BRAND HUMANITY

Read on the The Huffington Post.

After nearly two decades in advertising, I’ve gotten to know a lot of brands. And from that, I’ve discovered a few universal truths, one of them being this: The brands I love – that everyone seems to love – all have one thing in common: Humanity.

The best brands don’t behave like businesses, they behave like people. They have personalities, passions and a purpose to their existence that goes beyond making a buck.

And because of that, people can relate to them beyond a transactional level. An emotional connection is created. And if it goes deep enough, then just like happens with people, you kind of can’t help falling in love with them. These brands become a part of our lives. When we wear their labels, we like what it says about us. We gladly put our shared values on display for the world to see.

Humanity in a brand is a wonderful thing. It inspires passion in the people who work for the brand and those who buy from the brand. Whether these human traits are infused by a founder at the start of a company or created via marketing after the fact, if authentic and lived on every level, they are equally effective.

Apple is a great example of a brand whose humanity was informed by its founder. Founded by a creative oddball and, in turn, embraced the creative oddball. (Remember Here’s To The Crazy Ones?) Steve Jobs may have ended up with a gold-plated version of the traditional American dream, but he sure didn’t follow the traditional path to get there. He looked at the well carved path of a college education and said no. He followed a unique way. And in turn, created technology to let others follow their imagination. Imagination. Individuality. The freedom to pursue your dreams, your way. It’s as human as it gets.

For a more modern, marketing-induced human brand, let’s look at Old Spice. As a girl, I can tell you, very few of us actually enjoy the smell, but who among us didn’t fall in love with that brand when it launched The Old Spice guy? Why did we love this brand, despite the fact that we didn’t necessarily love the product? Because they hooked us with two of the most magnetic human traits out there: Charm and humor. Suddenly, Old Spice was funny. And girls love guys who can make them laugh.

Laughter – one of the most basic and beloved human behaviors. Embracing individuality – one of the most basic and sought after human desires. Both brand gold.

When brand behave like humans, they succeed. So, if turnabout really is fair play, might it be true that humans could better succeed by behaving more like brands?

It makes sense if you think about it. What is a brand, other than an individualized expression of a business? So why can’t the same principle be applied to the individual expression of a life? Take a look at what might happen if you applied good solid brand behavior to the business of living.

Know What You Have To Offer: When it comes to human beings, there is no such thing as a parody product. We are, each one of us, a limited edition. And as such, have something unique to offer. Look beyond your diplomas and your resumes and find something that feels uniquely yours. It’s not just about what you do but how you do it. There are millions of doctors out there who had the exact same training, but they each have the opportunity to create a bedside manner that allows them to offer their services in a totally unique way.

Declare Your Worth. Brands are not shy about letting people pay them. And the ones who know – really know –they have something of value to offer, don’t barter or haggle. Have you ever heard Apple slashing prices? Do not devalue yourself. Once you determine what you can offer, get clear on what its worth and charge that. Feel good when people are willing to pay you and don’t sweat it when they aren’t. Always be willing to receive payment, opportunity and support. You are worth it.

Stand For Something: The best brands don’t just sell something, they stand for something. In other words, they are driven by purpose beyond making money. And this usually centers around the role they can play in the lives of others. How can you use what you do and what you love to bring meaning into your life and the lives of others? When how you spend your days takes on personal meaning for you, passion is set on fire. And you have to try pretty hard to be unhappy when you have passion and purpose in your life.

Market Yourself. If you know what you have to offer, and how it can be of value to others, why ever would you shy away from getting out there and letting people know about you? Why would you hide your gifts from those they could help? Marketing does not have to be schmarmy or obnoxious. It can be genuine and create meaningful conversations and connections. Don’t hold back from putting yourself out there.

Manage Your Resources: A brand can do everything else right, but if it’s mismanaged, it will never succeed. People, time, energy and money. Those are the most precious resources of every human brand. And in that order. When it’s all said and done, and the time has come to turn off the lights on this life, it is the people we loved that will matter the most. Developing the skills to manage our time, energy and finances in a way that allows us to build equity in our personal relationships will bring success in the truest sense of the word.

If you ask me, these key brand principles belong in our personal lives every bit as much as the professional sector. After all, we were, each one of us, born the CEO of our own lives.

CAUSE VS. PURPOSE

Read on The Huffington Post.

You’d more or less need to be living under a businessperson’s rock to not know that we are most certainly operating in a purpose-driven economy. Yet a great many brands are responding to this with cause-related behavior. Although these two terms have been used interchangeably, when it comes to social impact, cause and purpose are not the same thing.

A cause is based on a desire to stop something. A purpose is rooted in a desire to start something. Cause is charity. Purpose is empowerment. A cause is your nemesis. A purpose is your muse.

Should we break it down? Let’s use hunger as an example.

Cause: Feeding the hungry.
Purpose: Creating affordable food for all.

Cause has you fighting hunger. (Nemesis)
Purpose has you changing the game. (Muse)

One might send you to the soup kitchen or shelter to donate groceries but the other might send you into creating a hydroponic farming system that can grow healthy, nutritious, affordable foods for people on a permanent basis.

Very different, right?

The cause-driven initiative focuses on treating suffering that is being created by the social condition. The purpose-driven initiative focuses on eliminating the social condition entirely.

Do we, as brands and a business community, need to continue to alleviate human suffering caused by social conditions? Absolutely. Until we all have access to healthy food, feeding the hungry is a necessary and noble cause. But we can no longer stop there. Lasting relief will come from purpose-driven thinking. Purpose-driven initiatives will take us from the symptom of social suffering to its source.

The business world is beginning to experience something akin to the shift the medical community has gone through in recent decades: Cause is much like traditional Western Medicine: Focused on the symptom of the problem and how to alleviate this. Purpose is more like traditional Eastern Medicine: Focused on the circumstance creating the symptom.

And just as we now have something called Integrated Medicine that treats symptoms that are creating pain in the present moment and also works to eliminate that which is creating the symptom, so too can we have Integrated Impact.

Integrated Impact cannot be born from a short-term initiative or once-a-year corporate donations. Purpose-driven thinking must be woven into the DNA of the brand and from this core, drive daily brand behavior and business decisions. Integrated Impact requires integrating the ability to make a lasting impact from the epicenter of the brand.

One brand that is doing this beautifully right now is The 7 Virtues. This Canadian fragrance company sources essential oils from rebuilding countries like Afghanistan. By purchasing essential oils distilled from legal crops, they are helping to provide safe, sustainable alternatives to the illegal poppy crop and the violent drug trade it supports.

In the short term, this provides jobs for farmers and workers, allowing them to feed their families and create healthy homes. In the long term, this brand is creating the foundation for an industry beyond illegal poppy crops, thus laying the foundation for a new economy that is not based on the violent, terrorist-driven drug industry. This kind of economic stability is critical to creating a peaceful world. The brand is creating peace of mind on the individual level and the conditions for lasting peace on the macro level. Both cause and purpose are being met.

And as you might imagine would be the case in a purpose-driven economy, this company is doing well. It is generating profit and winning awards left and right. Consumers don’t have to think about whether or not they can trust this company. The results of their Integrated Impact are transparent and measurable. And this is essential.

Eighty six percent of Americans are more likely to trust a company that reports its CSR results. Not its actions, but the results of those actions. Consumers are demanding to see the return on CSR. They want proof that citizenship actions are making a real difference. Purpose creates change. And change can be measured. Which, given the above statistic, makes it a profitable business model as well as an effective means for social change.

Just as consumers need to see a return on CSR initiatives in terms of true and actual impact, businesses need to see a return from a financial perspective. It has to make sense on both sides of the coin for the behavior to be sustainable. For brands considering the shift from cause-related initiatives to a purpose-driven business model, the business boons are undeniable.

And, in the end, that is the beauty of a purpose-driven economy. Everybody wins.

FROM CORPORATE GREED TO SOCIAL NEED: HOW BIG ASS BRANDS WILL SAVE THE WORLD

Read on The Huffington Post.

Richard Branson is talking about it. HuffPost’s Arianna Huffington is talking about it. Hell, the entire World Economic Forum is talking about it. It’s the question of the day for those in tune with the future of business:

How can we transform business into a force for good and in doing so, solve some of the toughest problems our planet and the people on it are currently facing?

So far there have been a lot of answers. Most of which have come in the form of dollars. The call for good corporate citizenship has opened a floodgate of donations and grants to support nonprofits focused on alleviating some of our planet’s greatest needs. The current version of CSR has become a sort of corporate version of crowd funding for whichever non-profit focus most calls to the company and its sustainability directors.

And this is a good thing. As with all brands dedicated to not just talking about change but actually taking action to create it, you have to start somewhere. But with an honest look, it’s time to take this start, CSR 1.0, and mold it into something new. The greatest software on the planet needs an occasional upgrade, and at the moment, so does corporate citizenship.

There is no doubt that corporate grants and sponsorships help good causes, but do they help enough? Can the impact of these be seen in measurable ways? Are they translating into tangible relief for the people in need and pressing issues of our time?

The rub with giving a one-time lump sum is that it runs out. This type of corporate support, in and of itself, can only be measured in dollars. What CSR 2.0 calls for is a shift into a new method of support that can be measured in a more human way.

And the power to make that happen lies in the same place the power for all great change has always been found: With the people. Not just those who sit in the ivory towers holding the keys to the coiffeurs of CSR dollars, but a much wealthier, more accessible source of funding: ourselves. Consumers.

Everyday people, even the poorest of us, are the true source of power in Corporate America. It is our collective contribution, purchase by purchase, that makes brands rich.

Americans spent over $10 trillion last year. Break that down by the day and it comes out to roughly $27 million a day. Imagine what would happen if each one of those purchases had the power to put a small little dent in the world’s problems. The cumulative effect would be staggering.

Just for fun, let’s break the concept down into an actual “what if” scenario. Of the 10 trillion dollars spent last year, more than a billion dollars went to over the counter teeth whiteners. At an average cost of $34.00 per purchase, that breaks down to about 29,400 purchases a day.

Now, couple this with the fact that, according to a survey from the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, 74 percent of people feel an unattractive smile can hurt a person’s career success. You know what else helps people succeed? Literacy. So what if the oral care company partnered with a nonprofit focused on ending illiteracy, and through this partnership, every time someone bought a box of whitening strips, through their purchase, they also bought a book for a kid learning to read. In one day, 29,000 kids would have 29,000 books. In one year, over a billion kids would be at least one book closer to literacy. Suddenly those companies aren’t just brightening teeth, they are brightening futures. And, best of all, they are doing it in partnership with their most valuable asset: Consumers.

Everyday people uniting for the dream of a better world is how America was founded. It’s our national birthright. And when we connect corporate greed with social need at the point of purchase, bringing everyday consumers together to make a change, we put a little more of the American Spirit into Corporate America.

We also give CSR the update it needs by creating a more sustainable form of support for those in need. Rather than relying solely on grants and donations, which will inevitably run out, we instead rely on spending at its source. And since we can all pretty safely agree that mass consumption isn’t going to stop anytime soon, this support will continue, allowing change to take root without interruption.

Sustainable, tangible impact for a better world lies with the consumer. And now is the time for brands to reposition themselves to work hand in hand with their markets, becoming good corporate citizens not just through grants and donations, but purchase by purchase.

THE NIGHTMARE AT THE BRANDING PARTY

Read on The Huffington Post.

Imagine sitting down at a dinner party, and before you are even situated, the person next to you introduces himself and launches into conversation. He tells you all about himself. His schooling. His training. Accomplishments and accolades. On and on he goes, giving you all the reasons there are to love him. He’s charming, good looking and clever and sometimes even manages to serve up his diatribe with a joke or a sentimental smile. Regardless, the conversation is decidedly one way, and you look around, hoping there might be someone else to spend your time with.

He sees you getting a little disinterested. Sees in your face that you might think he’s a bit shallow and selfish. He assures you this is not the case, that he is totally concerned for others. In fact, he proceeds to tell you, right down to the penny, how much money he has given to those less fortunate than him. You see how proud he is of his contribution… even in giving, it’s all about him.

Ever met a brand like that?

Far too many brands carry on one-way conversations in their marketing. Talking only about who they are, what they offer and why consumers should buy from them. Even a vast majority of their cause marketing and CSR initiatives are all about the brand.

You don’t want to be the brand having that kind of conversation that sends people looking for the nearest exit or delete button or channel changer, do you?

Communication is such an important part of your brand. How you speak to your consumer community says everything about who you are and how you regard them, not just as consumers, but as people. So many marketing messages lose sight of the simple fact that the person holding the wallet has a heartbeat — as well as dreams, joys and worthwhile perspectives.

And among those are hopes and dreams for a better world. A safer world. A healthier world. A more balanced and environmentally protective world.

How can your brand help them create that?

With a real conversation — one that’s comprised of actions, not words. Start doing something that says who you are and how you care to make a difference in this world you share with consumers.

Don’t tell people how caring you are; get out there, and make a difference. Don’t just give money to a cause; empower those in need to rise above their plight. People are becoming less and less interested in the glorified tax write-off most brands make in order to be seen as good corporate citizens.

Instead of throwing money against a cause, step up and create a partnership with your consumers. Let your actions get them talking. If you put consumers in a position to make a real, tangible difference in the world by buying from you, trust me, they are going to tell people about it. It’s going to start conversations online, in coffee shops, throughout classrooms and on and on.

Which is another reason why double bottom line branding is so valuable. When you double your bottom line, you create a platform that has meaning to your consumer community. Which instantly positions you to have a meaningful conversation with them at every single brand touch point.

Here are a few specific dynamics of how the double bottom line positions you to have the real conversation:

IT CREATES AN INSTANT COMMON GROUND: Traditionally, marketing has always been a fairly aggressive dance driven by an “us and them” mentality. The us and them being defined as sellers trying to get buyers to part with their money, and buyers trying to get the deal that’s best for them. The double bottom line eliminates the “us and them” mentality. It unites these two sides on a common ground - a connection that 88% of CEOs today value as a top priority. Both parties have a legitimate interest in the topic at hand. You are caring about a cause together. And in doing so, you are sharing one of the most powerful forces in the business world (and the world at large for that matter.) It’s called passion. And when people become passionate about your brand, they continue the conversation you started with their friends. They share it in their Facebook posts. It ripples outward and onward claiming a life of its own, doubling your sales through word-of-mouth recommendations. By simply creating a common ground and a real connection, you effectively achieve something many multi-million dollar advertising campaigns can’t even do.

IT HUMANIZES YOUR BRAND: A double bottom line transforms your ordinary brand into a brand with a heart. And that is a powerful business move – one that empowers you to charge up to 200% more for your products than your competitors. Because now people can connect with you emotionally. You’ve tapped into the most fundamental human need there is: Emotional connection. You have upgraded your status from product maker to comrade. (Another word for friend, right?) And when it comes to the online world we live in, friends share messages with one another. They support businesses they know, like and trust. The “know, like and trust” factor is the trifecta of sales success. In fact, 66% of consumers online will only interact with brands if they trust their way of communication. Since you have linked your purpose and your profit, your desire to do good is not just an empty promise. Your double bottom line makes it impossible not to walk your talk – and since actions always speak louder than words, people will see this and trust you. Citizen consumers don’t just prefer brands with a heart. They are insisting on them. And they now account for nearly 70% of the buying population.

IT CREATES SCHMARM-FREE MARKETING MESSAGES: When you create a double bottom line, you become allies with your consumer community – joined in a purpose. This instantly frees you and your marketing message from the schmarmy feeling of having to convince anyone to connect with you, because you are already on the same team. And even better, you have positioned yourself as a leader of that team. Through your second bottom line, your brand is now a catalyst, empowering individuals to make an impact that is near and dear to them. It is through you that they can make their difference. And that, in turn, transforms a brand’s marketing from simply talking to truly having something to say.

That’s the kind of conversation I’m talkin’ about.

IS YOUR BRAND A ONE NIGHT STAND?

Read on The Huffington Post.

Relationships. There is nothing more valuable. Not in life. And certainly not in business. If you are a brand looking to build success, then it’s essential that you be sure you know how to build a meaningful consumer relationship.

One of the most commonly held, old-school business beliefs that will hold brands back in the emerging economy is the belief that business is about commerce. Business is about connection and collaboration. These things, in turn, create commerce. Succeeding in the impact-oriented, “we economy” we now live in requires refocusing our efforts from simply filling our personal pockets to fulfilling the deeper needs of our consumers and the world they live in.

The trick is to build relationships and let them, in turn, build your profit.

Look at how your brand marketing and mentality operates. If you are primarily focused on just making the next sale, you are basically looking for a one-night stand. But if you are looking to bring meaning and fill the needs of people and the world they live in, then you are laying the foundation for a long-term relationship through which a lifetime of sales and support will naturally unfold.

So, how do you, as a brand, build those long-term relationships? As it turns out, the very same things that make for great personal relationships make for great professional relationships. Here are a few key checkpoints:

Openness: Don’t operate in a shroud. It does you no good to hide your practices or brand behavior from those you claim to want to connect with. Not only is this dishonest, it’s shortsighted. People are going to discover the truth. They always do. Be open, or as business terminology likes to put it, transparent. When you compartmentalize who you are or decide for yourself what a person, consumer, or other audience will or won’t like, then you’ve undercut your connection right away. You’re managing the information. Trying to manipulate the outcome. If there is something about your brand behavior you need to hide, then there is something about your brand behavior you need to change. Purpose.

Trust: If your consumers and clients don’t trust you, they won’t be your consumers and clients for long. To build trust, you have to be an honest brand. One that cares to make an honest-to-God difference in the world. There are always fuller, more authentic ways to bring your brand’s chosen purpose to life. If you are a chiropractor, how do you help people walk tall in their world beyond a back adjustment? If you are a music store, how do you create harmony in your community? The more people see you walk your talk beyond trying to get them to part with their money, the more they will begin to trust you. Once you’ve grown trust, it must be maintained, and this requires loyalty. Being there when people need you, not just when you need them. Again, take a look at your marketing endeavors: Are you reaching out to your community all the time or just when you are trying to promote or sell something? Do you only talk about how you can get from them or do you also use your communication platform to give to them? Be it education, entertainment, or a positive social impact, a meaningful brand always has something of value to give its consumer community.

Balance: Good relationships are never one-sided. Especially in business. So many people seem so willing to forgo enjoying their careers and their families in exchange for the paycheck. In far too many companies, the work-life balance is anything but balanced. Good brand leaders don’t allow this to happen in their ranks. Don’t hold employees’ paychecks over their heads in order to get them to work hard. Fear does not build healthy relationships. True leaders inspire rather than intimidate. Here is another place your double bottom line works for you. Linking your profit to a purpose brings meaning to the work your employees do. It’s inspiring. For whatever reason, it is the human condition to want to help, to want to connect. It brings us fulfillment. And employees that are happy and fulfilled in their work tend to be more productive and work harder. Building hard-working relationships with your work force is not about having the upper hand, it’s about creating a dynamic where the entire culture works hand in hand.

For a great many years, the fundamental relationship between businesses and consumers has been built on a “hit it and quit it” mentality. The very notion of the term target market implies someone is the hunter and someone is being hunted. Being on the prowl is the stuff one night stands are made of. Deeper connection is the stuff relationships, and the long lasting benefits they have for your brand, are made of.

THE EVOLUTION OF BUSINESS AND THE FALL OF THE BRANDOSAURUS

Read on The Huffington Post.

An evolution has occurred in the world of business. It’s traceable, quantifiable and has single-handedly redefined the landscape upon which brands will survive. This turn of the evolutionary wheel comes via the rise of the citizen consumer.

Citizen consumer is a term born from the very real business dynamic in which citizenship has been steadily expanding beyond the boundaries of civics and into the world of consumerism. In our lifetime, the pendulum of influence has shifted. With 60% of US consumers believing that businesses are in the best position to effect positive results on social issues, not government, business has given politics a run for its money in terms of being the pervading force shaping our society.

And this has given new power to the term buying power. People are depending on their spending, not their vote, to effect change. And in our world of mass consumption and 24-hour online shopping, they are voting all day every day.

Beyond voting with their wallets, what makes citizen consumers truly powerful is their united front. They are voting as well-oiled teams with clear, open communication to build their ranks. They share brand experiences through reviews. They share opinions on social networks. And they turn to one another for information long before they log onto your company site to see what you have to say. The combination of commerce and connection is powerful and has brought a fall to an entire brand species known as the brand hero.

Brand as hero is a marketing dynamic that took root in American business back in the romantically portrayed days of our culturally beloved Mad Men and the rise of Madison Avenue. It runs on an energetic that says I, (insert brand name here) am the icon. The leader. It is my job to tell you (insert consumer market here) what your needs are and how you should meet them.

Brand as hero operated as if it was corporate culture’s job to manage the information consumers receive and decide how products will save you from the shortcomings in your life. Shortcomings that, more often than not, are illusions created by that same brand’s whiz bang advertising messages. Additionally, brand as hero felt the need to operate in accordance with only their own will when it came to the ethics, environmental considerations and human welfare with which it sourced, created and sold its wares.

As the citizen consumer began to grow in rank and power, hero brands responded to a certain extent. This response was known as cause marketing. In this system, brands would throw money against causes of their own choosing as a glorified tax write-off, do an acceptable amount of chest beating about it so everyone would know of their valiant efforts and continue right on operating with business practices that served nobody but themselves. Which was all good and well as long as nobody was the wiser. But armed with the internet, consumers are wiser. Suddenly it was clear that in reality, our brand heroes weren’t behaving so heroically. The facade began to crack.

Arms-length brand relationships gave way to intimate knowledge of brands’ active principles. Citizen consumers demanded more. And cause marketing ceased to work. In 2010, Carol Cone, the mother of cause marketing, declared it dead.

And so business did what all creatures do when they want to survive. It evolved. What came next was the platform known as Corporate Social Responsibility. And there is no doubt this has done a great deal of good in the world. However, much like cause marketing, CSR still positions the brand as hero and as a whole has very little real, definable measure. As is often the case with an objective that doesn’t have a honed focus for being sent into the world, much of the resources have scattered and not done nearly what they might have.

And so, again, evolution is moving the race of brands forward. And this time, in a much more defined way. Brand as hero has given way to brand as catalyst. Those who are leading the way have descended from the ivory towers and become consumer collaborators. They put the power to make the positive impact in the hands of consumers, and in doing so, transform themselves into conduits of purpose, rather than purveyors of philanthropy.

One brand that is doing this beautifully is United By Blue who, in return for every purchase, cleans a pound of trash from ocean waterways. This brand is a catalyst. The difference they are making is tangible, quantifiable and powered by the people who do business with them.

These are brand practices for the new day that has dawned in business. And if your brand is not positioned to keep up, then beware – you may going the way of the brandosaurus.Because in the evolving marketplace, only the purpose-driven will survive.

MAKE GOOD MONEY

Read on The Huffington Post.

Good money. In the old economy, this simply meant pulling in a lot of cash. But the game has changed. And the notion of good money has evolved.

Globally, 66 percent of consumers believe it is no longer enough for corporations to give money away, but that they must integrate good cause into their business.

Today, in a global economy that is being defined by highly conscious consumers who choose to purchase from companies that are making a positive impact in the world, good money means making money in a way that does the world good.

Which, as the buying trend suggests, actually positions you to make good money in the traditional sense as well. Because 91 percent of global consumers are likely to switch to buying from brands that support a good cause.

Newer companies that have and have had the good fortune of being able to build their business on a green platform or via a technology that improves the world are already in a great position. They have all the pieces needed to operate as a force for good in the business world and need only to weave these together into a meaningful brand. But what about the rest of the businesses out there?

Billions and billions of dollars are being generated and pumped through economies across the globe by businesses that aren’t set up to make the world a better place. In fact, a great many of them actually have a history of doing a decent amount of harm.

Knowing that the economy is shifting and this defining buying trend is here to stay, how can these businesses compete? How can they continue to make significant money but now do so in a way that brings about a significant and positive societal impact?

With a double bottom line.

As the name suggests, a double bottom line gives consumers twice the incentive to do business with you. Because in addition to the traditional bottom line, where success is measured by financial profit, there is a second bottom line, which measures success by social impact. How a company profits the world becomes equally as important as how it profits itself. And with that significant repositioning, a brand is suddenly relevant and ready to start making good money in the modern economic sense of the phrase.

Conscious consumers don’t just shop with their minds. They shop with their hearts. You have to do more than be the logical choice. You now have to be the emotional choice as well. Which means having a product is not enough. You now have to have a purpose. And not one that matters to you, but one that matters to them.

A good, quality product will give the minds of consumers a reason to buy from you. But it’s your social purpose that will speak to their hearts. This more emotional, human connection is the one that will not just draw them to you, but get them sharing your message across their communication platforms. In many instances, it will also allow you to charge a premium price for your offering. Sixty percent of consumers are willing to pay extra for a socially responsible product.

It’s important to note that this last statistic identifies a socially responsible product, not a socially responsible company. The two are not the same. One revolves around what the company does. The other revolves around what the consumer buys.

Certainly, responsible brand behavior is the price for entry to succeed in the 21st Century marketplace. In fact, 72 percent of U.S. consumers say they have avoided purchasing products from companies whose practices they disagree with. But CSR has become a garden variety catch phrase that is losing its meaning with consumers through an abundance of use and a lack of follow through or tangible changes in the world we live in.

double bottom line shifts this. Rather than brand as hero (WE give back on YOUR behalf), it positions a brand as a catalyst, allowing the consumer to make a positive impact in the world with every purchase.

The consumer does good. The brand makes money. Boom: Good. Money.

WOULD YOU HIRE YOU?

Read on The Huffington Post.

At the macro level, there is a great deal of discussion about the economic factors that create unemployment, but few seem to be addressing the issues that can help turn this around at the micro level, down where real people are battling the effects of the economic condition on a personal front. With the OECD predicting elevated global unemploymentthrough late 2014, knowing how to put your best foot forward and get the callback is essential for the 11.8 million Americans currently out of work.

Down in the trenches, for those searching for jobs, there are some key components that can help them succeed. The first is a mind shift. The unemployed must stop believing that they don’t have a job. They do. And that job is to get a job. It’s a full time, high-pressure, high-stakes venture. And as the CEO of that venture, each job seeker must ask a simple yet daunting question: Would you hire you?

If the answer isn’t a resounding and deeply resonating yes, then it’s time to step into the corner office of your life and start making some savvy business changes at the top. Just like the CEO of a company must have a strong, relevant professional brand in order to close the sale, so too must the CEO of a life have a strong, meaningful personal brand to close the deal on employment.

Building this foundation begins with asking the same question every great and successful brand has answered:

What is your unique selling proposition?

When it comes to human beings, there is no such thing as a parody product. And the more expertly and consistently you can learn to leverage what you uniquely have to offer, the more likely you will be in getting a potential recruiter, HR exec or investor to buy it.

Your unique position isn’t about being different. It’s about making a difference. Getting clear and confident about what you have to offer that can create a positive impact for the company, investor, organization or individual you are looking to partner with. Having only a general sense of what you’ve got going for you, or trying to be so many things to so many people that you end up standing out for nothing are two very common pitfalls in underdeveloped brands. You are not a general store. You have specific value. And if you don’t know what that value is, how can you possibly market it to a recruiter or HR executive?

What is your mission statement?

A clearly defined mission statement serves as a north star to help you stand out and motivate yourself from a place of passion and meaning. It’s not just what you have to offer, but why you care to offer it. A common pitfall here is to get too lofty, using inspiring words that don’t inspire a simple understanding of what you are trying to say. If your mission is built on a unique proposition that can truly make a positive impact and tangible difference, then it will inspire naturally. No need to dress it up in poetry. When crafting your mission statement, compelling clarity is the wardrobe of choice.

Knowing your mission will translate into determination in the interview process. And in a climate where so many interviewees are exuding desperation, determination will create connection. The key to creating a successful mission statement is to realize that it isn’t just about you, but rather it’s tailored around how you intend to be of value to a given organization or even the world at large. A company will want to get the most value they can from the salary being supplied, and a clearly defined mission statement can help job candidates make it very clear, very quickly, how they can best provide that value.

Have you paid enough attention to your packaging?

Your personal brand isn’t just about how you see yourself, it’s also about how others see you. Think of it as your image: The view from the outside looking in. One widely made mistake at this juncture of brand building is to mistake your image for your look, aka your visual style. Just as a brand is more than its logo, your visual identity is more than what you look like. Your image isn’t just how others see you, it’s what they see in you.

And the way people look at you today is different than it has been in any other generation. In a world where more than one billion search queries occur on Google every day, it’s safe to say first impressions are no longer made in person. So to rise above in today’s marketplace, how you come across online is as important as how you come across in person. Every post and every picture paints a picture of who you are. And if you think social media is private, think again – 70 percent of recruiters have reported finding digital deal breakers with candidates they were considering. So when creating an image that truly reflects your unique offering and your core values, remember a large part of your packaging is digital. And digital imaging is forever — once it’s out there, it takes on a life of its own.

Do you have a marketing plan?

Playing hide and seek is no way to get a job or any other opportunity. You have to let people know you are available and what you have to offer. And as any good marketing exec will tell you, when it comes to advertising yourself, it pays to get creative.

Look beyond the same old networking scenes and search engines everyone is using. How else might you get your message out there? Be willing to temp, that’s a great way to get in the door and let people know you are there. Scan through your alumni records to see if anyone from your alma mater is looking for someone who does what you do — lots of time this will help give you the edge. CEOs are not shy when it comes to marketing. Get creative. Get out there. No brand rose to the top by waiting for people to come knocking in its door.

Do you have good brand management?

Good management comes down to a single thing: Being able to lead. As the CEO of the venture known as YOU, there are four key departments of your life you need to manage: Time, healthy, money and ability. Effective management of each and every one of those key resources will make you more attractive to potential companies and clients considering partnering with you.

So, what’s the best way to manage these incredibly valuable personal assets? Take action. Action creates results. The more confident and consistent the action, the more positive the results. Take a good hard look at the four departments listed above. Assess the situation like any good CEO would. Brutally honestly. Where can you increase your value offering? Where do you need to reallocate resources? What can you do to make the decision for those considering placing their bets with you a no-brainer?

As a job seeker, the more creatively and meaningfully you can define yourself as a personal brand, the more attractive and effective you will be at securing your chosen professional position. Take a look around, it’s worked for all the other mega successful businesses out there, so why not the valuable commodity known as you?

ARE YOU A BUSINESS OR A BRAND?

There is a difference between a business and a brand.

I have said this to a lot of business peeps out there. And it takes a great many of them by surprise. Which always takes me by surprise. Because to think that “business” and “brand” are more or less interchangeable words is a truly fundamental misunderstanding.

And a rather expensive one.

Because I am in the business of helping other people succeed, it matters to me to arm you with clarity on this subject so that you can stop leaving all kinds of money, opportunity and personal passion on the table in your professional life.

Let’s start with the very basics:

If you’re selling a product or service, you’ve got a business.

If your product or service stands FOR something, you’ve got a brand.

If your product or service stands WITH someone (consumers), empowering them to make the world a better place with every purchase, then you’ve got a double bottom line brand.

And while the way to stand with consumers (which will grow your business faster than just about anything) is by creatively infusing a brand-driven double bottom line into your business model, the fact is, you can’t infuse a double bottom line into your brand until you have a brand. You have to have your foundation in place so that you can build on it.

So the question to first ask yourself is, are you a business or a brand? Are you simply selling something (product or service) or have you found a way to stand for something?

If your answer is that you are a brand and what you stand for revolves around a quality product, great service or good price, then I have some news for you. You stand for what everyone stands for. Which means you don’t actually stand for anything at all. Which means you are behaving as a business, not a brand.

And if you have a really unique or revolutionary product or offering, but haven’t discovered how to translate that into a unique, meaningful way to walk and talk in the world, then regardless of how unique your offering is, you too, are still just a business that is defining itself by the industry that houses you.

Another big misstep businesses make when it comes to their branding is thinking that their logo is their brand. Your logo is the anchor of your visual identity, but it is not the anchor of your brand. Because your brand is much more than a visual identity.

Just like you, there is more to your brand than meets the eye. There is more to all of us than our looks – the real meaningful, creative, juicy stuff that creates connections, trust, long term relationships, that all lives beneath the surface. The outer facing brand (visual identity) is an expression of this internal DNA that makes up your brand.

It is in creating this internal, purposeful foundation that you begin to develop brand equity. And this is monumentally more valuable and sustainable than brand looks. This is the fertile ground that can multiply what your brand is worth again and again over time.

Equity is defined as the value of ownership. So think of brand equity as owning what you stand for and the valuable one-of-a-kind way in which only you can offer it.  Brand equity is owning who you are as a business, not what you sell.

If you are the doctor and your consumer is your patient, then your brand is your bedside manner. It’s how you communicate, connect and create an experience that makes your patients like you and want to come back to you time and time again.

Are you starting to see the monumental difference between operating as a business and operating as a brand? And with this new insight, can you now see how much money you are leaving on the table in terms of missed sales, connections and long-term opportunities?

Trust me when I tell you that you will increase the value of your brand and draw exponentially more people to you when you shift into behaving as a brand.

Consumption is now driven by connection. And your brand is what will allow you to connect more deeply. Both with yourself and your audience.

A double whammie in the best way possible. How totally great is that?

IS GIVE A FOUR LETTER WORD?

“A new powerful, bionic business model has arisen and it is just waiting to feed your financial profit, business purpose and personal passion.” -Merry Carole Powers, Founder and CEO, Branding Powers International

I’ll start by stating the obvious: Brands giving back is a great thing. Giving to various causes has done a lot of real good in this world. Plus, it’s how this whole notion of social corporate responsibility really gained traction.

Giving back is how it all began. But giving back is not the way to move profit or brand purpose forward.

In fact, when I am repositioning a brand on a double bottom line, one of the first things I do is eliminate the language “giving back.” Double bottom line brands don’t give to causes. We create purpose driven brand platforms with the power to make impacts that tangibly improve social conditions.

Rather than taking from profits to do good in the world, we shift into making profits in a way that does good in the world. Two of the most significant benefits of this are, One: There is a limit to what you can take – even if you give 100% of your profits, that 100% is your limit.

Conversely, there is no limit to what you can make. The amount of profit you can pull in is absolutely open ended. Which makes the amount of good you can do through that profit wide open as well. And two: Doing good through profit vs. giveback actually makes you more trustworthy as a brand. Let me tell you little bit about why …

Consumers have lost faith in brands that talk about giving back. Way too many of them have not walked their talk or have taken this notion and turned it into nothing more than a glorified, self-serving tax write off.

21st Century consumers are savvy. And they are armed with all the information Google can provide. They want proof. And that proof is in the purchase.

When you link a consumer purchase to a world purpose, you stop contributing for consumers and start collaborating with them instead. You and your community join together in partnership and this creates a system of transparency. People can see the good you are doing right there at the point of purchase.

To do this, you need a double bottom line. It creates a direct link between purchase and purpose and puts the power of change in the hands of the consumer, allowing them to become a force of good by chipping away at a given social condition every time they buy. This is called conscious consumerism. And it is the number one buying trend on the planet.

Repositioning your brand on a double bottom line creates some not so subtle shifts in the dynamics of your brand and how it interacts and is interpreted in the world.

1.) You de-slime your brand.

Be it deserved or not, it can’t be denied that the majority of successful brands automatically carry the stigma of corporate greed. But when your corporation shifts into a spirit of cooperation, then suddenly the brand and the buyer are on the same team. You have nothing to hide and transparency reigns supreme. You are walking your talk with every transaction you make, and this allows people to trust you. Once you’ve earned their trust, they’ll reward you with their hard earned dollars.

2.) You retire your superhero cape.

For a very long time, starting with the rise of Madison Avenue perhaps, brands operated as hero’s to consumers. Meaning handed down unilateral messages about how what was important to consumers and how their products could swoop in and save them from everything from diaper rash to spinsterhood. This is a marketing model in which the brand did all the talking and none of the listening. This is a marketing model that is dead. Consumers are now doing the talking and brands, if they are smart, are doing the listening. When you double your bottom line, you shift out of the outdated business model of brand as hero (“I shall save the world on your behalf!”) and into the 21st century dynamic of brand as catalyst (“We are in this together.”). You are now a partner. A collaborator. You’ve come out of your ivory tower and joined the rest of the world, side by side, in the trenches. Brand and buyer are brethren, united by a common purpose. It’s a powerful thing.

3.) You Embody The Magic Word.

The magic word in the 21st Century market is “We.” This is a sharing economy, and within it, nothing is more powerful than shared values and the common ground they create. Double bottom lines erase lines in the sand. There is no longer the dynamic of me, the seller, vs. you, the consumer. “You” and “Me” merge together and become “We”. Suddenly everyone is on the same page united by shared purpose and shared values. And shared values (also known as brand gold) will take your brand from being a one night stand into a long term, committed buying relationship with everyone out there who believes in the impact you are creating.

4.) You Slay The Zombie.

Somewhere on the road to the top, passion often bottoms out. And the march to the office, corner or otherwise, becomes a parade of the living dead – where quite often, people are going through the motions but with no positive emotion backing them up. This is where questions start to creep in like, “Why am I doing this?” “What’s the point?” “Is work really nothing more than collecting a paycheck?” These are such common questions, and they can be really tough to answer in a world where nannies often raise our children and weekends have become an extension of the work week.
And this, as much as anything else, is why I adore the double bottom line. It is the antidote to that which poisons our passion. Something happens when you are in business for a purpose that includes more than just making money. You start to give a damn again. Passion is resurrected. And nothing will breathe new life into your personal and professional success faster than the P word. It is a money magnet. An opportunity opener. A promotion prompter. A business builder. And a meaningful life maker.

The double bottom line is a game changer for brands and a life changer for the people who run them. And that definitely makes it one of my favoirte four letter words: Cool.