by Jerry Mpufane (@JerryMpufane) On Monday, 30 January 2017, Lyft surpassed Uber in daily downloads on the App Store for the first time ever. This was according to Mobile Action, which studies the app market. Such a powerful and immediate turnaround should come as a warning call for brands everywhere.
Last month, after US President Donald Trump signed an executive order that banned immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries, protests swept across the nation. On the Saturday following the executive order, the Taxi Workers’ Alliance — a nonprofit union that claims to represent more than 50 000 drivers in New York City — supported those voicing their opposition to Trump’s policies at New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport by asking its members to halt work at the airport between 6pm and 7pm.
Shortly after the TWA said the stoppage would end, Uber tweeted that it had turned off surge pricing at JFK. Almost immediately, accusations that Uber was attempting to profit off protesting cab drivers by making it cheaper for consumers to hail a ride began flying on Twitter. Soon there were calls to #deleteUber — and indeed, many users began posting screenshots of themselves deleting the Uber app or registering for competitor Lyft. Notably, many people listed a number of other reasons for deleting their accounts, chief among them being Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s involvement with Trump’s advisory board.
We live in a connected world where brand influence crosses borders like wildfire. Without doubt, brands derive huge benefits from global trade but the flipside is that brand performance is now measured in terms of a company’s social values…over and above its share price.
Traditionally, brand values have been referred to as “soft” measures. So-called millennials, however, demand far more from their brands than just employment or product performance. This more-holistic approach to work is being reflected in a wider movement for well-being that includes not only the office but economic, political and social paradigms as well.
What is true well-being?
To coincide with the United Nation’s International Day of Happiness every year on 20 March, the World Happiness Report is published. The widespread interest in the report reveals a growing global trend toward using happiness and subjective well-being as primary indicators of the quality of human development itself. Global leaders, including CEOs, are paying more attention to what matters, namely policies that support better lives.
Interestingly, the World Happiness Report assigns a special role to the measurement and consequences of inequality in the distribution of well-being among countries. Its editors have argued that happiness provides a better indicator of human welfare than do income, poverty, education, health and good government measured separately. Essentially, these researchers now argue that the inequality of wellbeing provides a broader measure of inequality.
Blending politics and product
This year’s Superbowl advertising provided an interesting view of what brands may do to advance the popular point of view around wellbeing. Many ads served as proof of the importance of strong brand values, with leaders choosing to promote their brand ethos — thus blending politics and product.
The Coca-Cola ad championed diversity; Budweiser produced an ad about an immigrant chasing the American dream; Starbucks openly repudiated the travel ban; and Nordstrom moved to abandon Ivanka Trump’s fashion line. Nike and Adidas have been flighting ads that promote diversity.
In such a volatile political environment, brands have been forced to take a stance.
With political leaders now seen as fragile and interchangeable, big business is often viewed as the only stakeholder that may make a real difference. Here, brands may make a profit as well as improve the economic and social conditions of their communities by standing up for values that matter to consumers.
By way of example, Kellogg’s sees its promotion of sustainability as a business requirement, rather than a political or social issue. The food company’s initiatives around sustainability are based on the belief that they are the right things to do and consumers expect that it puts them first.
For local advertisers and marketers, the key insight to incorporate here is that a brand’s values have become an intrinsic part of brand performance. If you compromise on values, you compromise on profitability in the long term!
Jerry Mpufane has executive experience in both ad agency and client organisations, and has only one goal in life, which is to be an inspiring leader. He is currently chairperson of the M&C Saatchi Johannesburg group of companies. His monthly column on MarkLives, “On My Mind”, focuses upon what it takes to run a great AND sustainable ad agency.