Category Archives: Public Policy

What the Iowa Caucuses Can Teach Brands About Earning Consumer Trust

The run-up to the 2020 Presidential elections is well underway and a wide field of Democratic candidates are competing for the party nomination. After several debates and months on the campaign trail, the first big moment of primary season is fast approaching – the 2020 Iowa caucuses. As the Des Moines Register reported this summer, the candidates’ campaign stops and events in Iowa alone surpassed 1,000 in August and are expected to reach nearly 3,000 by February, when voting will take place.

For me this prompts a question: in today’s digital world, why are candidates flocking to Iowa to make a record number of personal appearances? With massive media budgets and social media staff at their fingertips, the sheer commitment in dollars and man-hours from candidates speaks to one vital goal – building trust.
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How Brands Achieve Transparency & Attract Millennial Consumers

We recently explored how the millennial generation’s consumer ethos of “self, society, and planet” has impacted other demographics and encouraged brands to become more transparent about their product sourcing and social impact. This shift is perhaps most obvious when it comes to food labeling – after all, this is the generation that saw calorie counts added to fast food menus and prioritizes organic and local ingredients. However, today’s consumers want greater transparency for all products, not just those they literally consume.

In Inc., digital marketing entrepreneur Kenny Kline reports on the Label Insight Transparency ROI study that examines how transparency is vital in building trust with consumers and encouraging brand loyalty.
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How Can Our Corporate Sustainability Efforts Do Better?

The New Year is a time to reflect over the progress we’ve made in the last year and prepare ourselves for the opportunities and challenges of the year ahead. With all of the uncertainty and volatility in our news cycle, it can be tough to narrow our focus. I find that setting simple, achievable goals helps make even the most “unsolvable” problems seem within reach.

With that in mind, I’d like to close out the past year and begin the new with a simple question: How can we do better in our sustainability efforts?
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Inside In-N-Out Burger’s Powerful Employee Experience

Building an authentic, influential brand is about more than the customer experience. The best brands work from the inside out to create a positive environment for their employees as well. Of course, employee experience directly impacts customer experience, especially in industries where customers and employees must frequently interact. There is perhaps no industry in which this holds more true than in food service.

In-N-Out Burger, the fast food company we recently hailed as a “branding genius,” is in the news again. This time, the attention is on their dedication to the employee experience. From “crazy good pay” to work-life balance, In-N-Out Burger has come to be seen as the leader in fast food employee experience. Let’s take a look inside the brand and explore how its employee’s experience contributes to its success.
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Authenticity in Branding & Marketing: What’s Your Brand’s Promise?

The recently released 2017 Cohn & Wolfe Authentic Brands study is the result of an ambitious undertaking. Cohn & Wolfe surveyed over 15,000 consumers across a wide variety of markets in search of a deeper understanding of their perception of 1,400 popular brands. Culminating in the “Authentic 100” – the top 100 U.S. brands ranked according to consumer perception of authenticity – the study “examines the role of authenticity in business, the attributes associated with an authentic brand and the impact of authenticity on consumer… attitudes and behaviors.”

It’s no surprise that authenticity is an attribute that is highly valued by today’s consumers. In our social media-saturated society, consumers have more opportunities than ever before to interact with brands on a “personal” level and they demand that engagement in exchange for their loyalty to certain brands and products. Let’s take a look at how consumers perceive authenticity and what that means for today’s brand builders.
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Two Powerful Strategies for Building Consumer Trust

We’ve been engaged in an ongoing exploration of the state of consumer trust (which has recently reached record lows) and how brands can reverse the trend. Today’s consumers, empowered by technology to choose from a wide range of products and to interact with brands on an unprecedented level, prize authenticity, engagement, and social responsibility. It’s a tall order for brands that previously focused solely on selling a solution to a problem.

Marketing in 2017 is about more than solutions – it requires establishing a brand identity that resonates with many various subsets of our increasingly fractured culture. And as the demographics of consumer groups continue to change, brands must emphasize diversity but transcend tokenism. Does it all make your head spin? It all comes down to trust – whether or not consumers believe that your brand has their best interests at heart.
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Truth, Trust, & the Power of Storytelling

One of the prevailing themes of 2017 so far has been the erosion of public trust in our key institutions. The Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual global study conducted by a respected communications marketing firm, confirms what many of us have felt: “trust is in crisis around the world.” For the first time since 2012, the public’s trust in government, business, media, and NGOs has declined significantly.

While there is a complex web of cause and effect that has culminated in a large-scale erosion of trust in these institutions, the end result is clear – a populace that is increasingly divided and suspicious of news, marketing, and media messaging. In the era of “fake news,” PR and marketing professionals must examine their methods and recalibrate their strategy in order to reach the general public in an authentic and credible way. But how?
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Leading in the New Age of Influence: 3 Simple Things Leaders Can Do to Build Trust

We've now spent a few posts discussing the results of the 2016 Edelmen Trust Barometer and the global consequences associated with its findings. By now, it should be evident that the ever-growing trust disparity that exists between the “informed” and “mass” populations is responsible for a variety of effects on the government, media and, most substantially, the business sectors. Edelman explains his findings:

“…in the U.S., 70 percent of the elite population express trust in business, in contrast to 51 percent of the general population, a 19-point difference. This skepticism is clearly manifested in the perception of specific industries… as CEOs are substantially more trusted by the elite population…”

If nearly half of the general population in the United States is expressing some form of skepticism toward the business sector, leaders of businesses can benefit their companies by taking deliberate steps to establish trust. This week, let's take a look at a few ways business leaders can work to build that trust. 

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Is This A Good Time To Start A Business? (Editorial)

Just when you think no-one really understands job creation, Thomas Friedman got it exactly right in a NYTimes editorial, More (Steve) Jobs, Jobs, Jobs.

As Friedman explained it, “Obama should make the centerpiece of his
presidency mobilizing a million new start-up companies that won’t just
give us temporary highway jobs, but lasting good jobs that keep America
on the cutting edge.”

The history of meaningful, lasting job creation is the history of innovation. Pick any industry — computers, software, civil aviation, automotive — and you will find business innovators at the core of job creation. And, these big new industries invariably started as small businesses.

One key point that Friedman missed, in my opinion, is the need for a focus on facilitating access to capital. The current Administration wants jobs, but at the same time, it wants to restrict “risky lending”. No businesses can grow without capital. No business can grow without investors and lenders who are willing to take reasonable, understandable risks. Banks are not willing to do that today. As a small business owner, I can tell you that banks have the most restrictive lending practices that I have seen in the 31 years that I have owned a business. The answer is not another SBA bureaucracy. The answer is access to capital from investors and banks.

Repeatedly, we hear from Washington that tax incentives for small business will create jobs. That one idea is positive proof that no-one inside the Beltway has ever run a business.

Jobs are created when innovative people see an meaningful opportunity, secure capital (in phases) to build out their businesses, and create innovative products that are in broad demand (ideally worldwide). Then, if all goes well, there will be a taxable business income at some point in the future, often 3-5 years into the future. A tax incentive years into the future is meaningless for job creation.

The option open to the Administration is simple. First, set aside the legislative agenda and focus on jobs. Don’t create another meaningless commission to study the problem. Put Congress to work and:

1. Make innovative new companies the number one national priority.This means celebrating successful business people. Focus on more than just green jobs. Make sure that the effort includes every kind of business from local start-up restaurants to long-time-frame efforts such as lithium ion battery plants. Make sure that the trade policies are in place to facilitate exports. And, help protect intellectual property worldwide.

2. Make access to capital a priority. Make sure that banks can take appropriate risks. Make sure that investors who put money into early stage businesses face reasonable tax rates if and when their investments become runaway successes.

3. Create a supportive regulatory framework that allows small businesses to succeed in the long run.

4. Most important, help the public understand that the Fortune 500 companies are not in a position to create the needed jobs. Unions can’t create jobs. Nor, will government be able to create the jobs we need. The only engine of growth that can create literally millions of jobs is small, innovative businesses.

The Housing Crisis & An Uptick in First-Time Buyers

As the incoming Obama administration weighs the policy options for the economy and the housing crisis, the new team’s economic advisers should study the recently released National Association of Realtors (NAR) survey of home buyers.

– As a percentage of all home buyers, first-time home buyers increased slightly through mid 2008.
– These buyers are younger, made larger down payments and plan to stay in their home much longer than the prior year’s first-time buyers.

Focusing initiatives on first-time buyers might be the single most effective policy option:
1. First-time buyers have much more flexibility because they are not tied to an existing home obligation.
2. Real estate is the ultimate trade up market. By addressing the market at its base, this approach provides a long term benefit to the entire home market – helping to stabilize prices.
3. If we define the current economic crisis as a seriously over-leveraged economy, then this approach can be a small effort to help build equity in single family homes.

The fundamental of this approach is to leverage the market forces that can help. Nurturing first time buyers, who are NOT over-leveraged, could be the right policy at the the right.