Cone’s dedicated Research & Insights team continuously monitors new and developing trends to provide you with cutting-edge innovations, need-to-know best practices and compelling insights in the marketplace.
Reputation, quite simply, is everything. It is painstakingly built and carefully protected, yet, can implode in a moment and take years to reconstruct. Every reputational point matters. Yet, there is one thing that can catapult a company into the hearts and minds of consumers over competitors: Introducing the Purpose Premium.
Over the past year, we’ve seen many brands take activist actions in support of issues close to the company or stakeholders. Whether that’s the Penzey’s Spices CEO note after the 2016 presidential election or Patagonia’s lawsuit against the president, many brands are no longer afraid to wade into contentious topics – including politics. And the latest exmample? Ben & Jerry’s* has launched a new ice cream flavor – just eight days before the United States midterm elections – aimed at celebrating activists who “lick injustice.”
This week, business executives, nonprofit leaders, government officials and issue advocates met in National Harbor, Maryland for the annual 3BL Forum (formerly Commit!Forum). The theme of the conference was again “Brands Taking Stands;” yet this year, companies unpacked if, when and how they take stands so others in the audience could learn from leaders in the field. CEO Shana Deane kicked off this year’s conference by commending the nerve and grit of brands willing to speak up for divisive issues, and how taking a stand has reached new levels.
From Always’ “Like a Girl” to Brawny’s “Strength Has No Gender,” combatting gender bias has become a popular cause for brands. Indeed, campaigns like these have elevated the conversation around gender and even transformed perceptions. Now a nearly six-decade-old brand is putting its marketing force behind the cause to inspire girls and change the mindsets of parents.
In August, Nabisco’s famed Barnum Animal crackers got a refresh – after 116 years, the company freed the animals from their cages and opted to show them roaming free instead. Animal rights groups who oppose the confinement of animals for entertainment saw the redesign as a big win. This is just the most recent example of how social impact and consumer advocacy can shape packaging and design.
Nike’s bold move to make Colin Kaepernick the face of “Just Do It.” Levi’s announcement that “Americans shouldn’t have to live in fear of gun violence.” Dick’s Sporting Goods CEO stating its new gun control policy “Isn't going to make everyone happy.” Over the last year, we have seen many companies take risks around divisive issues - with varying degrees of success or failure. Today, most companies are struggling with if, when and how to use their voice, scale and reach to engage on issues.
In a 2016 report, UPS* and GreenBiz found awareness of circular economy was not only on the rise, but a majority of companies (86%) believed circular economy principles would be important to their organization in the next two years. And the data has proved to be accurate: we’ve seen many examples of companies implementing circular economy principles, from Vodafone’s New Every Year/Red Hot buy-back program to Reformation clothing’s new partnership with thredUp to produce new markets for secondhand clothing. The newest example creates a first-of-its kind engine fuel that not only recaptures industrial waste, but also opens new possibilities for the future of sustainable fuels.
Today, reporting on corporate responsibility continues to rise, with 85 percent of companies in the S&P 500 Index publishing reports. To stand out from the sea of reports, leading companies are innovating new ways to communicate progress and increase transparency. As reporting season comes to a close in 2018, here are four ways leaders are standing out:
Every year in the U.S., the parents of an estimated 15,780 children hear the devastating news that their child has been diagnosed with cancer. Thankfully, due to advancements in treatment options, the survival rate of childhood cancer is now more than 80 percent.
As we edge closer to the U.S. midterm elections, many are turning their thoughts to how to encourage more Americans to exercise their right to vote. This Tuesday marked the seventh annual National Voter Registration Day to raise awareness for the upcoming vote and encourage Americans to register before local deadlines. With the support of individuals, nonprofits and companies, #NationalVoterRegistrationDay became the number one trending topic on Twitter on Tuesday. Here’s a snapshot of how companies are “rocking the vote” this year:
Warnings of Hurricane Florence’s strength were widespread last week as companies boarded buildings and individuals evacuated to safer ground. Although the storm was reduced to a Category One by the time it made landfall, Florence left a path of destruction in its wake in the form of catastrophic rain, storm surges and flooding that is still impeding return to some communities a week later. As reports of devastation came in, companies jumped to action. Here’s a roundup of companies that took a distinctive approach to relief:
From JetBlue’s “BlueBud” initiative to help small food companies to Patagonia’s funding of entrepreneurial ideas with its “$20 Million & Change” program, investing in small businesses and startups has been a trending initiative for many big businesses in recent years. Now one of the largest global brands is joining the fray, creating a win-win scenario for all parties involved.
The Nike swoosh is the most iconic logo of all time. Nike is a brand recognized and revered across the globe in a way that can only compare to McDonald’s arches, Coca-Cola’s script and Apple’s, well, apple. Now, Nike has catapulted into the national and global conversation on a remarkable scale – and not for its newest shoe launch. Yet, Nike’s new playbook is not exactly novel. Over the past two years, we’ve seen brands take oftentimes divisive stances on issues like refugees and immigration, racial equality, gun control - even going so far as to sue the President. Still, Nike may be arguably the largest and most omnipresent brand high jumping into the current social justice and political discourse.
With innovations to well-loved card games, stores and sports, brands of all kinds are pushing to make the world a more inclusive place for all individuals regardless of disabilities. Back-to-school can oftentimes be a period of adjustment, especially for the 62,000 visually impaired students in school currently. Now, one brand is seeking to make the classroom a more inclusive experience, helping visually impaired students feel the love when heading to school.
There are over three million farmers in the U.S. and 30 percent of them are women. However, female farmers don’t always get the credit they deserve. This year, to celebrate Women’s Equality Day on August 26, one agricultural cooperative is breaking into the music industry and shining a spotlight on the oftentimes overlooked women who make the dairy industry successful.
With text-heavy and data filled pages, it’s no surprise that only 17 percent of consumers actually read companies’ CSR reports. However, many companies are finding innovative ways to make their reports stand out. As a way of grabbing the attention of coffee-loving consumers and encouraging other brands to become more conscious and engaged in their supply chains, Counter Culture Coffee brought its report to life by launching a limited-edition coffee.
From limited edition logo swaps to Tinder profiles made for endangered monkeys, many organizations have interjected their wildlife conservation messages into the everyday lives of consumers in an effort to bring the topic to the forefront. Recently, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) pulled off its own stunt to raise awareness about the ivory trade in Singapore and the loopholes that make it possible.
Companies from all industries have turned their attention to addressing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), tackling a range of issues including climate change, economic inequality, sustainable consumption, peace and justice, among other priorities. However, reports from the Sustainable Development Solutions Network show that in order to meet the ambitious goals set forth in the SDGs, progress must accelerate – and more organizations need to join the movement. Recently, in an effort to help companies better measure and report on their progress, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the United Nations Global Compact released a “Practical Guide” to help fast-track progress as we move towards 2030.
Smart speakers have become one of the hottest products in consumer technology with experts predicting that 56.3 million will be sold worldwide this year. Recently, Amazon, one of the largest smart speaker manufacturers, introduced Alexa Donations with Amazon Pay, which allows users to donate directly to charities through an Alexa skill, or voice activated capability. Now the iconic online marketplace is asking consumers to join in, using its assets to make a positive impact on the environment, local communities and the world.
Last week, coffee drinkers learned about Starbucks’ latest sustainability initiative – a plan to phase out single-use straws by 2020. But Starbucks isn’t the only fast-food icon exploring ways to lessen its environmental impact. Together, McDonald’s and Starbucks distribute a combined 4 percent of the world’s 600 billion single-use cups annually. And, while the two fast food giants have been making strides toward sustainability separately for years, McDonald’s announced that it will be joining forces with the coffee icon to tackle an issue that outweighs the brands’ rivalry.
According to the National Park Service, Americans use 500 million plastic straws every day – this small but plentiful waste adds up and is one of the most common items found on beaches. Now, one beverage icon is joining a handful of brands in the fight against single use straws, with plans to phase out the item from its stores by 2020.
Companies looking for more than a short-term return are embracing purpose as a business strategy, not an add-on to business as usual. And the benefits are manifold. Cone Communications recently conducted research to dig deep into what Americans think about the relationship between companies and purpose.
As more employees look to work at organizations that embed Purpose at their core, employee engagement around social and environmental initiatives becomes even more critical for leading brands. In fact, 71 percent of employees say they want their company to provide opportunities for them to help make a positive impact. In response, companies are designing new approaches to engagement, from challenging employees to achieve sustainability goals to co-creating campaigns around employee passion areas.
Americans have seen the power of their activism make a change. From boycott hashtags, student protests and outspoken employees, consumers have been a driving force for progress on social and environmental issues. But they are not always equipped to start a direct dialogue with brands about complex issues. Oxfam recognized that issue and is arming consumers with facts to help facilitate a conversation with supermarkets around the world.
June is a meaningful time for the LGBTQ+ community. What started as a day to honor a significant catalyst for the gay rights movement — the 1969 Stonewall Riots — has expanded to a whole month of reflection, education and celebration. With rainbow-adorned cities around the world hosting a number of events and parades to celebrate the community, Pride Month is an important moment in time to recognize progress made and acknowledge work that still needs to be done. And, with nearly two-thirds of consumers wanting to see companies address LGBTQ+ rights, more brands are looking to Pride Month as a way to join in the conversation and demonstrate support for LGBTQ+ causes in a more visible way.
The topic of immigration proved to be a hot-button issue in early 2017 when protests broke out at airports across the country decrying the Muslim Ban. This week, the immigration policy has once again dominated the media and divided the country as stories and images of families begin separated at the U.S.-Mexico border surfaced. However, despite the controversy, brands were prepared to take a vocal stand and support the #FamiliesBelongTogether outcry in a variety of ways that align with their company values and missions:
With World Refugee Day this month, the UNHCR hopes to continue to build momentum for this petition, which encourages decision makers to ensure three basic goals: that every refugee child gets an education, has somewhere safe to live, and can work or learn new skills to support their families.
Recently, the world witnessed the power and determination of Gen Z after they inspired over 1.2 million people in over 450 rallies in the U.S. (not to mention countless rallies worldwide) to march for gun control. Despite their young age, this generation is concerned about the state of our world, and 94 percent feel that companies should step up to address social and environmental issues. Now, one brand is harnessing this empowered group’s engagement to advocate for a variety of issues that matter most to them.
Brands and organizations shared aspirational and inspirational messages and stories throughout the week – from Vancouver’s City Manager Sadhu Johnston who explained how Vancouver plans to be greenest city in the world by 2020 to REI’s ambition to awaken a lifelong love of the outdoors for all. Here are four ideas – some big and some small – that stood out to us last week:
The outdoor industry has continued to increase the stakes around accountability over the past few years, engaging consumers with storytelling initiatives and innovating supply chains to create climate-beneficial products. But how do these efforts ladder up to the overall health of our planet? One Swedish outdoor retailer is testing a new approach to gain a better understanding of the effect its operations have on the environment and how to align its sustainability missions accordingly.