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Thriving Brands Think Circular



Great_Recovery_systems2The traditional relationship between brands and consumers is being tested on multiple fronts.

Built on the assumption of unlimited and cheap natural resources, the ‘take, make and dump’ mindset predominant today  has begun to change. The circular economy is the most innovative approach to business consumer relationships seen in decades. While more established in Europe it is gaining traction in the US as well.

JWT’s recent trend report on the circular economy highlights five ways that some businesses are reshaping their operations and relationships with customers.

Selling Temporary Ownership

Dutch denim brand, Mud Jeans, began a scheme last year in which customers pay a monthly fee for jeans, returning them at the end of the lease period (a year is the minimum). Mud then cleans the jeans and makes any necessary repairs before re-leasing them or, if the jeans are beyond repair, recycling them through its denim manufacturer. This way, Mud retains ownership of the raw material, helping to protect the company from volatile cotton prices, while customers can update their wardrobe annually without the sizeable upfront cost.

Second Hand Sales

One of the easiest ways for brands to eliminate waste and participate in the circular economy is to give goods new life in the second-hand market. Patagonia, the outdoor-gear brand, set up the first multi-seller branded store on eBay, enabling customers to list their used Patagonia items. In four US Patagonia stores (Seattle, Palo Alto, Portland and Chicago) customers can trade in old Patagonia goods for store credit. These items are then sold in a Worn Wear section of the shop.

Collecting and Recycling Goods

In the apparel category, European retailers including Puma, H&M and American Eagle Outfitters are partnering with I:CO, a Swiss reuse and recycling firm that sets up collection points in stores for worn textiles and shoes. Customers who contribute get discounts on future purchases.

Product Repair

In a circular economy, broken goods are upgraded or repaired and used for as long as possible rather than tossed out. Handles on Patagonia’s Freewheeler luggage, for instance, have four red screws holding them in place, making it simple for customers trying to repair jammed or broken handles to see which parts to unscrew. Dell and Lenovo design certain computer components for easy removal and replacement, shipping them to customers along with instructions. While these brands lose out in the short-term on a potential new sale, by making repair easier they foster longer-lasting relationships with consumers.

Designing For Endurance

While seemingly a logical concept, it’s likely we’ve all experienced the demise of product endurance replaced by planned obsolescence. Levi Strauss men’s brand Dockers is selling Wellthread, a small capsule collection that’s built to last and to be recycled. Trousers, for example, feature reinforced buttonholes and pockets.

All of this should be good news to consumers who are weary of product that just doesn’t hold up. For retailers and brands the circular economy represents a new path to customer connection and profit.

Social Media Is Not For Selling


041012_socialmonkey_lgFor the past several years I’ve tolerated social media as a marketing tool. Social media is for being social – not for being sold.

I’ve told numerous clients they should probably be in social media, but unlike other marketing there is not measurable return on investment to evaluate its worth.

Turns out I’m right… #IToldYouSo

In a report released by Gallup last week showed that people say they use social media to be … social … with friends and family and don’t believe that messages from brands and businesses are affecting their buying habits.

A solid 62% of the 18,000 survey respondents claimed that social media had no influence at all on their purchasing decisions. A meager 5% said social media exerted “a great deal of influence.”

Even when considering brands that consumers “like” or follow on social networks, the reported correlation still remains relatively weak, with 34% saying that social media had no influence and 53% saying it had some influence.

According to Gallup, 94% of respondents said they are on social media to connect with friends and family, while 29% follow trends and find product reviews and information, and 20% to comment on what’s hot or new or to review products.

What’s a marketer to do?

Be Real – Engage your audience by having a personality that’s consistent with your brand position

Be Clear – Know yourself (your brand) inside and out, so consumers can know you/your brand in the same way

Don’t Be A Homer – Share content created by others…avoid using 100% of your own content

Focus On Other Channels – Marketing, especially online, continues to evolve – stay ahead of the pack

The Ultimate Last Minute Father’s Day Gift


0d1edd666382c54f851619f9e4b40a49Father’s Day is right around the corner. But most Dad’s don’t expect much in terms of gifts…in fact many Dad’s are lucky to get a card. 61% of consumers will get Dad a card compared to 84% who bought cards for Mom on Mother’s Day.

The National Retail Federation is expecting that total spending for Father’s Day will be $12.5 billion this year, compared with an estimated $19.9 billion for Mother’s Day last month.

Do we spend less on Dad because we like him less? Not really. Dad’s are more difficult to buy gifts for. Nothing says cook me dinner like a new grill. And now that few men wear neckties – even that go-to option has fallen off. Instead gift cards have become the preferred gift for Dad.

If the Father’s Day gift quandary has you stumped – here’s a simple but profound gift for Dad. And it’s free!

Commit to stop texting while driving. Consider this…5 seconds is the minimal amount of time your attention is taken away from the road when texting and driving. If you’re traveling at 55 miles per hour this equals 100 yards, or the length of a football field, without looking at the road.

German car maker Volkswagen tested a brutally simple public service announcement in a Hong Kong theater. It’s interesting to watch – and has had over 4 million views on YouTube.

The scene opens with the theater packed, patrons presumably settled in to enjoy the previews ahead of their movie. A car starts and heads out down the road. Then everyone in the audience gets a text message. While they’re looking down at their phones, the car that had been routinely motoring along suddenly veers off the road into a tree. A few seconds of inattention – that’s all it takes to cause a deadly accident.

As a Dad I simply want the members of my family to be healthy, happy and safe. Telling me there’s no texting while driving in my family’s fleet is the ultimate Father’s Day gift.

Mobile Advertising Is A Wrap



Today’s consumers are what I call ‘multi-screeners’. We view the world through the screens of our TV’s, computers, tablets and phones. In spite of the massive amount of time we spend staring into all these screens – marketers are still trying to figure out how to advertise online and on our phones. It’s safe to say they’ve not cracked the code.

Of all channels television remains the most favored means of communicating with consumers with nearly 58% of advertising dollars spent on TV. This is interesting because the definition of live TV is changing. More often than not ‘live’ TV has been recorded on a DVR and viewed at a more convenient time. This usually is accompanied by zooming past commercials in order to reduce viewing time. It’s possible TV’s reign as top advertising channel will erode rapidly over the next five years.

I’m bullish on one of the smallest and perhaps most under used non-screen mediums is outdoor mobile. By that I mean vehicles. Cars and trucks are always on the move and can be seen by thousands every day. Using vehicles to advertise your brand or product is smart. Even if your brand does not have its own fleet of vehicles.

Vehicle wraps are essentially temporary tattoo’s for cars and trucks. Outdoor mobile is a great way to stand out 24/7. Take the FedEx truck above. No words. Just an image – that speaks volumes!

I will make two predictions about vehicle wrapping:

- It’s about to explode – now about a $200 million plus business will triple in five years

- It’s about to become a fashion statement for drivers…not advertising, but patterns, ‘textures’ and graphical effects that are next to impossible to obtain with paint.

If you want to make an impression for your brand or yourself – wrap it.

Bandaid for Brand Obama


fastcompany2001In April 2008 Fast Company ran the article, ‘A Brand Called Obama‘.

The article is long, waxing about Obama’s star-power. It quotes Keith Reinhard of ad agency DDB Worldwide, “Barack Obama is three things you want in a brand: New, different, and attractive. That’s as good as it gets.”

This is not an opinion editorial – but brand Obama is tailspinning faster than that of Blackberry or JCPenney.

Slightly over six years later it’s easy to go back and read this article with a different perspective than when it was written. Just the same there’s no shortage of irony within the words written.

Of particular note are:

  • “There is a new, authoritative consumer empowered by the Web. And they can smell a fake.” A quote by Karen Scholl, Resource Interactive, a digital ad agency.
  • ‘Obama has deftly embraced — and been embraced by — the Internet.’
  • ‘The campaign’s Web site is “far more dynamic than any of the others,” says Bentley College professor Christine Williams, who has been studying Web sites and social media in campaigns.’

Today Brand Obama is reeling from the repercussions of trading deserter Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban thugs. Last week it was the Veteran’s Administration. The Affordable Health Care Act rollout has not been pretty.

If a corporate CEO had a run of missteps remotely close to that of Mr. Obama – they’d be shown the door faster than you can say pink slip.

Mr. Obama, take some advice from a brand guy, bring in the smart folks that ran your brand before you were elected. They might be the bandaid needed to help us all get through the next two plus years.

Fashion Alert – Men’s Printed Pants


printed pants

My world and lifestyle keeps me arms length from fashion trends. Today that’s a very good thing.

One of the ‘top’ trends for Spring/Summer 14 is printed pants. And we’re talking men here, not for women.

Printed pants are wrong on multiple levels not the least of which is this description on how to wear printed pants taken directly from the fashion blog on Business Insider,

“Printed pants have been really popular in women’s fashion for the last few years (Alert #1), and now they’re inching into the men’s market.

Use the same rules as printed jackets and keep things minimal (Alert #2). Also make sure your pants are well-tailored so they don’t end up looking like you wore PJs to the office (Alert #3).

In my opinion printed pants for men is a three-alert problem.

Alert #1 – borrowing a trend from the women’s side of things is wrong

Alert #2 – most guys are packing a few extra pounds, so a 36″ waist pant is hardly going to appear minimal

Alert #3 – casual office dress has made it tough for most guys to know what to wear to work…giving them the option to look like they’re wearing pajamas is probably not wise

So there you have it. Any guy wearing printed pants is flirting with a three alert fashion trend…and that’s dangerous territory.

Wear A Buddy Poppy Today


Buddy PoppySince 1922, the Buddy Poppy has been an integral part of the VFW community. As VFW’s official memorial flower, the Poppy represents the blood shed by American service members. It reiterates that VFW will not forget their sacrifices.

The Poppy movement was inspired by Canadian Army Col. John McCrae’s famous poem, “In Flanders Fields.” Poppies were originally distributed by the Franco-American Children’s League to benefit children in the devastated areas of France and Belgium following WWI.

In 1922, VFW conducted a campaign and got Poppies from France. Members soon discovered it took too long to get the flowers in from France and they came up with a better idea. Disabled, hospitalized and aging veterans could make the paper flowers and ship them out to the members for distribution.

And so it was known, for veterans in VA hospitals and domiciliaries and in state veterans homes, every day would be VFW Buddy Poppy Day. These men and women assemble the Poppies, tie them in bunches of 10 and pack them in boxes of 500, 1,000 or 2,000 for shipment to the Posts and Ladies Auxiliaries.

VFW pays the disabled veteran for the work. In most cases, this extra money provides additional income for the worker to pay for the little luxuries, which make hospital life more tolerable.

Furthermore, Poppy assembly is often used as a therapy program to provide exercise for fingers and hands crippled by wounds, disease and the effects of old age.

Another reason Poppies are so important is because all proceeds from distribution are used for veterans welfare or for the well-being of their needy dependents and the orphans of veterans.

Ver Batum from the VFW.


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