November 16, 2011

A commendable goal and an admirable commitment but a somewhat unhappy title…

Unilever announces the setting up of Domestos Toilet Academies!

The first will be launched early next year in Vietnam. The aim is to provide sustainable, long-term solutions to sanitation problems in places where these are urgently needed. Unilever has partnered with the World Toilet Organization – had no idea such a body existed –  so perhaps they had no choice in having to brand their initiative accordingly. But some of the promotions planned for the initiative seem to have no compunction in playing on the most obvious word in this context which frankly begins to be distasteful after a time. It does not particularly raise the profile of this initiative and simply serves to irritate. Here are the details from And by the way did you know that November 19  is World Toilet Day? We did not.

And here is more of the same from

November 16, 2011

Sustainability: the idea grows, the goal post moves

November 16, 2011

Sustainability gets a new impetus. ‘Biomimicry’ which explained in simple terms means looking at Nature to solve problems in the human domain, is now being used and tracked by more and more experts to ensure sustainable innovation keeping both environment and economic outcomes in mind.

FastCompany has the latest on this….

June 16, 2011

Every idea is an organism. It is born, it is fed, it grows and reaches maturity. It works because it has the inherent vitality to imbue the social fabric with the colors of change and survival. Its power can be felt. Its survival is ensured.

To sustain is to keep going. For business the challenge is to keep the balance between commercial interest and the pressure this puts on its operating environment: not deplete resources, use them efficiently, save on inputs, innovate and find new solutions.

Companies have used the word sustainability in many contexts: the ecology, finance, finance and ecology, natural resource use, community support, employee wellness, human rights, new technology from time to time

Sustainability is linked to innovation, to changing current consumer lifestyles,  recycling, reusing, reconstructing, reviving. Higher level considerations  are: preserving biodiversity, curbing pollution, changing technology from toxic to clean.

Idea of  Sustainability is everyone’s concern.  It now has a dense pool of intellectual energy that surrounds and sustains it. Business alone cannot keep up the churn or provide enough stimulation for its future growth. We need many other constituents. We need social platforms, civic groups, community forums to espouse and surround the idea with new paradigms.

Brands Making Sustainability a Goal


Some related and interesting comments below:

Why we Need Heretical, Holistic Green Thinking

Umair Haque on the “Ten Things You are not Allowed to say at Davos

David Sands on “The $ 300 House: The Sustainability Challenge”

November 4, 2011


Virtual body language? Yes. I was so intrigued by this article that I had to share it…..

November 4, 2011

CSR, CSV…..shared value and shared confusion

These acronyms are not the only ones that cause confusion in this space. There is ‘corporate philanthropy’ and corporate responsibility’ that add to the confusion. How can words such as philanthropy and responsibility be interchangeable? They have different meanings and different linguistic functions and must therefore refer to different types of action. In common parlance philanthropy is understood to be closer to charity than responsibility. And of course the traditional meaning of social responsibility was to be charitable. Give without receiving that is. The new gurus however are saying that unless you receive there is no point in giving! Basically companies must not enter this area at all unless they can see a clear commercial advantage.  There is no giving away of corporate funds for social development out of the goodness of some CEO’s heart. In this context, the newly minted concept of Corporate Shared Value is a nice spin. Thank you Mr Porter and Mr Kramer (see Mint interview Friday November 4, 2011). Here CSR and sustainability sit under CSV! Example: polluting industries must see this misdemeanor not just as harmful to the environment and socially bad for human beings, but as a waste of money that actually belongs to the profit line. Great as incentives go, will resonate well with finance heads and other money minded leaders. But the ‘visionaries’ may have a problem with it since it tends to take away from the ‘feel good’ factor that very often motivates such corporate action, the ‘leave my mark’ push that corporate CEOs believe sets them apart from predecessors.

October 5, 2011

Coke just keeps thinking!

Whose idea was it to put names of fans on cans? Probably inspired by the answer to the question: what do Coke fans want next from Coke? Can the secret to success with consumer engagement and therefore loyalty really be this simple? Case after case we come across branding ideas and initiatives that rest strongly on this one little concept and then of course there are big brand names that are so disinterested in what consumers want that they get blindsided continuously. Read for Coke’s latest offering:

October 3, 2011

Unbelievable! If only shoes could fix your flabby muscles.

Reebok has withdrawn its advertising  for muscle toning shoes. Why was the claim made in the first place? Is there any research available that can support this claim? Maybe the copywriter wore the shoes for a while felt good about it and decided this was going to be the winning idea? Or maybe the marketing people ran out of honest ideas.

It all started with the Masai Walking Technology you could say. A more uncomfortable pair of shoes would be hard to find.  “MASAI WALKING” was first used by the Swiss engineer Karl Müller who invented shoes inspired by the Masai tribe’s manner of walking. Walking barefoot on a soft springy surface was the reason the Masai could walk long distances without tiring. And walking on soft springy surfaces gave you a special rocking gait or so the inventor of MBT believed and so by extension if shoes could be made that helped you imitate this gait you were going to be able to walk long distances without tiring. And of course if you did that then surely your hip, buttock and leg muscles would get toned beautifully. Okay this much is believable. It does however needs to be said in detail and in this context. There is no information available on whether MBT tested and for how long and with how many people. Here is the public claim on these shoes:

“MBT©, Masai Barefoot Technology shoes are designed to mimic the walking patterns of the Masai. The rocker bottom forces you to adopt correct upright posture and reduced forward lean, reducing strain on the lower back. The gait also uses the gluteal muscles more than regular shoes, toning and firming the buns. The rocker bottom forces you to roll through each step, reducing shocks to the foot.”
By the way the Pilates system also has a couple of suggestions on how to maintain a posture that protects the lower back!! And toning buns!

So in that sense Reebok was simply following precedents and tracks already made by others. Perhaps it is just their advertising that let them down after all. Brands that use advertising to tell half-truths need to be careful. It cannot last for long before someone wakes up.

And here is another relevant story:


It is true that whatever is “banned” is often also “believed”.  But there has to be some way of stopping false advertising claims from perpetrating mass fraud on consumers in the way that Reebok has done and to some extent MBT as well.



September 29, 2011

Amazing Amazon! The iPad still Rules.

Like its mighty name sake, it flows on broad and deep and wide!  Those of us who have used the iPad, particularly iPad 2 are not likely to see Amazon’s Kindle Fire as real competition. Undercutting iPad does not apply as an argument to us because had we been price conscious we would not have bought the iPad in the first place. Apple has never been positioned as a price led brand. Its value comes from the fact that it delivers on its price promise. It sits right in the middle of a heavy laptop and a lighter eBook reader. It has an interface that is more than just user friendly it is positively seductive. So today’s headlines putting Amazon’s new Kindle Fire as a head on competitor to the iPad do not make much sense. On the other the speed and agility with which Amazon has responded to every single opportunity in the market is beyond impressive. These technology driven consumer brands catch hold of the consumer’s wrist and never let go. Every shift in the pulse is measured and something done about it. The interesting question is why hasn’t the “traditional” consumer products industry done the same?

And here is another analysis of what could be other problems with the Kindle Fire…..largely from the e Book reading perspective.


September 28, 2011

Measuring TRUST in India

The Economic Times released its findings today….the 100 brands that are most trusted by consumers in India. Since Nielsen did the survey we can at least hope for some degree of objectivity and authenticity because all too often these surveys suffer from either inadequate sample size or some other bias.

Colgate leads, displacing Nokia which was last year’s number one trusted brand in India.  Airtel is the most trusted service brand with an overall rank of 3. Of the top 10 in this list all but one are “MNC” in status, although with a strong India character. Of the 100, “MNC” labels out numbers pure local brands. Plenty of Unilever brands in personal care. No big surprises and we are reassured to see that the corporate India we are most in touch with chugs along in its usual reasonably healthy manner.

September 28, 2011

Hard Innovation vs Soft Innovation

Nice juxtaposition to generate some new thoughts and provide a new perspective…..what benefits a brand more: making hard technology changes and improvements or making soft consumer friendly almost incremental additions/changes? Something like a little detail added in or taken out and the user has a WOW moment?

September 28, 2011

Here comes the next battle field: Brand Plutocrats vs Bankrupt Governments

France wants  more money, has a brain wave, says let’s tax all  “sugary drinks” because as we all know sugar is bad for us and our children and we would like to discourage its use. Sugar tax just as we have cigarette tax and booze tax, two categories that get slammed budget after budget in practically every country.

So sugary drinks say no way: we thought we would invest a big chunk in France but not any more thank you very much.

But of course the French government also wanted to tax FUN….but they lost that battle.