6 Approaches to Brand “Generosity” During a Slow Economy

20 02 2009

During turbulent economic times, generosity is the keyword of branding, according to Trendwatching.com. Dubbed “Generation G” people nowadays are disgusted with greed, as that is what put us in this economical mess, and are embracing the “G” of generosity.

Businesses cannot afford to ignore this “G” trend in 2009. Of course, generosity has always been good for branding – you give to customers and they’ll be happy to tell their friends and family about you. Word-of-mouth marketing is key in any economy, but especially one in which marketing budgets are strapped.

Being generous doesn’t mean only giving stuff away; you just need to be kinder and more caring towards your customers. Here are 6 ways you can put the “G” in your branding this year.

1. Show you care about your customers.
Throwing in a small item at checkout or sending customers birthday cards with coupons in them (or even better: send them a “half-birthday card” 6 months before their birthday when they don’t expect it!) are great ways to increase customer loyalty.

2. Donate.
Give to charities and good causes. If you don’t have the resources to do so, look for a partner to co-donate with. This is a great way to build business connections as well as to do something good for the community. Be sure to play up your co-donation or donation in your advertising materials where appropriate. Place a link to the charity on your Web site so customers know you’re affiliated with the charity.

3. Help the environment.
Going green is a great way to show how generous you are – to your customers and to the Earth. Instead of just limiting your damage to the Earth, think about how you can boost the environment. You could plant trees for every purchase of a certain product or buy carbon offsets, for example.

4. Give away stuff.
Remember, I said generosity doesn’t only mean giving stuff away. It’s still something that should be done if you’re trying to be a “generous” brand. The good news is that you don’t have to give away something uber expensive or top-of-the-line – just a token item will do because it’s the thought that counts.

A buy one, get one free sale could be just the ticket to show you care and that you know people are in a financial pinch. If Kia can give away a car for free, you can surely give away some inexpensive product, right?

5. Give your top, or returning, customers some perks.
Giving a selection of your best customers perks makes them feel special, and it also keeps them coming into your store. Offer simple things like reserved parking or special store hours – these perks don’t cost you much, but your customers will appreciate them. You can also offer something as simple as a newsletter or brochure coupon to those who will sign up for your mailing list.

6. Ease up on policies.
By improving your customer experience with extended return policies, you’ll give customers a feel-good emotion about your brand, even if they don’t take advantage of your generous return policy.

If you run a hotel, don’t charge an extra night for a late check-in. That policy isn’t set in stone. Policies that are in place to make an extra profit should be lifted during this recession period.

If you’re afraid of not being able to turn back once the economy has recovered, just claim these policies as “recession policies.” No one will argue with that!

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Apple Talks a Green Game, but Doesn’t Want to Report on Its Sustainability

12 02 2009

Apple launched a line of new green products last month at Macworld, but its eco-friendly MacBook Pro product line has been tainted due to the company’s attempts to extinguish shareholder requests for more corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting.

Apple issued a proxy filing January 7 that urged shareholders to vote against a shareholder resolution proposed by As You Sow, an environmental group co-sponsored by the New York City Office of the Comptroller and the Green Century Equity Fund.

The resolution would require the company to publish a CSR report by July 2009. The report would include its approach to greenhouse gas emissions, recycling and toxics. Apple would have to define “sustainability” and a company-wide review of policies contributing to sustainable operations would have to be included in the report.

As You Sow is pushing for the resolution for Apple to create such a report because over 2,700 companies, including direct Apple competitors like Dell, IBM and HP, produce CSR reports.

“Apple lags behind its global industry peers on sustainability reporting, especially regarding key environmental issues such as climate change,” the resolution stated.

Al Gore and Apple’s Board Push for No Resolution
Apple’s board of directors, of which Al Gore is a part, recommended that shareholders vote against the resolution. Apple’s reasoning? “The board believes that the proposal has been substantially addressed and publication of an additional report would produce little added value while requiring unnecessary time and expense,” Apple said in its proxy filing.”

The company has reports and statements on its Web site that detail its environmental activity, including a page on supplier responsibility. Apple believes this serves the same purpose as a formal CSR report.

This Isn’t First Environmental Attack on Apple
As You Sow has tried to pressure Apple in the past, and in May 2007, the company published take-back and recycling goals for old computers, a week before a shareholder resolution issued by As You Sow came to a vote.

Greenpeace has also wanted a piece of Apple. Greenpeace criticized Apple for months over its failure to publish its policies regarding the use of toxic chemicals in its products. Apple boss Steve Jobs actually apologized and Apple released info on a “raft of new targets designed to phase out the use of hazardous chemicals.”

Back to the Green Apple Products
The latest proxy filing came at the same time Apple launched its new 17-inch MacBook Pro laptop, of which it claims is the “world’s greenest family of notebooks.” The laptop is made of “highly recyclable aluminum and is both mercury and arsenic free.” The battery is a non-removable lithium polymer battery that is supposed to give the average user 1,000 recharge cycled before needing replaced, which Apple says is three times as many cycles as conventional batteries. The battery must be replaced by an Apple technician, but it should last the average user 5 years, which an Apple rep said probably won’t happen. The user will probably buy a new laptop before the battery ever needs changed so it won’t be a problem.