Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Value of Conservation - benefit that flows from nature to us.

Fairness is a fundamental component of a well functioning economy. Buyer and seller have to believe the transaction is fair in order for the transaction to work. But in the early years of our industrial process, the buyers did not understand the economics of nature being transformed for the sake of human consumption. We did not realize the cost of a new shiny cell phone meant labor disputes, social unrest, environmental pollution, climate change, and so on. But today's market place is much smarter than before. Stakeholders have the knowledge and they are incrementally measuring and demanding back the cost that was previously uncaptured. They still want their new shiny cell phone, but they want to know it's made sensibly and in the best way possible. The crowd is also more connected than ever and their reinforcing the good ideas and collectively rejecting the bad ones.   

If economics is really the currency of policy, this new demand of economic accountancy for natural resources and social and environmental impacts should shape policies around the world. But the changes are already happening. We are already seeing more stringent social and environmental standards and reporting requirements. We are also seeing the connected web becoming more exposed and responsive to any violations.    

Well, that's the price you pay for playing this game, right?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Creative Collective

Big Data is all the rage these days. It’s probably the first time in human history that we have gathered so much information about our individual and collective habits that we can actually do something meaningful with the information. Many marketers jump to the chance to better segment demographics and develop archetypical consumption habits to encourage selling more junk we don’t need.

Yes, let’s all catch the mad gold rush to Mt. Spendmore.

But there are better ways to use big data, isn’t there? Many industries are challenged to enhance reliability, reduce costs, and stimulate revenue while using materials and energy more efficiently with big data. This is a step in the right direction, but often overlooked is the ability for these industries to embrace information technology even further to leverage dynamic real-time demand response to optimize process—the whole process of consumption from producers to consumers. While some are using big data this way in small increments, they have not yet fully actualized the social tech’s offering of multi-stakeholder collaboration; and by definition they neglect the bigger picture of why it is important to achieve efficiency, reduce cost, and promote reliability. In my opinion, the end goal is to work our way to less dependency on the more scarce resources and turn our attention to utilizing more of the abundance we already have through collective efforts (trash recycling anyone?).

 So while the smart industries are sorting through mountains of information to figure out just how to be more efficient, they are turning a blind eye to combining information to form a dynamic communication method for a new way of thinking about the economy. This I find troubling. Perhaps it’s a mere symptom of linear static thinking that is prevalent in western metaphysics—where Americans seem to believe things are penultimate of the Monadology, Eastern thoughts often resolve to know things are in constant flux, that perfection is impossible because there is always room for improvement; and therefore, things are not as what they seem.

Where does this leave us in terms of innovation? If you really think about creativity and innovation, the components include originality and value creation. But to limit creativity and innovation to individuals is short changing the human race. While a degree of freedom is necessary for the exercise of creativity and innovation, but collective mentality and innovation are not mutually exclusive. I like to think we are somewhat capable of collaborating and creating common core solutions that are, well, ORIGINAL. So when we begin to think of the constant flux of things and the potential that big data offers us in terms of running into the next new big thing (Google for example), we see that the conundrum isn’t in why we can’t think in better ways. Rather it’s more about why we have not yet picked the better pack to believe in better outcomes.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

This Is About Philosophy and Culture

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a simple and contagious idea, but its operation is extremely complex. It involves both technical factors relevant to your business operation and human factors of your stakeholders. It is one thing to improve your technical process efficiency, but it is entirely another to encourage your people to make the right decisions and be empowered to fully incorporate sustainability into their routines.

You can probably hire process improvement consultants to help you find more efficient equipment and protocols, but how do you inject the right kind of company culture and philosophy to prevent the kind of greenwashing that will end up costing you in the long run?

I will venture to bet that any consultant will not know your organizational core better than you do, better than your stakeholders do. Then why would you hire someone else to come in and help you “brand” and market that brand? That’s nonsense.

What you need is someone to come in and help you map your existing ecosystem of stakeholders and better define their core value to discover your existing brand. You need a restatement of your company philosophy and you need to empower your constituents to actively change your corporate culture to become more sustainable. Your consultants should provide you with sustainability index and guidelines to rail that process to success. If you come across a consultant that offers to design a sustainability program for your company, our advice is RUN!

You want your consultant to tell you that they know how to educate and empower your human factor and coincide that with a technical process improvement to be more sustainable. At the same time, we remind you that this is easily done via social media technology and you can easily capture some marketing opportunities if you allow the organic process of empowering your stakeholders.

Of course we run into naysayers who will allege these lofty thoughts are too high-level and not practical. what would you have us do? continue without a set of good sustainable principles? Keep going without a culture that matters and a philosophy that makes sense? 

Use your available resources to make a sustainable transition. This is about innovation from the depth of your own corporate philosophy. Anything else is simply uncivilized.

Remember: “ask, think, create, and do.”

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Outside the Box Content Marketing Solutions

- by Lauren Campbell-Kong

We are all aware of the issues with content marketing (especially in the B2B realm). Here are the reported 2014/2015 top 3:
  • Producing Engaging Content
  • Producing Content Consistently
  • Measuring Content Effectiveness
In my last post I addressed the lack of outside the box thinking with these problems; how most content marketing strategists use the metaphorical  "social media blanket" to throw your company and process underneath in hopes for a decent outcome.

Here at BrainBox, we strive to change the "throw shit against the wall and see what sticks" mentality. And I'm going to offer up some outside the box thinking solutions to your problems.

I'm going to start with Producing Content Consistently because it seems the most straight forward.

Yes, it is important to produce content and to do so consistently, but publishing content for the sake of publishing is a big no no. In the world of digital media and social media interaction, individuals recognize when you are not whole-heartedly committed to something, whether that with engagement or content,  and it will affect your credibility in the sphere of the interwebs (the Millennials love transparency after all). Social media cred is just as important as street cred these days and once you've lost it, it is almost impossible to get back. So before you hit 'publish' on your company blog, make sure that the writers had real purpose for why they wrote it. This is where the 'why' part of content is crucial and must be answered prior to hitting that button; are you providing solutions to answers; are you sharing your outside the box thinking of mainstream ideas (we do that here a lot, it's our M.O.); are you sharing something expressive to your employees and your audience?

This brings me to my next topic: Producing Engaging Content.

Engaging with an audience, developing a following, having brand champions are all the by-product of  high quality and engaging content (even saying this is like beating my head against a wall). However, most content marketing consultants will tell you to only publish content that means something to your audience. Then they reference the almighty 'funnel' through which you should pull your potential clients down so that once they're at the bottom they will purchase something; it's actually really messed up to think of social interaction this way. That type of thinking is where issues begin. What about content you think is meaningful or content your employees want to share? To have the expectation that every time you put something out on the web it is supposed to only benefit potential leads, you are missing out on many other opportunities. Showing people that you care about more than what is only happening in your industry, gives insight into your 'humaness,' if you will. It sheds light on what you're passionate about, not only your business, but other aspects.

This is where I begin advocating for allowing your employees to share things that are meaningful to them; building a rapport with the audience along the way. Allowing your employees' different personalities shine through is the best way to get them, not only committed to your company, but committed to you. Through high engagement on topics outside of your company, you build trust and credibility; engaging on a human level is imperative though.

It is common practice these days for companies and organizations to set up a social media engagement outline for employees to follow; to ensure uniformity throughout the different platforms. But what if someone in your audience doesn't like the way you interact, doesn't like the personality you've put forth? That means you've lost a potential champion for your cause. Personalities are different, people are different, and allowing your employees' personalities to shine through helps create a diverse internet presence, providing connection opportunities exponentially greater than if you went the 'single personality' route. Not to mention that different social platforms have different engagement expectations and online cultures; but I will get back to that.

In addition to utilizing employee differences and personality types, it is important to utilize outside organizations, companies, and brands. This issue is more apparent in the for-profit sector. Non-profits tend to work with other organizations, companies, and educational systems and utilize the networking opportunity to give recognition and appreciation to all parties involved, especially through social media; working with lower budgets and needing as much free advertising as possible. For-profit entities tend to only promote non-profits they work with, typically just 1 or 2 and rarely promote other businesses; but I'm sure would appreciate free advertising too! Positively encourage and lift other businesses around you, it doesn't have to be a direct competitor by any means, but when you champion for other entities and lift them up, then you get to begin moving away from that 'dragging someone down a tunnel' model.

Through the practice of embracing other entities you will begin to see your online interaction increase. It is important to note that this is no easy feat and will not happen over night. Once this model is adopted, you must begin thinking of your process as a cultural one, and any anthropologist will tell you changing culture does not happen overnight (well, unless there is immediate and impending doom but this is not that). This is why it is important to recognize the time that will be needed to dedicate to this and the empowerment that you must grow in  your employees. Companies like Infusionsoft and Hubspot help you streamline this process and while what they do helps a small few, this isn't a process that should be streamlined for long-term use and for the largest ROI.

Measuring Content Effectiveness is directly related to ROI; that after all is how businesses measure themselves right? The problem with this thought process is the necessity to put quantifiable constraints on a qualifiable measurement. I know that you can measure the ROI of content marketing: Google Analytics, Hubspot, AdWords, Marketo, are all programs that help do that, but what about when a non-profit thanks you for the work you did for free? How do you measure the ROI of that? Or when an employee connects with someone over a cat video and that person decides to donate money to a feline cause in your name?  Or when a local coffee shop sees you promoting their coffee and decides to give you a free coffee the next time you come in?

These aren't the easiest numbers to quantify and assign a profit or loss to, but they're helping you in the long-run and hopefully you're helping someone else in the process.

These 'outside the box' points will hopefully help many of you begin to stop drinking the kool-aid if you will and start empowering you to think for yourselves. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

3 Is Where You Start

- by Jin Kong

GDP is the typical standard we use to judge an economy’s health, but most economist would apply only a single bottom-line to conduct assessments.

That's right, the mighty "$".

Sustainability advocates often cite to the triple bottom-line: people, planet and profit. Capturing these, consultants often use an Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance matrix to judge the long term performance of a company and make recommendations accordingly.

The long term ESG assessments, when appropriately used, should be catered to the specific industry sector to make the analysis meaningful enough to be useful. But there are common considerations across the industry spectrum and these include:
  1. resource efficiency, 
  2. business model resilience, 
  3. innovative capacity and mentality, 
  4. brand strength, and 
  5. overall corporate culture. 
These factors can give a company a good starting point in incorporating its financial metrics in the broader sustainable demand trend to actualize a new value proposition. Implementing the method effectively with a continuous improvement control process is the key to this exercise. This is not just about an assessment and empty promise to be better. Otherwise the effort would be nothing more than a marketing ploy. You can only sell so much of those and probably less than the bottles of snake oil you can sell these days.

No, marketing is about showing a slice of what you do and true sustainability oriented changes require you to connect the slices of your operation to make sense of its eventual outcome. To really make the ESG analysis model itself sustainable and impactful, stakeholders have to agree together to pursuit a common mission in a long term frame of mind to think differently about the world around them. The company stakeholders will have to come to agree on a very aggressive public disclosure plan and the managers who will have to lead point on this initiative and should be equipped with the right tools and consistent support to implement changes. Additionally, your stakeholders must learn to share a common core vision for a strategy to identify new value drivers continuously from the moving targets of stakeholder interests, the changing competitive environment, and evolving organizational marching orders.

Perhaps more important than anything else in this modern 2.0 social digital age is the trust you must have in making full disclosure of all of this and intertwine educational material for your stakeholders to ask them for help with your on-coming challenges. A company must learn to use transparency and big data as hammer and nails to empower stakeholders to leverage organic growth. This, after all, is better than keeping them in the dark and slowly alienating them into your competitors’ shops.