Volatility may be good for day traders on Wall Street but uncertainty is definitely not good for business on Main Street. It is difficult to ignore the fact that consumer sentiments in many markets remain low and that projects a bad omen. The Occupy Movement is a reflection of a wider-shared feeling that something in many societies is not right and fair. What we have is an environment not favorable to conducting business.
Stepping up corporate citizenship for better days
Although comfortably protected by brand equity, big brands may soon be affected. Due to their reach and geographic exposure, big brands may be disproportionally harmed with the recession being global. With that in mind, some brands are taking a unique proactive strategy. They are using their strong images to, against all of the world’s disastrous negativism, send out constructive positive signals…
We all fall down
With encouraging messages for recovery, hope and inspiration, we are finding brands in a ‘wishing well frenzy.’ Major brands are seeking out better days and are using their might to suggest ways in which the business community can make a tangible contribution to economies that are currently in trouble.
It started with a specific case, where the economic downturn first hit hard, in the US automobile industry. In November 2010, GM came out with its “We all fall down” commercial. Entitled “Comeback” the 60-second ad without voiceover shows back-to-back images of failure, followed by images of recovery, or comeback. The ad closes with the words: “We all fall down. Thank you for helping us get back up.”
Independent of GM’s effort or not, Chrysler followed in the beginning of 2011 with its Superbowl entry “Imported from Detroit”. The ad features the king of hip hop, Eminem and states that “the hottest fires make the hardest steel… add hard work and conviction, and the knowhow that runs generations deep in every last one of us.” A clear message intended to explain the brand’s new road to recovery with its launch of the luxury Chrysler 200.
Reasons to believe in a better world
Coca-Cola came out with its perspective on market uncertainty in May 2011 when its video “Reasons to believe in a better world” went viral. It features children, the world’s future, singing Oasis’ Whatever. Their sung words “I am free to be whatever I, whatever I choose, and if I choose to sing the blues…” are accompanied by images with positive messages such as: “For each tank built … 181,000 stuffed animals are made. For each Stock market that crashes… there are 10 versions of ‘A Wonderful World’ and ultimately: “for every weapon sold in the world… 20,000 people share a coke” Despite all the bad things that are happing in the world, Coca-Cola reminds that there are still more good things surrounding us.
Levi’s followed in August 2011 in a global ‘Go Forth’ campaign carried out in 19 different languages. Levi’s aimed to bring a corporate citizen message, especially to youth with the tagline “Now is our time.” Levi’s cites the late Charles Bukowski’s poem The Laughing Heart: “Your life is your life. Don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission. Be on the watch. There are ways out. There is light somewhere. It may not be much light, but it beats the darkness.”
These messages are very powerful. But of course, the next step is to go from words to action. That would make these messages even more credible and impactful for restoring weak consumer confidence. That is perhaps why the most far-reaching act of corporate citizenship in times of global recession that has been made by a global brand, has been by Starbucks. Starting in November 2011, the company officially pledged to do something about it – rather than merely sending reassuring, optimistic, hopeful messages. Starbucks actually started a project: Let’s create Jobs for USA to put people back to work:
Since the public is unsure of where to turn, be it governments, politicians or financial institutions, to mend what has been broken, it is interesting to see global brands using their strength and step up their responsibility of corporate citizenship. Let’s only hope the wishing well frenzy of brands for better days will be followed by actual actions and co-create with consumers to restore our lost confidence in the economy.
Let this frenzy continue in 2012 on its next level – and work for a better future.