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Corporate Sustainability: the new competitive advantage?

Scientists observe effects like natural disasters and decreasing grain yields caused by unsustainable business practices. According to Maslow, mankind’s basic physiological needs are being threatened – needs that must be satisfied before all else. Businesses actively working against these hazards can help consumers satisfy these threatened needs and, by doing so, create a competitive advantage. This new value stems from sustainable operations, which need to be communicated appropriately.

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) is an excellent success story. It points out monetary benefits of corporate sustainability, primarily when it comes to avoiding physical, regulatory and reputation risks. The CDP uses a monetary vehicle and communicates it to their corporate audience using buzzwords like “benchmark performance,” “stranded assets,” “fiduciary duties,” and even quoting support from the Bank of England. Why would the same system not work for the consumer goods market?

The answer is simple: the system requires an educated audience and/or superior communications. Sustainable Reporting Guidelines encouraging transparency, accountability, SMART approaches and even the disclosure of any lobbying efforts and publications with related content are merely a means to an end. They expose the truth, but which end can consumers reasonably analyze a 30-page corporate report and understand topics like the different scopes of carbon accounting?

The solution is simple: corporate sustainability and its positive impacts could be communicated through an educational framework. Consumers need to be informed about threats to their basic needs, how they contribute to them, and why choosing goods/services of sustainably managed businesses can potentially avoid threats similar to avoiding an investor’s risks. By enabling consumers to expose negative impacts, businesses will react to level the playing field, meaning that the early adopter catches the worm. Pointing out whitewashing is crucial as well; some sustainability efforts are more effective and relevant than others and this needs to be understood.

The 16 UN Sustainability Goals provide information on relevant areas. They allow managers to identify relevant sustainability focus areas for their industry, and their communications experts can conveniently “borrow” from the site’s professional content and visuals to serve their audience.

Long story short, marketing departments play crucial roles in fostering informed consumers and establishing corporate sustainability as an accepted competitive advantage.

The Unreachable Generation

You might think segmenting and defining your target audience is the most difficult step necessary to implement a successful marketing campaign, but this has changed tremendously when it comes to marketing to a younger audience. Nowadays, figuring out how to effectively reach younger generations is the new main challenge most of us face. The reason behind this is that we rely on user data to tell us who is using which platform when, where and how.

Millennials and especially Gen Xers, however, grew up in a quickly changing digital environment that made switching from one platform to the next as easy as never before. They grew up using chat rooms and social platforms like Myspace. Facebook then quickly became the new Myspace, followed by new platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Depending on their character and mood, teenagers and millennials switch between Pinterest, Tumblr and countless others. They might be using a mix of eight platforms one day and suddenly focus on their three favorites. Never has it been easier to abandon one for another thanks to smartphones and apps.

Tracking this generation is tricky, and where there is a lack of tracking, there is a lack of data. Without data, our decision-making process is impacted. Reaching this “Unreachable Generation” has become a major challenge, so we wanted to share a couple of sources we found useful:

“Forces of Change: The Unreachables,” Hearts & Science
“Reaching The ‘Unreachable’ Audience With Podcast Advertising,” Forbes
“Outside Voices: How Marketers Are Missing a Generation of ‘Unreachables’,” The Wall Street Journal

Disney-Fox Merger

In a move that has sent shockwaves through Hollywood, 21st Century Fox and the Walt Disney Co. have announced a powerhouse merger worth over $52 billion in just stock value with a total value of $66 billion. Disney’s acquisition of Fox lands it access to Fox’s large network of TV and streaming assets, as well as $13.7 billion of Fox’s debt. Despite the massive price tag, Disney is confident in the direction they are moving as they expand their footprint in the digital streaming landscape. With consumers moving to streaming over traditional TV, Disney has started growing into a strong competitor for companies like Netflix. Fox Chairman, Rupert Murdoch, echoes the excitement Disney CEO Bob Iger and the companies’ respective shareholders in a NBC News interview saying, “We are extremely proud of all that we have built at 21st Century Fox…Disney will unlock even more value for shareholders as the new Disney continues to set the pace in what is an exciting and dynamic industry.”

So, what does this mean for the media landscape now that these two titans have joined forces? Josef Adalian and Chris Lee from Vulture.com put it very succinctly: “Hulu will probably get a lot bigger.” Prior to the merger, Hulu was controlled primarily by three stakeholders, NBC Universal, Fox and Disney. This gives Disney a controlling stake in one of Netflix’s biggest competitors and will be reinforced by Disney’s decision to pull its content from Netflix and bolster its media library while simultaneously offering subscription prices that are reported to be significantly less than their competitors. Being well known in the media landscape as forming one of the strongest brands and dynamic content, Disney does not seem to have many doubts about how this merger will position them for the future. The loss of both Disney and Fox content may prove to be a huge hit for Netflix.

We can expect Fox and ABC’s TV and cable offerings to expand in the near future too, offering marketers more direct access to local markets. Disney plans to expand ESPN Plus by adding to Fox’s cable sports networks and may even be offering a Hulu-esque sports streaming service. FX and National Geographic will also see a boost in their networks. Disney certainly is hedging their bets in the digital streaming market, however, these expansions for cable and TV broaden its international reach and maintains a hold on traditional television.

Read more about the merger and its implications here:

NBC
CNBC
Vulture
New York Times

Focus Groups

Effective and efficient marketing and advertising is impossible without having detailed information about your target demographic. There are a number of ways to gain insight about people’s attitudes and preferences: two of the most common approaches are surveys (a quantitative approach) and focus groups (a qualitative approach). Both have advantages and disadvantages.

Surveys come in handy when you have plenty of questions about different topics that can be answered clearly and quickly. A larger group of participants can yield statistics to base decisions on for your company. Surveys do have their restrictions, though. For example, people might not answer precisely, might interpret a question in a different way, and the organizer does not have a chance to follow up immediately.

The last point is particularly the strength of a focus group. Its biggest advantage is the fact that moderators and participants initiate a dialogue that can be maneuvered. This enables organizations to tackle complicated issues in depth and allows participants to react to other people’s responses as well. Newly discovered perspectives can be utilized and scrutinized immediately. A moderator can even spontaneously test potential solutions and receive instant feedback.

Good focus groups are cost-effective and bring about desired results. Though they do require meticulous planning and a precise implementation:

 

  • Develop clear objectives
  • Define your target demographic and screening strategy for recruitment
  • Develop an overall concept for the questionnaire
  • Carefully develop questions that don’t bias participants
  • Organize an appropriate venue with a relaxed atmosphere
  • Allow open discussions and new perspectives, yet stay in charge
  • Be spontaneous and follow up, yet stay focused on the main objectives
  • Show the participants you value their honest opinion
  • Transcribe the answers and analyze patterns in the responses
  • Check whether your main objective was met and implement changes

 

For more information about how to conduct a successful focus group please visit https://assessment.trinity.duke.edu/documents/How_to_Conduct_a_Focus_Group.pdf or if your organization is considering a focus group, please contact Media Link at 309-786-5142.  We also offer focus groups to our clients.