Archive for the ‘Advertising’ Category

money and meaning, good money

I’ll admit. I think about money a lot. After high school, I worked with AmeriCorps, a national service organization. My rite of passage into adulthood was when the government gave me food stamps to supplement my AmeriCorps volunteer stipend. On my way to get groceries in my AmeriCorps asssigned community, I remember walking past tin houses where first generation immigrants from Laos lived and past children who were chubby but malnourished because there was lack of access to affordable, nutritious food. So when I handed my food stamps over to a cashier for my groceries down the street, I thought about money a lot.

Recently I was introduced to Laurie Kauffman whose life is dedicated to helping companies understand the meaning behind a transaction. What did this experience do for the customer? Did it feel “right,” or did it leave the customer feeling empty?

Laurie Kauffman leads Net Worth Consulting, a Washington D.C. agency dedicated to making the axiom give back more than you take a profitable part of a business. Kauffman says that when companies “touch money, they should also address the point of what a customer wants to get done.” This means to Kauffman making sure that every touch point with the customer delivers an experience that feels worth it. “I’m fighting cognitive dissonance!” says Kauffman. “It’s like when someone uses a product, it makes them feel good. But they aren’t really sure if it feels right.”

As a young adult, Kauffman started to see the worlds of money and meaning collide. She watched her friends struggling to start nonprofits and for-benefit businesses. The nonprofits pitched individuals with money so that they could make something meaningful, while the for-benefit businesses couldn’t figure out how to break past the noise of how consumers connected their money with meaning.

Kauffman went on to receive a Master’s in Finance to begin consulting companies about offering what feels right to the customer. Her journey took her to of all things, improv. Fully Invested, Kauffman’s book published in 2011, talks about how principles of improv are signposts to delivering something meaningful to a stakeholder. A focus on creating trust, thinking about the “we” instead of “me,” and an approach to interacting with others based on “yes.. and?” instead of “yes… but?” are key. This kind of emphasis on a participatory philosophy between the company and a stakeholder can dissolve the dissonance felt by a stakeholder. For the company and its stakeholders, these guidelines of improv creating something meaningful, and it drives profit too.

How did I make meaning from money out of high school when I thought a lot about money (and poverty)? I took into consideration others’ point of view and said “yes… and?” when I marched home with my food stamps from the grocery store knowing that my experience, what felt right, was more important than money.

To learn more about Laurie Kauffman and her book, Fully Invested, go here. To see her Forbes contributions as The Improv Lady, go here.


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trust falling image

I recently caught up with Shelli Difranco, Senior Account Executive for Business + Social Purpose, with my curiosity to understand the moving parts in engagement that drive PR agencies connecting brands with meaning. Shelli has the perspective of working from the agency-side for Edelman which annually publishes a report on consumer trust, the Edelman Trust Barometer. Trust is where cause-campaigns can have the most impact in developing a relationship with customers.

Q: What role within CSR does a PR agency play?

A: A communications agency can assist in several ways with a corporate social responsibility program.  At Edelman, where I work, we are involved in various stages – from initial audits and discussions on where to begin a CSR journey through a program’s launch and execution. We work with our clients to develop and evaluate programs and initiate fresh ones to fill any program gaps. We also help clients tell their CSR story to a broad audience, employing traditional media and conference opportunities as well as owned and social media channels. We further help them engage with relevant influencers and create linkages that benefit all parties. In truth, there really isn’t a role a PR agency can’t play within CSR.

Q: What interested you in developing CSR programs for businesses at a PR agency?  
A: Within our team at Edelman’s Chicago Business + Social Purpose practice, we represent a variety of work experiences – from nonprofit design studios to a state legislature to international relations. The main thread connecting us is a passion for social purpose and an ability to communicate what our clients are doing in that regard with clear, concise and compelling language. We understand how increasingly important it is for companies to believe in the social good and not just the traditional bottom line. We also know the value to companies when they connect with their employees meaningfully, allowing them to give their time, money or expertise in ways that resonate with them.

Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?
A: I truly am excited about coming to work each day, and several reasons explain it. Something new and stimulating seems always to await me. In my first year in this role, no two days have played out the same way. It’s also rare that you can work with a team of people so dedicated to our clients and our mission to assist brands, corporations and NGOs unleash the power of business plus purpose for commercial success and social impact.

Q: What is the most recent exciting development in CSR?

A: Over the past few years, a shift has occurred in how people view companies and government. Edelman conducts an annual global study called the Edelman Trust Barometer. It measures people’s views on a range of issues that deal with trust – from managing employees, the environment and transparency of communications. We’ve seen a true change in who people trust most and how they instill that trust.  As consultants and authorities in this space, we consider it imperative to share these findings and help companies, governments and organizations change with the times.

Q: What sectors employ CSR in the most innovative ways?
A: I see companies taking responsible actions with the products they manufacture and/or market.  Many electronics companies are voluntarily taking charge of their own and their consumer customers’ waste streams. Consumer packaged-goods companies are embarking on often-radical, large-scale waste-reduction campaigns. It’s inspiring to see such innovation and commitment.

Q: What role are Millennials playing in developing the CSR field?
A: I would like to think that I and my fellow Millennials are doing a great deal to prod corporations and organizations to be more responsible citizens through:

·         Social media campaigns (pushing change from the outside)

·         Collaborative environments (encouraging change from the inside).

We also are choosing where to spend our money – whether it’s purchasing eyeglasses from companies such as Warby Parker (that donates a pair of glasses for every pair bought) or getting our cleaning products from companies with a commitment to a sustainable future. We are using our skills and our discretionary income in ways that those before us may not have when it comes to protecting our planet and doing good. This gives us considerable clout.

Thank you for sharing, Shelli!

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I’ve already confessed my newfound love for Levi’s jeans to my friends. And now I’m confessing my crush on their new (well, relatively new) interactive, social media campaign that started in the fall of 2010.

Scene 1: Let’s start with the tag line. “Shape what’s to come. For you. For your community. For your world.”

Why do I love thee? And why do I put thee on my blog? Because these words ignite in us a desire to make something better, to dedicate ourselves to a larger social cause. As one of my favorite feminist poets Audre Lorde said about her power, and the power of what I see as Millennial women redefining their purpose in the context of social good, “When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”

Scene 2: How does the campaign develop around this theme, and why do I care?

I’ll admit. Sometimes I drag my feet. There are definitely expectations which I get from society that say I should be getting close to being married; I should be having kids soon; and I should already have dedicated my 30 or so years to a long-term career path that I’ll be doin’ forever. At the same time, I’ve got another track playing in the background of my life. It is promoting my strength as a young woman who carves her own path.

Shape What’s to Come research sheds light on how women around my age are changing the meanings of womanhood which our mothers grew up in and we still internalize to an extent. What the research says is that Millennial women prioritize independence and shaping their own futures as independent women more than they prioritize marriage, being mothers, or having a long-term career plan early on in their careers. But like our mother’s generation, who began to challenge limited ideas of womanhood, Millennial women need mentors to help them be who they are and want to be. Essentially, we need mentors to help us challenge these internal voices that impose limiting expectations on us.

Lindsey Pollak, a lead collaborator on the Levi’s® Shaping a New Future study, says in a press release announcing the launch of the campaign that the traditional paradigm is being replaced with “a web of opportunities that Millennials sample throughout their twenties, representing a different approach from previous generations. These women are challenging long-held beliefs about success as they navigate a complex world.”

And so it’s not necessarily about us looking up to women older than us for mentorship. It’s about us reaching out to each other globally and locally regardless of age and location that helps us realize who we are in a world that provides with a sometimes overwhelming amount of choices.

Scene 3: The video…

The following video is so good that when I first saw it, I thought it was simply a creative collaboration of Millennial women. It tapped into ideas of who I am and what I want so well that I had no idea it was a commercial.

Here is the video that first lead me to this advertising campaign.

The video rides the successful bandwagon of “movement marketing.” It positions the Levi’s brand as the centerpiece (and at the same time “not in the center”) of a demographic’s thoughts, beliefs, and visions. The campaign is like Dove’s Campaign for Beauty, which I was very proud to be a part of when I worked with girls doing programming about self-esteem with Dove’s cause marketing partner, the Girl Scouts.

In other words, movement marketing is a social movement of sorts. And in this case it’s Millennial women reshaping how they envision and contribute to the world.

Scene 4I am a story. You are story.

“I am a story. You are a story.,” painted on one of the women’s hands, weaves together everyone’s vision of the future and their place in it. They push the envelope and find a creative spark within. In the video you can see how the “higher benefit” of a Levi’s product is like any good advertising copy. It inspires Millennial women to know and contribute to the world.


The campaign’s website content, online community, events (like the launch event this past October in London in the above photo), and videos are driven by Millennial women redefining who they and expressing this to each other. Millennial women who are leaders in music, art, fashion, and social change serve as mentors and help guide conversations between Millennial women in the online community. These women range from celebrities like Zooey Deschanel to Millennial leaders like youth advocate Ashley Rhodes-Courter.

The conversations range from the simple, “What is your favorite photography website?” to more complex issues, like conversations about a video on the site about one of Levi’s cause marketing initiatives with WAGES (Women’s Action to Gain Economic Security, a nonprofit that empowers women to own their own green businesses).

Curtain Call: The following video is from the first Women’s TED conference which got quite a bit of buzz in Washington D.C. this past December; TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It’s a nonprofit which is dedicated to spreading ideas that push the envelope of how we envision society and the future.

Since Millennial women are like TED in that they are envisioning new ways which they contribute to the world, Levi’s created a strategic relationship with TED.  The video has more than 150,000 hits so far. It helps wrap up this blog post with final scene and curtain call.

This blog post is featured as a guest blog post at See3 Communications, a Chicago online marketing firm that works with social causes. It is also a guest post at Millennial Mafia, a project from Ragan Communications.

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