefit from showing ongoing support for a man that might have made mistakes in his professional career – but certainly has done everything right from a human and social perspective.


This can be a moment where standing one's ground might bring about even more positive image transfer for the brands. Why? Because they’d make a statement about what really matters and give their brands a human touch – which in turn could win them more share of heart and mind than any Tour de France victory ever would.

Obama vs Romney - who's got the better brand?!

67 million Americans watched the first presidential campaign live on TV. And many of them will decide where to place their vote on election day based upon what they think of the very man – rather than the political arguments he puts forward. Attributes such as trustworthiness, authenticity, poise, or even physical attributes come into play. Lots of the decision-making is subjective and maybe even irrational. And that's exactly where politicians compare to brands.


Why? Because we sometimes choose a particular brand for the most irrational reasons: we're buying it even though it's a bit more expensive than what we can afford; we choose it because so many of our friends are using it, or because a certain brand simply allows us to express who we are (or who we want to be).


The similarities to politics are manifold: we might choose Obama not because his stance on healthcare – but because we like the way he interacts with his kids. Or we might vote for Romney not primarily because it would benefit our tax bill, but because he looks fit and tanned.


In this context "branding the candidate" is by now a crucial part of political campaigning. For example, a solid brand needs a strong visual identity, it needs a clear value proposition that resonates with the masses it aspires to appeal to, and it needs an experience that is just a little different every time we interact with the brand. Branding a candidate uses the exact same principles. Period.


It remains to be seen which party builds the better brand, one that “gets” its audience by considering its needs and desires. Obama understood this better than any other candidate before him when he first ran for president. The latest debate left many wondering if he is still the same "brand" - or if his brand has lost a bit of its appeal. This would actually make it easier for Mitt Romney to be the "challenger brand" that his loyal followers expect him to be at this point. But: strong brands never go down without putting on a solid fight – so stay tuned for an equally strong comeback by Obama in the next round.

Humanizing Facebook

We live in a digital world. And we all crave that digital lifestyle that comes along with it - just like Batman comes with Robin as a sidekick. Why? Because being "on" everywhere, all the time tells us we are alive. That we are connected. That we matter. And Facebook has always been at the very forefront of this. Facebook is re-educating an entire generation to experience human interactions, human relationships differently.


That's why Facebook's recent TV spot paints a pretty interesting picture - one in which social media does not isolate, but re-unite people. One in which Facebook ultimately becomes the brand that gives us that cozy feeling of not being alone. Facebook made a smart move here - the ad humanizes the entire brand experience. It adds emotional dimension to a service and makes it almost tangible. We want to “touch it” - just like a chair. Or an airplane.


Brands – especially as more and more digital ones are finding their way into our lives - need to find ways to provide this human experience. Because that needs to be the ultimate benefit of technology and digital media: allowing us to feel closer, not further apart.

Can Luxury Brands go CSR?

Over the past two years, a curious trend has emerged amongst luxury brands. Across Italy, numerous high-end fashion brands have championed efforts to restore cultural landmarks. In January 2011, Tod’s CEO pioneered the trend when he announced a $34 million donation to restore the Colosseum in exchange for advertising rights. More recently, Gucci and Prada have invested in historic landmarks across Venice in return for commercial retail rights.


Many have responded to the brands’ initiatives with skepticism - questioning if the brands’ real intentions are purely “good” or rather calculated – especially if restoring cultural sites results in them being turned into high-end commercial stores that drive away local vendors.


Such attacks indicate multiple tensions: How can brands predicated on premiums and status for the select few amongst us credibly give back to society at large? And does the exchange of funding for promotional rights undermine this effort after all? Yet, the branded initiatives offer insight into how the luxury category can align corporate citizenship with the strategic objectives they have defined for their brands and business – as long as they take into account some critical considerations:


First, the brands need to be strategic in aligning themselves with such momentous real estate. By linking themselves to iconic cultural sites, brands like Tod’s, Gucci and Prada can emphasize relevant associations such as tradition, sophistication or exclusivity.


Second, in working to preserve Italian heritage, brands have a chance to demonstrate “authenticity.” It is easy to identify the cultural and aesthetic synergies between such brands and their renovated sites.


Ultimately, luxury brands can step up to take on parts of the responsibility that public institutions can’t always live up to in an age of public deficit and funding cuts. If done right, luxury brands can demonstrate good Corporate Citizenship and close the gap between perception and performance. And they can venture beyond restoring important cultural heritage; they can restore consumers’ trust in a brand’s positive impact on society.

What do you fight for?

We seem to live in a world where we are so busy to go about our daily routines that we don't find the time to stop, take a breath and figure out what really matters. When I walk the streets in New York I see people rushing in and out of subways, Trader Joes and Duane Reades. People go to work, get back from work, grab food at a deli, go home, kiss their kids goodnight - just to wake up the next day to face the same showdown again. 


The latest media outburst around "#firstworldproblems" picks up this observation:


Putting tweets from people living in the first world into the mouth of people living in deep poverty in Haiti brings back some healthy perspective. How cynical is our life, really? Many of us have become so busy with the abundance of "nice stuff" that there is very little awareness of the "bad stuff".


What are you fighting for these days? What gets you passionate? What do we all contribute to change the world for the better? It’s a tough question – but one we all should be able to answer. Right?

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