Archives For Brand Purpose

For the past few years, I have been a strong believer that brand purpose, core values and culture are critical to an organization’s long-term success. Organizations that align these elements have been proven to be more effective in delivering financial results. Zappos and Innocent are two examples of brands who have built successful work cultures.

Many organizations have been able to develop purpose and values statements, but few brands have been able to consistently live their values and change behaviors. Enron had a vision and values statement that included lofty values such as respect, integrity, communication and excellence. In a New York Times article, James S. Kunen mentions a writer who, while struggling to draft a corporate values statement, threw up her hands in despair and observed: “Why not just come out and say it? ‘We will strive to make as much money as we can without going to prison.’”

“The writer was joking, of course. But had Enron’s leaders adopted her statement and lived by it, their employees and shareholders might be a lot better off today.”

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit the Motley Fool Corporate Headquarters in Alexandria Virginia. I participated in the Foolosophy Culture Tour which is held on the first Friday of every month. The Motley Fool is a brand committed to living its purpose and values everyday through their interactions with each other and its members and subscribers.

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The Motley Fool is a privately owned multi-media financial services company dedicated to building the world’s greatest investment community. The Motley Fool reaches people each month through its website, books, newspaper column and subscription newsletter services. The Motley Fool advocates for individual investors. The company’s name was taken from Shakespeare, whose wise fools both instructed and amused and could speak the truth to the king —without getting their heads lopped off.

The Foolosophy Tour is a 45 minute peek into the unique culture that makes the Motley Fool different and a great place to work. In 2013 and 2014, the Motley Fool was selected by Glassdoor as the best medium-sized company to work for in the United States. The tour highlighted Motley Fool’s core values and how the organization hires for them and fires for them. Their work environment was open and inviting. The workspace did not include offices, even for the most senior leaders. Each stop on the tour featured one of the organization’s core values. The tour guide shared stories of employees and leaders and their success and challenges in living their values on a daily basis.

One of my favorite parts of the tour was the wall outside the boardroom that featured pictures of every employee in the company. As decisions were made by the board they couldn’t help but look at the people whose work lives were impacted. The Motley Fool was one of the most human and engaging work environments that I have ever visited.

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Motley Fool has a simple purpose: “To Help The World Invest Better”. The company has six core values that help guide their behavior:

  • Collaborate – Do great things together.
  • Innovate – Search for a better solution. Then top it!
  • Fun – Revel in your work.
  • Honest – Make us proud.
  • Competitive – Play fair, play hard, play to win.
  • Motley – Make Foolishness your own. Share your core value _____________.

The tour guide emphasized that the Motley Fool had a competitive performance based culture that was a great place to work while delivering financial results. She also admitted that the Motley Fool Culture was not perfect but that they were always working on tangible ways to implement their values.

It was an inspiring morning, but I learned an important lesson. The road to an effective employee culture is always under construction.

Can you think of other brands, that have been successful in building a values based culture?

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I am always on the lookout for entrepreneurs who are creating new businesses and unique independent brands. If it involves food it is even better. Last week I attended a reception for Shoot Out For Soldiers, a 24 hour lacrosse game benefitting wounded soldiers. More on Shoot Out For Soldiers in another post.

The Shoot Out For Soldiers event was catered by a company called MISSION BBQ. The food was donated. The barbecue dinner was outstanding. I instantly asked the question, What’s the story?

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MISSION BBQ was founded by Steve Newton and Bill Krauss, a couple of 50 something friends who shared a passion for great barbecue and a desire to build a business with meaning and purpose. The pair opened their first store on September 11, 2011 in Glen Burnie, Maryland, ten years after 9/11. Their idea was to serve good old-fashioned American barbecue while giving back to the community. A portion of their profits go to the Wounded Warrior Project, which helps veterans and their families. It was a way to thank soldiers for their service.

MISSION BBQ and its employees are inspired by the following beliefs which are posted on their website. “We believe there is nothing more American than BBQ. And nobody more American than the brave men and women who have sworn to protect and serve our communities and our country. We do what we do for the love of our soldiers, firefighters, police officers, first responders – all our loved ones in service”. What a great focus. Mission BBQ knows who their customer is and who they want to serve. Each day at noon, they stop for a minute and play the national anthem through the loudspeakers at each location. They have create a unique brand and customer experience.

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MISSION BBQ is an inspiring story of two entrepreneurs who followed their passion and created a business with a purpose of giving back and thanking the hard-working people who serve our community.  I wish them will.

Have you eaten at MISSION BBQ?

 

 

90 million Americans are classified as obese. Many people can be described as professional couch potatoes. A study led by kinesiology researchers at the University of Tennessee, found that the average adult takes just 5,117 steps per day–barely half the daily steps recommended by the U.S. Surgeon General.

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Gym memberships increase right after the holidays but by mid-March attendance is down. Many people start fitness programs but lack the willpower to make it a regular habit. Can technology help? Wearable devices that monitor every footstep and exercise milestone allow people to keep track of their own fitness activities like never before. The devices track steps, distance, calories burned and sleep. Companies like Fitbit, Nike and Jawbone are enhancing users’ workouts through analytics, encouragement and the ability to share your accomplishment with friends through social media. These devices try to make fitness fun and interactive. It is the intersection of health and technology.

The Consumer Electronics Association says the sports and fitness category is a $70 billion annual business in the United States. Fitbit has emerged as the leader in the fast growing digital Health and Fitness category. The NPD Research Group says that Fitbit has 77% of the market for full activity body trackers and 50% of the market for digital fitness devices. Most experts predict rapid growth in this category over the next three to five years.

Fitbit was founded in 2007 by Eric Friedman and James Park. Friedman and Park realized that sensors and wireless technology had advanced to a point where they could bring amazing experiences to fitness and health. The company’s initial product, the Fitbit, was released in September 2009. It was the first wireless wearable fitness device for the mass consumer market. Fitbit’s offering has expanded to include several products including the Flex, Zip, One, Force and Aria. Their products are stylish and available in a variety of colors. Fitbit is sold at Best Buy, Dicks Sporting Goods, Sports Authority, Target and REI to name a few.

Fitbit’s mission is to empower and inspire people to live a healthier more active lifestyle. Their goal is to design products and experiences that fit seamlessly into your life so that you can achieve your fitness goals whatever they maybe.

Can Fitbit sustain its amazing growth? Wearables have become part of many people’s daily lives. Are these products a passing fad or a product category that will grow for years? Will smartphones through apps add this functionality and kill the category?

Have you tried Fitbit or another wearable fitness product?

People are dissatisfied with banking. A recent study from the Rassmussen Report reveals that American Consumers hold a grudge against banks who they hold responsible for the great recession. Many consumers believe that banks don’t have their best interests at heart. Bank fees are often confusing and hit your checking account when you can least afford them. People feel like idiots when they are hit with a bank fee. Most people, at one time or another, have had a nightmare customer service experience with a large bank. Large banks have some of the lowest customer experience and customer service ratings. People feel powerless to change things. Banks talk about being customer focused but very few of them empathize with the needs of their customers. Banks make money by keeping people confused. 

Like many people, Josh Reich got fed up with his bank after it charged him overdraft fees and he lived through a painful customer service experience. This motivated Reich, a software engineer from Australia, to come up with a better more human way to bank. 

Reich created Simple, an online banking company that was founded in Brooklyn and relocated to Portland, Oregon. Simple offers customers free checking and data analysis of their transactions and spending habits. The company, which began signing up customers in 2012 now has more than 80,000 accounts and has processed transactions worth more than $200 million. Simple does not have retail branches.
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The Simple Bank Brand was developed to help people better control their finances. All employees in the company are unified in support of this common purpose. Their goal is to make banking more human by putting customer service at the core of everything they do. Simple is targeted to people who are dissatisfied with their current banking relationship. A Simple account empowers customers with powerful budgeting and savings tools built right into their account. These tools show customers how much money they have to spend and help people save for specific goals like vacations. Their website and mobile apps are clean, simple and easy to use. Simple gives people tools to help themselves, while still making sure knowledgeable, friendly people are there to help when you need them.

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The company’s biggest challenge is customer acquisition. Despite their current dissatisfaction, it is difficult to get customers to change and leave their current bank. Changing banks is a lot of work.

Would you leave your current bank if a better more human option was available?


 

For the past year and a half, I have enjoyed reading Bernadette Jiwa’s Brand Marketing Blog “The Story of Telling”. Bernadette’s blog focuses on the importance of storytelling in brand marketing. Her posts are short, simple and inspiring.

Bernadette is a brand storyteller and strategist who challenges traditional approaches to marketing. She recently published a new book titled “Difference”. I highly recommend “Difference”. It’s a must read book for innovative marketers. Difference challenges you to re-think your approach to marketing. Many people view marketing’s role as creating demand for existing products. Conventional wisdom advocates developing a product and then creating a big marketing funnel in order to sell it.

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Difference redefines how successful brands will be marketed in the future. In Bernadette’s view marketing is not a department, it’s the story of how we create difference for our customers. The businesses that succeed tell a better story because they have learned to recognize what’s true for their customers and then create solutions that matched their worldview. As Bernadette points out, “the truth is that people don’t fall in love with ideas at all. They fall in love with how those ideas, products, services and places makes them feel”. People don’t buy features they buy promises.

One of my favorite parts of the book is when Bernadette shares her story of growing up in Dublin, the storytelling capital of the world. Bernadette describes how her little brother Johnny never greeted her by saying “hello” or “how are you?” The only question Johnny ever asked was, “what’s the story?” This is a common way to greet people in Ireland. It’s an open ended question that asks people to tell everything that’s important right now. Many great stories flowed from that simple greeting.

Difference thinking is more than the ability to connect the dots, though. It’s about seeing the truth, recognizing the opportunity in that truth and then acting on it. It isn’t the person with the best idea who wins; it’s the person who has the greatest understanding of what really matters to people.

The Difference Model outlined in the book flips product development on its head. Instead of starting with the idea, it begins with an examination of people’s current reality and explores what’s possible in a world where the problems and desires of those people are solved and met. A fundamental premise of the difference model is empathizing with your customer and asking questions to better understand your customer.

The Difference Model is consists of the following elements:

  • Principles – What’s the truth about us, the industry, the market and the people we want to serve.
  • Purpose – Why do we exist?
  • People – Who are the people we want to serve? What do they value? What’s their current reality?
  • Personal – How can we change how people feel?
  • Perception – What do people believe about you? What would you like them to believe about you?
  • Product – What do people really want?

Difference cites examples of many brands who have taken this approach to solving customers needs. Examples include Apple, Uber, By the Way Bakery, Warby Parker, Airbnb and The Rubix Cube.

Bernadette has created a Difference Map to help guide you through the process. You can download the map at Difference.is. It is a wonderful tool for planning innovation.

Read Difference and experience a new way of thinking about marketing.

Ten years ago Dove set out to widen the definition of beauty. In 2004 Dove commissioned a research study called “The Real Truth About Beauty” to more deeply understand the relationship of women, beauty and well-being. The results of the study were very surprising. Only two percent of women interviewed considered themselves to be beautiful, while the majority placed themselves in the average or below average category. The study found that women felt disconnected from the way culture describes beauty. The study found that women held different criteria for beauty than popular culture. Women see emotional qualities, character and individuality as equally expressive of beauty as the narrow physical aspects of beauty that currently dominate popular culture.

In 2004, Dove launched the “Campaign For Real Beauty”. The campaign was designed to change the conversation about the need for a wider definition of beauty. This campaign has had a positive impact on women, changed the conversation and generated strong sales increases. Dove produced one of the best ads of 2013 in “Real Beauty Sketches”. 

Last week Dove premiered “Selfie” an eight minute film that challenges young women through social media to take an honest selfie and to encourage their mothers to do so, too. “Selfie” premiered at the Sundance Institute in Park City, Utah. This marked the 10th anniversary of Dove’s “Campaign For Real Beauty”.

Selfie is directed by Oscar Winning Documentarian Cynthia Wade and produced by Sharon Liese. “Selfie” captures the journey of multiple generations of girls and their mothers in the western Massachusetts town of Great Barrington as they create a new type of selfie that celebrates their unique beauty. In the film, the girls admit that they adopted many of the insecurities that their mothers also felt. The girls are seen getting together with their moms to create a new type of selfie that features what they perceive as their least desirable physical features.  

A decade later, Dove has uncovered through a major study in the U.S. that 62% of women feel they are responsible for influencing their own definition of beauty, nearly triple the number from ten years ago. Women believe the definition of beauty has evolved to become more inclusive and have taken on the role of defining the standard for themselves and each other.

Social media has emerged as one of the most powerful influencing factors in how women define beauty. Social media offers women the opportunity to create their own media, personalize beauty and influence the conversation. More than half (55%) of women believe social media is playing a larger role in influencing the beauty conversation than traditional media.

“Selfie” is an excellent short film. Dove has done a great job promoting self esteem. As a father of teen age girls and a husband, I applaud what Dove has done. Once again they have redefined the notion of beauty. Dove has stayed true to their brand purpose of celebrating women’s unique beauty.

What do you think of Dove’s short film “Selfie”?

Marriott was founded by J. Willard Marriott and his wife Alice in 1927. They originally opened a nine stool A&W Root Beer Shop in Washington D.C. as a place to get a cool drink during the hot and humid summers. As the first summer drew to a close, the Marriott’s looked for additional ways to attract customers. Bill secured permission from A&W to serve food items and Alice learned to make tamales and chili con carne from the cook at the Mexican Embassy. The “Hot Shoppes” concept was born. Local residents flocked to “Hot Shoppes” for its combination of good food, low prices and great service. The Marriott’s quickly opened additional locations. In 1957, they opened the first Marriott Hotel “Twin Bridges” in Arlington, Virginia.

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Today Marriott operates more than 3,500 hotel properties worldwide under a portfolio of brands. In many ways, they are the Proctor and Gamble of the hospitality industry. They have grown organically and through strategic acquisitions. Their portfolio of brands target different segments of the market. They target the following tiers:

  • Luxury – The Ritz Carlton, JW Marriott, BVLGARI
  • Lifestyle – Edition, Autograph Collection Hotels, Renaissance, AC Hotels
  • Signature – Marriott Hotels and Resorts
  • Select Service – Courtyard by Marriott, Springhill Suites Marriott, Fairfield Inn and Suites Marriott, Moxy Hotels
  • Extended Stay – Residence Inn Marriott, Towne Place Suites Marriott, Marriott Executive Apartments
  • Destination Entertainment – Gaylord Hotels

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Marriott has always focused on being a great place to work, delivering an excellent customer experience and building unique brands. There philosophy is summed up by the following quote. “Take care of your associates, and they will take care of your customers, who will keep coming back.”

I believe that Marriott has done an excellent of staying true to their purpose, vision and values and serving the needs of multiple stakeholders. These elements are critical to building a successful brand and ensuring a great customer experience. Listed below are their purpose, vision and values.

Purpose: We open doors to a world of opportunity for:

  • People – personal and professional growth
  • Customers – rewarding travel experiences
  • Communities – a more sustainable future in the places where we live and work
  • Owners and Franchisees – profitable investments
  • Investors – Financial Achievement
  • Business Alliances – Collaboration with suppliers and other key relationships

Vision: To be the number one consumer hospitality company in the world.

Values:

  • Put people first
  • Pursue excellence
  • Embrace change
  • Act with integrity
  • Serve our world

Marriott has received many awards. Marriott has been recognized by Fortune Magazine as one of the top 100 companies to work for. Ethisphere recognized Marriott as one of the most ethical companies in the world.

Marriott Rewards is the best loyalty program in the hospitality industry. Membership is a must for frequent business ravelers. I have been a member for many years. It has helped fund many of my family vacations. The program started in 1983 as a grassroots program by hotel employees to recognize their loyal customers. This was a significant innovation at the time. In 2013, US News and World Reports named Marriott the number one hotel loyalty program.

I am currently staying at Residence Inn. While not, perfect I have always enjoyed my experiences at Marriott properties. A line from their recent advertising campaign hit home. “It’s not only about where you’re staying, it’s about where you’re going.

 

Are you a member of the Marriott Rewards Program?