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  • Posted by: Interbrand on Wednesday, August 21 2013 05:06 PM | Comments (0)
    Corporate Citizenship

    The belief that brands have the power to change the world is an integral part of our values at Interbrand. We believe that responsibly using that power to make the world a better place is about more than checkbook philanthropy and extends even beyond the feel good moment. Investing brand power into Corporate Citizenship drives returns in the bottom line.

    Our Corporate Citizenship discipline team, working with brands in both the non-profit and for-profit worlds, helps clients align efforts with overall business strategies. In working on unlocking these growth opportunities for clients, the team saw an opportunity to create and curate monthly conversations about the global focus on linking social good to financial and brand ROI. We're pleased to announce the launch of Closing the Gap, a new monthly Corporate Citizenship newsletter.

    Bringing together thought leadership from diverse sources, including Interbrand's Best Global Green Brands 2013 report with pieces such as The Contribution Equation: How Brands' Sustainability Initiatives Impact Employee Recruitment and Retention by Emily Grant and Chloe Frank and The Guardian's piece Smart business will act now to reduce their environmental impact. The stories brought together in the newsletter demonstrate what Corporate Citizenship looks like in action.

    To subscribe to Closing the Gap and to learn more about Corporate Citizenship at Interbrand, please contact Tom Zara, Global Practice Leader of Corporate Citizenship.

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  • Posted by: Jennifer Vasilache on Thursday, June 20 2013 06:02 PM | Comments (0)

    Etymology Banner

    The Language of Sustainability

    This is a special Best Global Green Brands 2013 issue of Etymology. To experience our full report, click here.

    The New Shades of Citizenship

    When it comes to long-term brand strategy, corporate citizenship is now mandatory. But as the shade of that responsibility shifts from green to blue and beyond, how can brands raise awareness of the ways in which they give back?

    As we’ve noted before (and Clorox has so eloquently stated), "something's gone wrong with green." The green gold rush went bust and the term went from being a powerful symbol of sustainability to a suspicious and undifferentiating claim.

    Some brands have already taken a simple approach toward solving the green-light jam: give sustainability another color. Blue has become the color of choice for those who want to signal new, renewable energy sources and technologies, while signaling that they’ve gone beyond green (a.k.a. building value into their supply chain) and designed their business to give back more than it takes. Volkswagen brings this concept to life literally, with “BlueMotion” technology and its “Think Blue” campaign, but across the board, brands are beginning to ambitiously name with the net positive they hope to create for the world in mind.

    Then Then Again Now

    Is this color trend sustainable (pardon the pun)? Or, as responsibility and sustainability become part of everyday business, will there be a point at which we become color blind?

    Brands early to exit the “green” conversation in favor of owning a bigger one have reached a critical point as well. IBM’s “Smarter Planet” started a trend of speaking about the world, possibly inspiring names like Starbucks’ “Shared Planet” and Nike’s “Better World.” They speak to engagement and participation, and they certainly capture a global consciousness around citizenship, but these names are starting to sound similar—and make it difficult to determine how they’ll talk about where their efforts will go next.

    We suspect we might see brands headed in the other direction too, shifting from macro to micro responsibility. The shift from “everyone” to “just one” is profound, but brands are inviting their customers to give back more than they take, right alongside them.

    TOMS Shoes established their business model on the buy-one-give one promise, with its “One for One” initiative, donating a pair of shoes for every pair purchased. That kind of intimate, personal responsibility has caught fire with startups (like eyewear company Warby Parker’s “Buy a pair, give a pair” program) and is finding its way into the lexicon of larger corporations (we see IBM narrowing its scope from Smarter Planet to Smarter Cities and Smarter Buildings) as they seek new ways to get credit for their efforts to make the whole-wide world even bluer.

    This week's guest author, Jennifer Vasilache, is a Senior Verbal Identity Consultant for Interbrand New York.

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  • Posted by: Erica Velis on Monday, June 17 2013 04:50 PM | Comments (0)

    Best Global Green Brands 2013Today, most companies—driven chiefly by a practical need to reduce operational costs—are making efforts to “go green.” While the usual areas of focus like energy efficiency and water conservation remain key components of a greener business, these measures don’t always leave a strong impression on consumers. If a brand’s idea of corporate citizenship is a one-off philanthropic gesture now and then or if sustainability efforts are behind the scenes and only focused on mitigating risk or reducing costs, a brand may be missing opportunities to educate, inspire, engage and ultimately lift brand value.

    In Interbrand’s just-released Best Global Green Brands 2013 report, we examine sustainability performance, but also how consumers perceive the sustainability efforts of top brands. In the study we conducted, we found that, overwhelmingly, consumers look to the products and services that a brand offers as proof of their commitment to environmental sustainability. This is one explanation for the high performance of the automotive sector in this year’s report. These brands have invested in creating innovative products that serve as clear evidence of their commitment to sustainability (e.g., Toyota Prius, Ford EcoBoost, Nissan LEAF) and as a result, are receiving more recognition from consumers.

    People tend to trust what is more visible to them, what is real and tangible—which is why the products and services they actually use, along with marketing and messaging for those products and services, make more of an impact on them than corporate claims of sustainability. In fact, in our study, a third of respondents globally agree that the environmental activities of different companies seem very similar (31 percent) and 35 percent do not trust information given by a company about its environmental efforts. So, if operational performance is not enough to gain favor with consumers because a significant number don’t trust corporate reporting or have no awareness of what a company is doing—what lever can a brand pull to build and truly capitalize upon its green reputation?

    Our research around consumer perception of brands’ sustainability efforts in ten countries shows that it’s a small but significant influential factor that, all other attributes being equal, the perception that a brand is a good employer, good to the earth, practices what it preaches, and otherwise displays the characteristics of a good corporate citizen, it will be chosen versus a competitor. (Read more in Emily Grant and Chloe Frank’s article, The Contribution Equation.)

    At the end of the day, having the power to influence choices translates into money. The key to that power is the brand, its image, reputation and the multitude of messages, gestures, and efforts that build the collective perception of who it is, what it stands for—and how trustworthy it is. Today, it's no longer enough to make progress toward sustainability targets and publish these accomplishments in a sustainability report—and, in the age of social media, greenwashing is no longer an option either.

    To stay socially relevant, businesses need to give back in significant ways, communicate about these actions and work to overcome cynicism, while building a reputation that fosters trust and inspires both admiration and participation. As Interbrand’s global Corporate Citizenship practice leader, Tom Zara, puts it: “With all this power to influence, drive demand, and inspire loyalty, brands are uniquely positioned to bring solutions to the marketplace…[And] as concern about the environment, the treatment of workers, and long-term sustainability grows—corporate citizenship will increasingly determine which brands consumers invite into their lives.”

    Erica Velis is the content editor and lead writer for Global Marketing and Communications at Interbrand.

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  • Posted by: Fred Burt on Friday, June 14 2013 12:31 PM | Comments (0)
    Interbrand London Best Global Green Brands 2013 EventAs part of the Best Global Green Brands 2013 (BGGB) launch this week, Interbrand hosted an event at The Guardian newspaper's headquarters in London. With luminaries from the world of sustainability and branding in the room, and a panel-based format, the debate was always likely to be engaging and interesting. Here were the stand-out points I took note of:

    Firstly, Jez Frampton asked the crowd who had three or more old mobile phones in their drawers and cupboards at home and the majority of the audience put their hand up (including me). This illustrated why Apple, among our top global brands, slipped down the BGGB ranking: product disposal is not something they are addressing actively enough.

    Jake Backus, Customer Sustainability Director for Coca-Cola was a panelist. Coke is more interested in what they call casual greens rather than dark greens, as there are more of them, plus they’re looking for brands to help them be better consumers. They want their preferred brands to be more sustainable, rather than looking for the most sustainable brand in the marketplace. There’s an opportunity for leading brands to take note from Coke.

    The panellists agreed that sustainability is a genuine unfulfilled business opportunity. Consumers do want great products that are better for the world. But they don't want to compromise on quality, performance or convenience. This is a huge opportunity for businesses and brands with R&D resources at their disposal. An example cited by Jake Backus was Coke’s I LOHAS water product, which has taken Japan by storm, in part because of its environmental credentials (although dark greens would probably be uncomfortable with claiming imported bottled water qualifies as "sustainable").

    As the above example demonstrates, sustainability can be part of a growth strategy. This is particularly true in developing markets, where consumers credit brands that innovate in sustainability with technical excellence and therefore assume their products are superior.

    There was an interesting contrast between BMW and Nissan. BMW recognised that to build a successful ground-up electric car they had to set up a business unit that was entirely outside of the core business. Nissan, meanwhile is looking to put sustainability much more at the heart of the business.

    And I loved the idea that we, as brand stewards, should be looking at foresight rather than insight. The consumer wants to be led, and asking them what they want now will not result in leadership.

    Finally, leadership itself was a key topic. I heard Coke talk about being very aware of its "social license to operate." Taking a leadership position on the issues it can and should be influencing – child obesity being the obvious one – is a responsibility they’re not ducking.

    If last night’s event was anything to go by, our BGGB study is stimulating exactly the kind of debate we had in mind. I’m looking forward to following the feedback.

    Fred Burt is the Managing Director of Global Accounts at Interbrand.

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  • Posted by: Amy Edel-Vaughn on Tuesday, August 21 2012 07:00 PM | Comments (0)

    Oldsmobile's 1949 V-8 Rocket Engine 

    Today is the 115th anniversary of Ransom Eli Olds’ founding of Olds Motors Works, which later became Oldsmobile. Bought in 1908 by GM and dissolved in 2004, it was the oldest continuously operating automaker in the US. The global auto industry landscape has certainly changed since 1897, but the spirit of innovation of pioneering brands lives on today.

    Today eight out of the fifty Best Global Green Brands 2012 in Interbrand’s report were automobile companies from Japan, Germany, the USA and South Korea. All of these brands were in the top 25. The same creative passion that led Olds to complete his first gasoline-powered vehicle in 1896 and begin mass-producing his curved-dash automobile in 1902 using a progressive assembly-line system, is unlocking new approaches to design with sustainability in mind.

    Once considered the experimental division of GM, Oldsmobile introduced the “safety automatic transmission” in 1938 and introduced its revolutionary V-8 Rocket Engine, often credited with being the first muscle car, in 1949. Today brands are garnering reputations as great experimenters and problem solvers, designing cars with smaller carbon footprints.

    Toyota topped the BGGB 2012 list, recognized for its “unparalleled sustainability leadership” and demonstrating that “sustainability is deeply ingrained in the company’s culture.” Hybrid and Toyota’s Prius have become synonymous for many consumers, helping shape a perception of the brand as cutting-edge.

    Honda, VW, BMW, Ford, Mercedes, Hyundai and Nissan also made the top 25 with innovations in waste, emissions, and toxicity reduction in production, process and products. Nissan’s Global Head of Digital Marketing DeLu Jackson spoke with Interbrand about its commitment to eco-friendly innovation.

    Olds had a vision of focusing on small cars, but his board of directors and financial backer wanted to build large luxury cars. Olds left to found Reo Motor Car Company.

    The term “luxury car” has become ubiquitous today, as has the term “luxury” itself, as discussed in Interbrand Milan’s Managing Director Manfredi Ricca and European Director Rebecca Robins’ book, Meta-luxury: Brands and the Culture of Excellence

    Ricca and Robins note, “As we have seen, the term ‘luxury,’ has been overexposed, overstretched, deformed and diluted, and as a result is now worn out beyond recovery.” In defining meta-luxury and clarifying its distinction from luxury, the authors note the importance of key elements. Focus is one of these pillars of meta-luxury.

    Rebecca Robins and Manfredi Ricca 

    “After all, most of the brands known today as luxury brands originate historically from the founder’s vision and dream to represent the pinnacle with regard to a certain field,” they contend. “…The difference is, in fact, between those brands for whom this commitment to excellence is merely the past, and those for which it is the constant future.”

    They note that brands such as Rolls Royce had their origins in dedicated focus, “stemming from the passionate engineering and design talent of Sit Henry Royce,” which continues today. The brand “retains that focus and has refrained from widening its offering to include other products inspired by an undoubtedly profound and universally recognized heritage.”

    Despite global economic uncertainty, meta-luxury brands weathered the crisis, from explorer yachts to French fashion houses.  Luxury car brands like Porsche are experiencing booms despite the financial woes in Europe and some brands have discovered new opportunities during the crisis.

    On the flip side, the small, economic cars of Olds’ vision have been hot sellers for a number of global car brands and June was a very good month for American car sales

    Chrysler, as brandchannel reported, has announced a new Customer Service Initiative as it looks to overhaul how it works with its dealers to encourage sales. With solid sales figures and a healthier dealer base, Chrysler says it’s confident in its new program.

    Noted in the brandchannel piece, Fiat’s purchase of a 35% stake in Chrysler was one of the contributing factors to its current health. Fiat itself is seeing significant success in its sales in the US, surpassing predictions.

     Fiat 500

    As Jez Frampton noted in his foreword to Meta-luxury, “The recent economic trials and tribulations force us to look hard at our values, and what we value. In times like these, we anchor ourselves to unquestionable truths and authenticity, and we look for objects, experiences and stories that remind us of what we value as individuals. Some brands manage to reflect these truths.”

    While Oldsmobile is gone, Olds’ vision for innovation and value left a lasting impact on the auto industry. Those brands consistently creating solid value whether meta-luxury or economy, those innovating in sustainability and those willing to try new ways to service their customers are thriving.

    Amy Edel-Vaughn is Interbrand's Community Manager.

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