Bold and unexpected actions can catapult a brand to a higher purpose, mitigate potential damage or set a course for new market leadership.
Making a truly bold move is much easier said than done. Recognizing a risk - or an opportunity - and acting on it are two different things. Great leaders see opportunity where others see risk, and are willing to rewrite their brand stories to strengthen the loyalty of their customers and attract new ones.
Being bold requires challenging the status quo, throwing away benchmarks and ultimately doing what others are afraid to do. While risk-taking may not always hit the mark, we admire companies that stand up to make a positive difference - be it within their companies, industries or for the greater good.
In this issue of Marketing Coach, we look at companies who took calculated risks, who changed the game for the industry and "boldly went where no one has gone before."
Company mission/vision: We will provide branded products and services of superior quality and value that improve the lives of the world's consumers.
Game changer: Procter & Gamble committed to using wind power as the sole source of electricity for all of its Fabric and Home Care Plants in North America. P&G partnered with EDF Renewable Energy to build a wind farm in Texas that would meet the annual electricity needs for plants that produce some of its most popular consumer products.
Relevance to brand: With a reputation as a global leader in corporate social responsibility, P&G has long sought solutions that focus on sustainability and renewable energy worldwide. It recognizes the impact its industry has on the environment and has led the way in reducing overuse and abuse of the earth's natural resources. With the switch to wind power, P&G lives up to its mission by continuing to meet high consumer demand for its iconic brands, without relying on dwindling resources to generate electricity.
Benefit/impact to customers, investors/market: By taking bold steps to reduce its dependence on natural resources, P&G will continue to be an industry leader on environmental sustainability. Its actions will strengthen brand loyalty among environmentally-savvy customers worldwide and keep the brand fresh and relevant.
2. NBA Moves 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte due to Anti-LGBT Bill
Company mission/vision: The NBA is dedicated to delivering a world-class championship experience to fans, the community, partners and staff. It is committed to performing exceptionally in the arena, workplace and community, and in driving unprecedented community leadership, service and giving.
Game changer: In an unprecedented and monumental decision, the NBA announced it would move the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte because of its objections to North Carolina's controversial law that limits anti-discrimination protection for lesbian, gay and transgender people.
Relevance to brand: Through a series of highly-publicized controversies, professional sports associations and teams have increasingly come under fire and have developed a reputation for being insensitive, particularly on issues impacting women and minorities. The NBA's decision to move the All-Star Game was an opportunity to polish the tarnished image of this League by taking a stand against legislation aimed at restricting LGBT rights. The League said the move was guided by its long-standing core values, which include diversity, inclusion, fairness, and respect.
Benefit/impact to customers, investors/market: By getting out in front on this issue, the League demonstrated leadership and took a high-profile stand against a state law that limited anti-discrimination protections. The NBA earned praise from LGBT, human rights and women's rights groups, which may pay dividends in their long-term efforts to continue to diversify their fan base.
3. Perdue Foods Plans to Reform its Chicken Welfare Policies
Company mission/vision: Perdue's vision is "to be the most trusted name in food and agricultural products." Their purpose is "to provide innovative food and agricultural products and services that enhance the quality of life for everyone we touch."
Game changer: In light of increasing consumer concerns about how food is produced, Perdue announced a complete overhaul of its animal welfare policies - the most comprehensive reforms ever instituted by a major chicken producer. This decision, which impacts the treatment of more than 700 million poultry, is a sweeping change in the way Perdue will breed, raise and slaughter its chickens. The company's new humane animal care plan, developed in collaboration with animal rights activists, will be implemented by its 2,000 contract growers and thousands of employees nationwide.
Relevance to brand: Purdue has sustained a profitable business with a trusted brand since 1920. Being the first major producer to institute major animal care reforms reinforces its brand identity as an industry innovator that makes quality of life a priority.
Benefit/impact to customers, investors/market: Perdue's far-reaching changes answer consumer demands for transparency about their food sources, and animal rights activists' calls for humane animal treatment. As a result, socially-conscious shoppers will likely buy Purdue products over competing brands. Competitors will undoubtedly be watching Purdue's progress and may ultimately follow suit.
4. Walmart Stops Selling Semi-Automatic Rifles
Company mission/vision: Walmart's mission statement is "Saving people money so they can live better."
Game changer: Walmart, the nation's largest retailer of guns and ammunition, announced in 2015 it would stop selling high-powered, military-style rifles in its U.S. stores.
Relevance to brand: While Walmart's decision coincided with front-page headlines of mass shootings and a shift in the national climate over gun control, with many questioning the relatively easy access to assault weapons, the Company said its decision to phase out semi-automatic rifles was purely a business decision based on low customer demand.
Benefit/impact to customers, investors/market: Walmart had previously come under public scrutiny for wage and pricing issues and other controversies, and the decision to halt assault weapon sales put the company in the spotlight once again. Changing its gun sale policy during a time of heightened gun violence in the U.S. may not have been an intentional bold move, but it helped boost its brand reputation with key consumer groups.
What Bold Brand Moves Have in Common
As the saying goes, "nothing ventured, nothing gained." In the case of brands looking to build stronger relationships with customers, investors, employees and other stakeholders, the consensus in the C-suite and marketing community today is that one must seek out a higher purpose. Companies that build successful brands and longevity need to develop a strategy that elevates their brand beyond their own monetary gain and positions it as being vital to people's lives or society at large.
As these brand Bold Moves exemplify, for an act to rise to the level where it signifies a change in a company's course or impacts the value consumers place in it, one or more of these factors need to be present:
A degree of surprise, so it is not just another copy-cat move or incremental change
A sense of largess to how it alters a company's values, mission, way of operating
In some cases, there needs to be a perception that the company has something meaningful to lose, even if it has something to gain; that could be customer audiences, profits, existing facilities, etc.
Newness that signals a change in offering or benefits to come in the future
Bold action, often with meaningful risk, that strives to make a real difference for stakeholders, as well as the world around them.
Ivy Cohen Corporate Communications, Inc. helps companies build reputations and differentiate in a competitive market through thought leadership, public education, issues management, content strategy, and strategic communications. To find out how ICCC can help you and your company build your reputation contact firstname.lastname@example.org, call 212-399-0026 or visit www.ivycohen.com.