How the very Definition of Brand is Changing Forever

Democratization of Brand Influence

Brand influence has historically been driven by large corporations and conglomerates. Whether the brand holds a monopoly on over 50% marketshare in a category, Coca-Cola and Kellogg’s for instance… or an oligopoly like Visa, Mastercard, AMEX and Discover. It has always been difficult for smaller players to get visibility with their target audiences. This dynamic has been steadily shifting as the internet democratizes access to literally everything, including target customers. Large brands no longer by default control with advertising dollars a limited set of communication channels where consumers get their information. So they have had to shift their posture from propaganda and promotion to edutainment and connection. This shift is not voluntary. It is required to compete for mindshare as consumers now curate and consume information from a multiplicity of sources. Large brands are now competing with small brands and even private individuals who can get their story, talent, and recommendations out to the market through a myriad social media channels. Individuals can become famous or infamous overnight with the right video clip, meme, or quote. Mindshare is supreme now in the minds of brands because they recognize that market share follows mindshare.

Online Influencers

Ever consider starting a new business with little money without promoting it online? Don’t bother! What about spending a small fortune to hire a movie star to be your spokesperson? That’s Old School. Today, there is a New Way. Most successful businesses have an online presence — a website, a Facebook page, reviews on Yelp, an Instagram page, a YouTube video, a SnapChat account, and on and on. The really successful businesses develop a following and ascend to the “treasured” status of influencer, which means “mini celebrity” for their industry.

Online personas have a remarkably powerful influence over brands and their product(s). These influencers are 9 out of 10 times consumers of the product and their followers are more than likely part of your customer base. If brands don’t win them over, they may miss out on tens of thousands of potential customers. Yikes! These social media mavens and moguls are siphoning brand influence dollars away from celebrities who typically get paid to endorse products they don’t actually use. When you think about it, the choice is quite easy. Learn, listen, and buy something that is recommended by someone who shares my style sense, background, and/or ideals who happens to be using and lovin’ the product or buy from a Hollywood celebrity who I don’t know anything about except the characters they played and what the tabloids tell me. Great brand influencers take the time to answer follower questions and nurture their audience. Viewers make an emotional connection to them that is pure gold for prospective advertisers. When an influencer has a bad experience with your product, the viewer will have a visceral reaction and internalize the influencer’s bad experience without even testing the product for themselves.

Reviews and Ratings

It used to be that you needed a distribution deal with large brands to sell at scale to consumers. So unless you were able to get in the door and pitch your product to a major distributor, you were shut out of the marketplace. There was no other really effective way to reach new customers. It was a struggle to reach potential customers who were outside of the range of where one could personally deliver.

Now you can reach anyone in the world and deliver to them on the same day (depending on the order and location. With platforms like Amazon, Ebay and Wayfair, customers from around the world search and discover millions of brands that are at their disposal. Customers can scroll, view, and read reviews on hundreds of different brands for just one product. It used to be that the average person was only really aware of one brand for each of the products that they used in their household, which were heavily promoted on billboards and on television.

That’s how we quietly co-opted so many brand names and made them interchangeable with the product name like “get me a kleenex” and “are we out of pampers”. Brands can now compete without explicitly paying for advertising. A product can get lucky on Amazon with viral word of mouth referrals… next thing you know they’ve sold 50,000 units and their product has 800 5-star reviews. Many consumers may not recognize or independently research a brand, but they do trust their peer recommendations and the “wisdom of the crowd” that is involved in ratings and writing reviews.

Citizen reviewers have triumphed over experts (e.g., Yelp versus Zagat). It has the cumulative of experience and perspectives of hundreds of consumers of that product that in the end influence your buying decision..Reviews and ratings can also have the opposite effect on your brand. You may have the best marketing strategy in the world, spend millions of dollars on extensive marketing campaigns, commercial ads, etc… but if users visit your online assets and see lots of negative reviews, 1 star ratings… 4 out of 5 won’t buy from you. Again, the collective wisdom guides individual choice.

Message of the Brand

The message of the business can make a huge impact on the image of your brand. A mission statement of purpose and good will to humanity and the planet does wonders on its own. A large handful of people, and ever growing number of people, look to support a business that is not just doing well for itself but also doing good for others. Whether it’s donating a percentage of proceeds to using only renewable energy to hiring primarily veterans… the message strengthens the loyalty of customers to the brand.

This is actually a pretty interesting case. My personal opinion, the last few decades of bad business practice, oil companies polluting the oceans and atmosphere, exploiting child labor overseas, CEOs involved in shady schemes… these cases seem to have increased consumer awareness and brand activism. Consumers are asking tough questions of all companies, “OK so you’re not doing evil, but what good are you doing?” There is now an expectation that businesses will give back to society. You see this in television ads, Kellogg’s supporting youth sports, NBA supporting children’s education… there are thousands of examples now. Consumers are the “real” influencers. They are driving companies to stand for something and do better in the world or else.

Accessible Business Tools (Part 4) (Coming Soon) ->

How Wellness is a Necessity in Business

Wellness in the Workplace

Health impacts from excess of anything is always discovered later on… it takes time for the negative side of any activity to take its toll on the human body. Longer work hours, long exposure in front of millions of pixels, increased stress in the workplace and sitting for extended periods of time have all caught up with millions of humans that are part of the workforce.

It has resulted in many physical and mental issues in the last several decades. Increased suicide rates, obesity, spinal complications, and anxiety are just a few of the complications unhealthy work environment inflict on workers. Wellness at work has been and will continue to be a competitive advantage in recruiting younger generations of workers.

We Care about You

This has become a widely adopted core principle in company mission statements when referring to their employees. A special assurance that investments in the physical space and culture are being made to promote well being and happiness. The fact that our food is all organic and non-GMO or that we run on fully renewable energy to help protect your environment and planet. We’re the “good guys”. We care for the people that both build and consume our products. The implicit subtext is that the other guys do not. Overall, we are seeing a transition… incentives within the system are changing and we are finally seeing an attempt to create a win-win for all market participants.

Energy Draining Environment

The people you surround yourself with has major implications for what your believe, how you behave, and your worldview. Unfortunately, within the work environment, unless you’re part of management, you are not involved in recruiting and staffing decisions. You don’t determine who will be on your team and how much time you will be spending together. We have all experienced that “Debbie Downer” co-worker who brings 8 suitcases full of baggage to the office everyday. Rambling on about how their marriage isn’t working out, how the person in front of them in Starbucks put in an order for their entire office or how they can’t afford to buy the latest iPhone because their rent went up for the third month in a row.

As real as their challenges are, they are choosing to focus on them in a way that isn’t healthy for them and certainly isn’t healthy for co-workers. The counterexample is when we are overjoyed to get together with close friends and family. It’s not because they don’t have challenges of their own, but rather there is a sense of joy that comes with just being present with them — regardless of what else may be going on in your life. The energy that people bring around you can either drain you completely or fill you with bliss and restore your energy. When a molecule is positive (+), it wants to get rid of electrons to balance itself out… it’s looking to pass on energy to another molecule. The negative (-) molecule is looking to leech energy from other molecules. The positive molecule is happy to give off energy since it’s always in abundance while the negative molecule is always in a state of scarcity and needs to draw energy from others. I hope this analogy helps you better understand this phenomenon at work and in life.

So how are we fixing this problem in the workplace? Companies are not looking to address the personal problems of their workforce, but instead help them create an environment that fills people up, which inevitably has a positive impact on issues that people may be wrestling with outside of the office. Employers set aside time during the workday for recreational activities, games, positive social activities, rest and relaxation, food-drink-light conversation to support people and create positive connections. Once you create an environment that is fun and enjoyable, it raises the standard for everyone to contribute and sustain that mood. Noone wants to be that “buzz kill”. By creating a more positive work environment, employers are significantly improving the mental and physical health of all employees.

Physical Health

Lack of physical activity throughout the day like standing up, walking around…getting the blood pumping and circulating… can lead to health issues. If you are sedentary throughout the day that could lower your life expectancy. When you are stuck inside an office for the majority of your week, you don’t get sufficient natural light from the sun. Vitamin D deficiency makes it difficult to sleep and concentrate when you are awake. There is a domino effect at play in many cases — overworking leads to sleep deprivation, sleeplessness can lead to erratic eating patterns. Some will feel the need to skip a meal in order to get more rest. Skipping breakfast regularly, as an example, has shown to increase body stress over time. And the dominoes that are falling in this case, is your physical, mental, and emotional health.

Studies have proven that staring at a computer screen all day will strain your vision and lead to permanent damage. The combination of both artificial light and consistent viewing of farsighted perspective interactions with the monitor is leading to perspective changes in our sight, causing us to have less visual acuity. Staying seated for more than 90 minutes at a time causes chronic posture problems… and the lack of movement causes obesity and muscle stress.

Companies are creating initiatives to promote more physical activity at work. From group yoga, standing desks, open offices to mud runs and outdoor game competitions. They are making it a priority for employees to participate in activities that get them moving. They understand that this type of investment in employees leads to healthier workers and better business results.

Relationships

Earlier we shared an example of co-workers that carry baggage into work and how business’ are curating healthier, happier environments in which that kind of behavior is the exception not the rule. From vacation days to maternity leave, employers are investing in their workforce maintaining good personal connections in and outside of the office. From Part 1, work-life balance is very important for all. With work and intention, management and employee relationships are improving. CEO’s and other senior executives are prioritizing workplace culture. The net result of all of this corporate shift in caring about and investing in healthy workers, workplace, and culture is that the experience of work is getting better FOR ALL, including employees and managers.

Democratization of Brand Influence (Part 3) ->

An era of Leisure and New Growth Entrepreneurship

It’s no question that we are seeing a shift in both the Corporate sector of business practice and the pursuance of young professionals entering the work force. The values of newly entering generations in regards to both what they are looking to get out of their professional experience and what they are willing to sacrifice is drastically changing. With cult classics like Office Space and HBO’s Silicon Valley, the stigma of office relationships and mental patience to handle such toxicity is dwindling. This is why it’s important to understand this new shift and be a part of the change instead of being a part of the past.

The small business sector has taken the biggest hit in regards to changes over the last few decades. U.S entrepreneurship has been in decline for the last 40 years. Smaller mom and pops shops continue to be replaced by another local Starbucks or Chipotle chain location. At the same time though, there is mass growth and adoption in leisure related brick and mortars from Yoga studios, independent fitness studios, tattoo shops, shared office spaces for independent tech professionals… the list goes on. We are seeing a major split in work ethics between the younger generations entering the workforce. The group that is choosing to become leisure related professionals (massage therapists, fitness trainers, dog trainers, tattoo artists) and the group that is seeking a more “traditional” corporate job, but within a work environment that is suited to their needs and values. Some even dabble within both work groups, full time gigs and running some sort of “side hustle” in their favorite after work activities.

There are a few key catalysts that are steering us towards this new modern era of Solo, Small and Large Business culture… this purpose focused workforce shift, wellness within the work environment, democratization of brand influence in the markets, anytime anywhere accessible business tools, and the many forces that are conspiring for more creativity in both existing businesses and side gigs of aspiring entrepreneurs.

Purpose Focused Workforce Shift

We are seeing a major shift in what millennials value when they are considering prospective companies that they are wanting to work for. Based off Capital Groups study, 82% of millennials are looking for the support of health and wellness for the company’s employees and customers.

This wellness supports a realm of potential for businesses to try and attract loyal employees onto your team. From maternity and paternity time off, to charitable gift matching. The employees want to know both that they are not negatively impacting the lives of others and instead making a positive impact and that they have a fair balance with their personal life in addition to financial stability.

Global Impact

The rise in global awareness on these issues that are impacting the lives of billions of people are influencing the younger workforce to consider these problems when working for entities that could potentially be a culprit to these issues. Rising issues like child labor in third world countries, global warming, emission and plastic waste in the ocean, greed within corporations that trade happy and satisfied customers for a higher valued P&L… the list goes on.

The media continues to put light onto these problems through their outlets, social media, NGO activities and politics. We already see companies taking initiative into these arising problems on their future business. The automobile industry has already been manufacturing and building better and more improved eco-friendly vehicles and continuing to push for 0 emission with fully electric models. Walmarts push for more organic food creating more demand for it & zero waste to landfill programs. Ikea investing $1 Billion in renewable energy to power all its stores and offices.

Business sectors that are not actively working on improving their stance on global and neighborhood issues will start seeing problems within both their reputation with the younger generations and the shortage of labor. Agricultural farming leaving negative impact on local water sources from the strong chemicals within the fertilizer, oil spills in the oceans by Shell, Exxon and other oil companies and *carbon emissions from other energy companies. These companies are essentially being forced to reconstruct and improve their impacts on the planet by both political influence and their social reputation from the general public.

Business Mission Statement and Purpose

A businesses mission is another key proponent to what attracts today’s new employees. Based off FORTUNE’s List of 100 Best places to work for 2018, many of the companies missions revolve around impacting communities and empowering individuals, especially their employees and customers.

Workday — “to make a difference in our communities and support Workday employees in their charitable investments of time and money”

Salesforce — “to improve the state of the world, and we work to make sure Salesforce is a platform for change through serving the interests of all our stakeholders — employees, customers, partners, communities and the environment.”

REI — “philosophy of protecting the environment and empowering their employees and customers to get involved in conservation efforts”

We already see the positive impact this has on the businesses culture and brand influence. You can see the value here, as a brand, you are creating a positive atmosphere and a purpose that allows your customers to feel like they’re part of something bigger through their loyalty and support for such a high impact cause. It’s an omni-win-win for both the business, its employees and its consumers.

Flexible Work Arrangements

Millennials and workers are valuing their time more than ever before. One of the top priorities being the ability to be flexible with their time, travel and work arrangements. We are seeing more and more businesses adopt Airbnb and GitHub’s business model for employment, with most of their teams working remote…once in awhile collecting together into a single location and working on larger projects for back to back day sprints. These companies are seeing twice the productivity with half the team size. BambooHR does an excellent job at sharing their commitment to this vision for their employees.

Individuals that work independent have the highest flexibility, creating their own schedule, hours, and taking clients when they choose to. Solo professionals value this as one of their biggest incentives in their work life and they hold it dearly.

Millennials and workers are highly focused on the impact of their work, the mission of the work they are engaged in, flexible hours, and the lifestyle their work gives them. This is just one of many parts influencing the shift in the work environment.

Continue to Wellness Within the Workplace (Part 2)->