Brands are operating in a world where things are changing rapidly. Whether we’re talking about changes to healthcare, changes in what is acceptable and what isn’t, even cultural changes, that put us in a different way of thinking.
How do brands manage all of this? How do brands and organizations continue to make sure that their values, messaging, and positioning are all aligned to what’s important to society and their audiences? Are brands changing fast enough?
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Recorded on July 9th, 2021
Brad Breininger: 0:00
Hi, everyone, and welcome to this week’s everything is brand new. This week, we want to talk about how you can navigate your brand in these tumultuous times, with things changing so quickly, a lot of brands and a lot of organizations are thinking, where do we go next? Let’s discuss. All right, so a lot of organizations or brands are operating now, in a world where things are changing rapidly, whether we’re talking about changes to health care and the pandemic, whether we’re talking changes in what is acceptable, and what isn’t even some of the gruesome discoveries that have happened in our country that have driven our hearts and minds into a place that just puts us in a whole different way of thinking, how do we manage all of this? How do brands and organizations continue to make sure that their values and their messaging and their positioning is all aligned to what’s important to society? And what’s important to people going forward? What do we need to be thinking about?
Marko Zonta: 1:11
Well, changes happen all the time. But what’s going on right now is really highlighting the fact that perhaps things didn’t change fast enough, or enough in general over the last few decades, or even longer, in the sense that we knew certain things, or some people knew of whatever was going on, and nothing was done about it. And I think that some of that stuff is coming to light now. And this change is, I wouldn’t say forced on us. But it’s overdue, we’re so slow at making changes that now it feels like, Okay, you know what a real change is coming, or it’s actually here. But the reality is that when it comes to brands, and managing your image and your position overall, it needs to change all the time. And we say this all the time, when we are developing brands, for corporations, any kind of organization, really, that brands didn’t ever stay the same, your logo may not change every year, that some of the basics may not change. But everything else needs to continuously evolve and grow with the organization. And that includes your position in culturally how you view things, who you hire all of that, right. So that’s all part of your brand management, and just being a good citizen as an organization. So it’s just that’s what we’re seeing right now.
Brad Breininger: 2:26
Yeah, I mean, a lot of organizations could get away with maybe not doing much in those areas. But I think when it comes to culture, when it comes to compassion, when it comes to empathy, when it comes to understanding what’s important to people, I think that the pendulum has swung a lot away from a very businesslike direction to almost a more human direction. And I think that that’s a little more tough for brands to navigate than some of the more business like changes that they’ve had to do in the past. I think the struggle is real, for sure. But I also think that it’s about listening. It’s about understanding what your customers, what your employees, what your prospects, what’s important to them in their lives, and what’s changing for them, and being probably a little more tuned in than perhaps you have been in the past.
Gabi Gomes: 3:15
Let’s be realistic. I look at sports teams, for example, when did the Cleveland Indians think that they had a problem on their hands? I believe they probably knew they were in not so good waters for a long time. But then there’s the business side of it. That’s their name, how much money is it going to take to change that name? Now, hands down, I don’t think that they should have that name for many, many years. But can anybody really forecast this type of thing? Like you said, Brad, at what point do the organization’s actually make a move? I think Sasha has a great example of Ryerson University of the people taking things into their own hands, how quickly does the brand need to react? At what point do they change? And can you even plan for something like that? Maybe not.
Brad Breininger: 3:58
But when was the Cleveland Indians ever? Okay? Isn’t that the real question here. I think that really what it’s coming down to is facing those hard decisions and making the right decision out of the gate a little bit. A lot of people, brands, companies steer away from making tough decisions when they need to make those tough decisions. Ultimately, now they’re getting called on all that stuff. But I just can’t look back and say, okay, when was that ever acceptable to name a sports organization that way? Yeah. To your point, Gabby, and Sasha will talk about this a little bit more. But Ryerson puts a good mirror up for what brands are facing in that corporately, they’re still in thinking about where they go from here. But in the meantime, their staff and their students are chomping at the bit for change to happen. Maybe Sasha, you can talk a little bit about that as an alumni and probably pretty tuned into what’s been going on there.
Sasha Codrington: 4:50
Yeah, it’s been really interesting. They put together the task force that was looking at renaming the university, looking at taking down the statue for maybe eight months, and they said that the final report would come out in the fall. But in that time, people have become impatient and the public went as far as taking down the statue. And at that point, Ryerson, the next day had an excavator there to take down the base of it. Even though they said they’ve been thinking about it for over eight months. The other part of it is people are impatient about the name because they don’t want to be associated with Ryerson anymore. And I think it’s about 400 profs and a few deans as well have signed a petition claiming that they want the name changed, and in the meantime, they’ve been using X University instead on their LinkedIn, resumes, on their email signatures. So internally, Ryerson has almost already been renamed in that way. And some of the organizations related to Ryerson, like the Student Association have already rebranded. So some of their acronyms that used to end with R for Ryerson already have been rebranded ending with X. So Ryerson has kind of lost control of their brand in that way already, because other people are making those steps faster than they are.
Brad Breininger: 6:01
Yeah, I mean, that says a lot about the empowerment that people are feeling when it comes to those kinds of things. An educational institution like that, it’s a little bit easier, I think, for the staff and the students to take over the brand a little bit. I think that’s a little more difficult from a corporate perspective, I don’t know that the brand would be as affected as much. But from a buying perspective, from a loyalty perspective, if brands continue to drag their feet and say, well, we’re considering it, or we’re discussing it, which probably 5-10 years ago, a lot of people just took that for granted, like, Oh, well, if they’re discussing it, I guess everything’s fine. But the truth is, is that we’re discussing, it no longer flies the way it used to. There’s a expectation, I think that happens with organizations and and not every organization and some people are more passionate about some things than they are about other things, as they should be. But I think that any brand, whether it’s educational institution, whether it’s a corporation, whether it’s a small organization, a midsize organization, a large organization, I think you have to be tuned in to what’s going on in the cultural landscape, what’s going on with your customers, and what’s going on in the overall feeling of society in general to make sure that your value systems still align with where everyone else is going. And if you’re left behind, it’s going to be an uphill battle.
Marko Zonta: 7:24
And it’s interesting there’s something that happened just a few days ago, was actually listening to something about sustainability and environmental issues related to brands. And I know that we actually want to talk about this topic on another podcast. But just one part that I thought was interesting was the fact that companies are let’s say 15 years ago, they put out numbers in terms of how much they wanted to reduce their enviromental impact. And 15 years later, that’s on record now. I think that people are now starting to become impatient. Because we know that the environmental issues and global warming is becoming a big topic. And people will start looking back, just like we’re looking back at cultural issues and some of the wrongs that were done back then. I think there’s other topics, other issues that will come up that there’s gonna come a point where people will say, Okay, enough is enough. You said something 15 years ago, you’ve done nothing about it. Right. And it’s the same thing with this Ryerson example, for saying that we’re talking about it for X number of months. Was it really that recent? I think that some of those conversations happened way before that, or even with sports teams or whatever, for whatever reason, they think they can just not do anything about it. And that’s where I think brands are falling short, they really need to pay attention to what’s going on and be proactive, they really need to lead a lot more strongly than they do in a lot of cases.
Brad Breininger: 8:48
Yeah, if you look at the Edmonton Elks, for example, they changed their name. And yes, there was costs involved. And I was reading a little bit of an article that some of their commentary was that the cost of not doing it was just as great, maybe not from a dollar perspective, but the cost of not doing it affected the brand in the long term. It affected the loyalty it affected the ongoing nature of their impact in their community. There’s so many other costs other than just the money that organizations really need to consider because at the end of the day, people say, well, it’s the bottom line that counts. Well, I’m sorry, but if you’re not connecting with your community and your customers and the people who support you, you are affecting the bottom line. So at the end of it, all, the money is going to be affected too. Are you talking about the CFL team, Brad? The Edmonton Elk. They were Eskimos, yeah. But now they’re the Edmonton elk.
Gabi Gomes: 9:40
I mean, the cost has got to play into it. I’m all for changing the name. But what if the throws the business under and I’m looking at Dundas, for example, the town of Dundas. They’re talking about changing the name of Dundas in Toronto. And it affects so many businesses that have that in their name. What happens when it’s a town? What happens when it’s something larger. I’m all for evolution. And I think that’s the right thing to do. And I think Marko, you hit the nail on the head, just as humans evolve, brands have got to evolve. And I don’t know, I don’t know the solution to how do you rename an entire town when it’s rooted in history from ancient history, and it’s wrong.
Marko Zonta: 10:20
I don’t see why that’s an issue. And going back to cost just for a second, there is cost involved in changing it, rebranding it, renaming it, whatever it may be. But there’s also cost involved in not doing it. If you actually lose membership, you lose customers, you lose followers, whatever your situation is, there’s costing involved in that right, so you really need to figure out are you losing more by not changing or changing? And quite frankly, in some situations, it’s black and white in the sense that it’s a no brainer, you need to make a change. Yes, it may cost some money, it may cost political will, or whatever it may be to make some of those changes, but sometimes they just have to happen. And right now what we’re going through in Canada, I think that those are just no brainers they need to happen. And there’s a lot of conversation around statues and all that stuff. The reality is that we can’t erase history, that information will always be there. But there is a difference between celebrating it or putting it into a museum where we can actually learn about it. Right. So some of those things belong into a museum, so it’s part of our history, and we can all learn from that. And then there’s other parts where we actually put it out there for all of us to celebrate. And I think that a lot of those things need to be put into a museum and leave it there.
Sasha Codrington: 11:41
I’m not sure if you guys have seen the cost estimated for changing Dundas is between five to 6 million, and some people are questioning if is that money better used potentially in directly and tangibly helping the communities that it’s affected? Or do we keep going with the streets? Because apparently, another 40 street names in Toronto have also been brought into question. So I’ve seen discussion on both sides on that of where else could this money be going, that maybe would be addressing that education piece, that’s not just taking down every street sign? How can we be addressing the history more and directly impacting those communities as well?
Gabi Gomes: 12:19
Honestly, Dundas bakery. I don’t even know if that’s a business. But anyways, let’s say Dundas bakery business owner, likely named his business after a street, I don’t know that he knew the history of the name of the street of the business that he was putting it under right. Which then begs the question, is he supposed to change his business? He she, sorry- the business name. Because of that? I just don’t know.
Brad Breininger: 12:43
Let me ask you this question. If you were driving down the street, and you saw something called Nazi bakery, what would you say?
Gabi Gomes: 12:49
Damn, right, wrong.
Brad Breininger: 12:51
Exactly. There’s a really important point here. And that point is that we can talk about the economics all we want, we can talk about what we think and whether money is better used to help the community or change the name. But the truth is, is that I don’t think any of us are triggered the way some of our brothers and sisters are triggered by some of the things that go on in the community. And sometimes it’s really easy to get all academic and say, well, the money could better be used for this. But the problem is, is that if anyone at this point in our history, if anyone saw something called the Nazi bakery, that would be 100% unacceptable. And I think we need to start thinking about what is actually unacceptable in our culture. And yes, to your point, Sasha, money can always be used to help people in different ways. But those arguments about where’s the best place to put the money, those arguments about, are we spending too much in this area, as opposed to that area? Those arguments have been going on for 1000 years, and they’ll continue to go on for 1000 years. So it’s really about understanding what we can do. And even if we can’t do everything all at once, what’s our transition plan? How do we plan to address this? How do we plan to move forward with this, and just be a better society than we were previously
Christian Rosenthal | ZYNC: 14:10
Further to that point. And I’m going to bring in some stats, because I think that’s important. Audiences evolve, right? There are studies now that prove that around 70% of the millennials, Gen Zs across the world, are belief driven buyers, if they find that Nazi bakery or even Dundas bakery or whatever, that’s going to affect what the brand can or won’t sell. And even further to that 64% of global consumers will boycott a brand solely because of its position on social and political issues. On top of that, the social media and how easily brands get boycotted. You need to take some action, right.
Marko Zonta: 14:52
And I’ll say that’s my personal experience. I have not purchased from brands specifically because of their position on certain issues,
Brad Breininger: 15:01
I think more and more people are following that way of looking at things too. And I think it’s true about Gen X, Gen Z and millennials. But I think the entire population is a lot more aware of what’s going on. Before you didn’t really know the supply chain, you didn’t really know where things were coming from it was consumerist society. But I think there’s a lot of things that have happened politically, societaly- is that word societaly, there’s a whole bunch of things that have happened that have made people look at things in a very different way. People who don’t agree with that use that term woke, everyone’s becoming woke, and now you can’t do anything. But that paints it in a negative light. The truth is, is that it’s not just about becoming woke as if that’s a negative thing. The term woke comes from the idea of waking up Waking up and looking at things as they actually are. If you think of it that way, we’ve been sheepishly asleep for a very long time. And the brands who understand that are the ones who are maybe not doing everything right away, they may be a little bit slower to change, but they’re sharing their plan. They’re sharing where they want to go, they’re taking a look at their value systems, they’re taking a look at their hiring practices, they’re taking a look at how they do things. And they’re saying some of the things that we used to do are no longer acceptable. And we believe that and we want to do things a little bit differently. And I think that any brand who isn’t tuned in and listening is going to be left by the wayside.
Gabi Gomes: 16:30
Well, I’ll point one out, Chiquita Banana, Chiquita bananas, not listening. Everybody, let’s boycott, Chiquita bananas. Chiquita Banana has not changed their logo, there’s still a woman on there is sexualized with a bunch of bananas on her head. And as small as that little sticker is on the banana, it’s still there. And it’s been brought up and not addressed. So it’s not just the Uncle Ben’s and the Aunt Jemimas, or insurance company that’s huge. Mutual of Omaha has committed to dropping Native American image from their logo. So that’s good. But there are many, many brands and I think, put our money where we want to and support. But it’s incumbent on that brand to evolve as humans evolve. And to know that certain things are not right in 2021, that were never right, in history altogether, we’re more aware, etc, they need to change.
Brad Breininger: 17:24
We’ve all heard that phrase, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. Once this comes out. And once people are discussing it and talking about it, it becomes part of the national and international conversation. And then whether it’s cultural issues, whether it’s the environment, whether it’s organizations that are based in old ways of doing things, and they need to evolve not only their business, but their brand, and their messaging and their values and everything else. It’s a wide range of things that have to be under consideration. If people want to do business in today’s world, that’s just how it is.
Marko Zonta: 18:02
I think a big part of it as well is owning it- realizing that you potentially have a problem, whether it’s your product is not great. Your history is not what it should have been, whatever the issue may be own it and correct it brands can actually gain respect by doing that. They will actually gain followers, members, whatever they have, by saying this is part of our history. Here are the steps we’re taking to correct that. And we’re moving forward in a positive direction.
Brad Breininger: 18:34
Yeah, it really gives brands the opportunity to go out into the marketplace and say, Look, we’re not perfect, but we’re listening. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there. We haven’t done everything yet, but here’s our plan. I think people are willing to listen, people are willing to wait. But what they’re not willing to do is take some of these platitudes that organizations and brands want to put out there, it’s like, well, we’re reviewing it, we’re discussing it, we’re taking a look at it, we’ll get back to you. I think that authenticity is probably more important than it ever has been, as long as you go out in a way that says: We hear you we understand where this needs to go. I think that people are open. I don’t think anyone is looking to bankrupt an organization. I don’t think that anyone is looking to say that we’re going to cancel you. I mean, yeah, a lot of people and organizations have been cancelled so maybe we’re not all perfect. But the reality is, is that I think that if you can show a plan, if you can show a direction, there is a lot more opportunity for your customers and your prospects and your potential employees to accept where you want to take the organization. Really, the key to navigating your brand and your organization today is really listening, understanding and having a plan in place. It’s not about sticking your head in the sand and hoping everything passes, because Hello, that’s not going to happen.
Gabi Gomes: 20:04
But with timing with timing attached to it and fulfill that,
Brad Breininger: 20:07
yeah, people aren’t going to wait forever. And the bottom line is that if you don’t do it in a way that feels acceptable to people, then you might be canceled. Or you might be finding yourself on the wrong end of your customer ire, we can communicate a lot easier now, we can share ideas a lot faster. We live in a very quick world and brands and organizations have to be really, really well aware of that and be ready to navigate their brand in the best possible way going forward. So that’s this edition of everything is brand. Join us next week for a new topic and a whole new perspective. And remember, everything is brand.