Top 10 Twitter Influencers at Fortune Brainstorm Green

Posted on April 5, 2011 by Comments Off

Earlier this week we helped you find the Twitter handles of Fortune Brainstorm Green speakers because we knew that while the conference was happening in Laguna Niguel, the debate would live on through social media.  So, if this conference is being extended online, who are the influencers driving these robust Twitter conversations about key emerging environmental trends?  

In order to find out, I have asked my friends on Studio D to set up a twendz pro™ tool which uses a formula (sentiment influence + quantitative + qualitative analysis) that uncovers not only the most influential players but more importantly, how to engage with them.

Similarly, as to past conferences that we have attended (Davos and Clinton  Global Initiative) we found  that while a person’s influence ranking will change over time, the influencers who rise to the top not only have a large number of followers, but they ask  questions, reply to questions, share links, and use hashtags in their tweets.

So, without further ado, here are the top 10 most mentioned Twitter handles in the conversation around Fortune Brainstorm Green:

  • @fortunemagazine: 47
    • 322,279 followers. Official Twitter handle of Fortune Magazine
  • @bryanrwalsh: 32
    • 3,353 followers. Bryan Walsh is an environmental columnist for TIME magazine
  • @scottiej1: 29
    • 117 followers.  Scott Jacobs is a co-founder of Mckinsey Cleantech
  • @cnnmoney: 22
    • 263,513 followers.  Official Twitter handle of CNN
  • @brainstormgreen: 16
    • 233 followers. Official conference Twitter handle
  • @ups: 16
    • 3,755 followers. Official Twitter handle of UPS
  • @mlamonica: 13
    • 2,953 followers. Martin LaMonica is a reporter at CNET’s Green Tech blog
  • @rockymtninst: 12
    • 5,233 followers. Official Twitter handle for The Rocky Mountain Institute, a research and consulting non-profit
  • @adamlashinsky: 12
    • 6,448 followers. Adam Lashinsky writes for Fortune Magazine and contributes to Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network
  • @markpeterlee: 10
    • 302 followers.  Mark Lee is the Executive Director at SustainAbility

Your Twitter Handle Cheat Sheet – Fortune Brainstorm Green

Posted on April 4, 2011 by 1 Comment

On Monday, a diverse group of thought and business leaders will gather in Laguna, CA to exchange ideas, make deals and build valuable relationships that all revolve around sustainability. In its third year, Fortune Brainstorm Green will be the hub for green-minded champions from around the world. Yet, while the discussions will start in Laguna, its online where they really come to life and in order to help keep track, we have gone ahead and pulled together the Twitter handles for the guest speakers and their organizations.

While I hope to see you there, if you aren’t able to make it keep an eye out for the #FORTUNEGreen hashtag for ongoing updates and what I expect will be an energetic exchange of opinions and information.


Name Organization/Business Twitter Handle    
Sustainable Forestry
Molson Coors Brewing Co. brewerbart    
Clean Economy Network cleaneconomynetwork    
Natural Resources Defense
M. Bissonette
AeroVironment, Inc. AeroVironment    
F. Campbell
Dell Inc. Oliver_Campbell    
  CSR at Dell CSRatDell    
MCG Consulting majoracarter    
Global Thermostat LLC Globalthermo    
University of New Brunswick tichop42    
Christensen Global
Strategies LLC
Fortune (editor) geoffcolvin    
BSR aroncramer    
NRG Energy nrgenergy    
Walmart walmartgiving    
The Sustainability
Consortium Arizona State University
Fortune (Senior Ediort at
Moore Eisenberger
Pure Energy Partners green_order    
Time Magazine time    
Dreamworks Animation SKG DWAnimation    
Dupont DuPont_ability    
Fisker Automotive Fiskerauto    
Draper Fisher Jurvetson DFJvc    
Johnson & Johnson jnjcomm    
Deutsche Asset Management gpi    
Fortune (editor) fortunemagazine    
Ford Motor Co. forddrivegreen    
Australis Aquaculture, LLC betterfish    
Transphorm Inc. TransphormUSA    
Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. TimMohinAMD    
American Electric Power
Company, Inc.
UN CEO Water Mandate/
Pacific Institute
Azul Linhas Aereas
Wholesome Wave michelnischan    
Fortune brianbokeefe    
GoodGuide GoodGuide    
Starbucks Coffee Co. Starbucks    
Cleantech Group LLC cleantechgroup    
Center for American Progress amprog    
Rocky Mountain Institute RockyMtnInst    
The Nature Conservancy nature_org    
R. Read
ECOtality ECOtality    
Greenpeace USA Phil_Radford    
Duke Energy Corp. DukeEnergyNews    
Oregon State University oregonstateuniv    
Deloitte Consulting LLP DeloitteGreen    
Procter & Gamble Co. PGNewsGlobal    
The Coca-Cola Company CocaColaCo    
Conservation International ConservationOrg    
Fortune FortuneMagazine    
Turner Seydel
Turner Foundation, Inc.
Carbon War Room cwarroom    
L. Shapiro
GreenOrder AndrewLShapiro    
Anheuser-Bush InBev inbev    
The Breakthrough Institute TheBreakthrough    
Shelton Group sheltongroup    
Waste Management, Inc. WasteManagement    
Carbon Conservation dorjeesun    
Nissan Motor Co. NissanNews    
J.C. Penney Co. jcpenney    
Dell Inc. TrisaDellCRO    
EcoATM ecoATM    
R. Tuor
CH2M HILL Companies, Ltd. ch2mhill    
Ecomagination, General
Electric Co.
TIME Magazine bryanrwalsh    
S. Wasserman
Sodexo, Inc. sodexoUSA    
Google Inc. GoogleResearch    
UL Environment, Inc. ulenvironment    
SunGard ryanwhisnant    
Fortune (editor) davidwhitford    
BrightSource Energy Inc. BrightSource    
FMYI, Inc. jyuen    

Making Your Corporate Citizenship Story Pop!

Posted on March 15, 2011 by 1 Comment

Having spent my entire career in the private sector, I strongly believe companies have an important role to play in addressing social issues.  The private sector understands efficiency of markets and brings a sense of urgency to solving “problems.”  When directed the right way, corporate resources can have a real impact on social issues from the environment and education to health care and the arts.

This is why I so enjoyed attending the annual meeting of the Association of Corporate Contributors Professionals last week.  It was an intimate gathering of those who lead in-house corporate citizenship efforts.  These folks manage corporate philanthropic initiatives.  Great group of people who want to do good, but who also realize they need to demonstrate a return on their social investments.  Part of that ROI includes the publicity and good will they are able to generate among key stakeholders. 

While ALL of the companies that presented at the meeting were leaders in the field of Corporate Citizenship, some were able to present their stories more effectively than others.  My team advises clients all the time on how to communicate their citizenship stories. Here are my top 3 tips for making your citizenship story pop:

  1. Frame the problem. The most effective presenters framed the problem they were trying to address before they jumped into the solutions that their companies were providing.  By emotionally hooking your listener on the scope and nature of the problem, you are then able to “wow” them with your company’s response.  For example, Mike McDougall from Bausch & Lomb showed us pictures of adorable babies and explained that hundreds of thousands of babies are born with a cataract in one or both eyes and are severely vision impaired.  These kids require multiple surgeries over their lifetime to restore their sight.  Mike hooked me up front, and I was ready to hear about all the great work Bausch + Lomb has done with the Lions Clubs International Foundation through the Pediatric Cataract Initiative.  I don’t wear contacts, but I left with a positive impression of Bausch + Lomb!
  2.  Every good story has a bit of conflict.  Corporate types sometimes shy away from talking about conflict.  There is a tendency to want to show the perfect end product and not talk about any of the tensions that, inevitably, were part of the journey.  Perfect may be what you are striving for, but it makes for a pretty flat story.  The executive director from the ConAgra Foods Foundation shared her company’s Child Hunger Ends Here campaign.  She drew me into her story when she detailed the three-year back and forth between the corporate foundation and the various line heads in building the program.  Fascinating drama.  By the end of her tale, I was completely drawn in and 100% rooting for her and the new program.
  3.  Use numbers and data sparingly. There is nothing more boring than listening to someone tell their company’s citizenship story via a list of numbers: “We donated $10 million dollars to 5 NGOs; our United Way campaign raised $14 million dollars; our employees provided 84 gazillion hours in service hours last year, and that’s up a 52% from five years ago.”  Yawn.  You have completely lost me, because you have not told me a story. I understand that the business world requires deep analysis of data to support decisions, so it’s absolutely important to track this data.  I am not advocating abandoning numbers entirely, just use them sparingly to make a point and support your overall story.  The numbers alone are not your story; they are just numbers! 

It is human nature to want credit for the good work you do and companies are no different.  Corporations absolutely should get credit for their philanthropic efforts, but this recognition will only come to them if they package their stories in a compelling manner.  Hopefully, these tips and tricks will help!

Top 10 People to Follow at Davos #wef

Posted on January 28, 2011 by Comments Off

Each year at the end of January, some of the most powerful people in the world descend upon the small ski resort town of Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. The meeting brings together an eclectic mix of movers and shakers ranging from politicians and C-suite executives to changemakers and rockstars.

These high-profile individuals gather to discuss innovative ideas and solutions to the myriad of complex challenges we face today as a global society.  They also bring attention to new technologies, young leaders and social entrepreneurs.  Needless to say, from the perspective of at Waggener Edstrom’s Social Innovation Practice, what’s not to love?   

While there are still plenty of closed doors, not being able to pony up the admission price doesn’t mean exclusion from the conversation. Through the Twitter and the social tools WEF has made available, we all feel a part of the conversation.  With over 400 Annual Meeting participants officially active on Twitter (my personal fave?  Shawn Ahmed of The Uncultured Project), Davos Debates on YouTube and quick polls on Facebook, let alone the mainstream press coverage and the WEF’s official blog, where does one even begin to follow Davos?

Hardly surprising, there’s an app to keep in the loop. Against the photo backdrop of a bucolic, snow-covered Davos, one can directly link to news, those 400 participants’ Twitter feeds (alphabetized!), live video, photos, recorded speeches, and WEF publications.  I highly recommend it.

Still feeling overwhelmed? Like we did during the Clinton Global Initiative back in September, WE went to our social media gurus at Studio D, who set up our twendz pro™ tool to help us dig through the clutter and gain some insight into the robust Twitter conversation going on in this space. This innovative tool uses a formula (sentiment influence + quantitative + qualitative analysis) that can help you understand who the most influential players are in your industry and more importantly, how to engage with them.

What we found, thanks to twendz pro™, is that while a person’s influence ranking will change over time given the fluidity of the Twitter landscape, the influencers who rose to the top not only have a large number of followers, but they ask  questions, reply to questions, share links, and prolifically use hashtags in their tweets.  Many of these influencers have been retweeted at a high rate in the first couple of days of the conference, further demonstrating their reach.

So to stay in the loop on the latest and great content coming out of Davos, here is who you absolutely must follow:

Top 10 Twitter Influencers at Davos*

  1. @paulocoelho (1, 151,546 followers) – Attendee Paulo Coelho is a Brazilian writer who has sold 100 million books in over 150 countries worldwide, and is an international social media celebrity.  One of his tweets was retweeted an amazing 313 times.
  2. @davos (1,491,677 followers) – The official Twitter handle of the World Economic Forum dedicated to the Annual Meeting in Davos.
  3.  @bill_gross (9,031 followers) – Attendee Bill Gross is the founder of Idealab, which creates and builds successful, pioneering businesses.
  4. @coelhoespanol (84,612 followers) – Not associated with Paulo Coelho, this is a grassroots effort to tweet Spanish translations of Coelho’s official Twitter feed, further increasing his influence.
  5. @wef (1,094 followers) – The official Twitter handle of World Economic Forum events, not just Davos.
  6. @ftdavos (4,188 followers) – The Financial Times is one of the most widely read international daily business papers, printed in 23 cities around the world.
  7. @scobleizer (161,665 followers) – Attendee Robert Scoble is a tech enthusiast, video blogger, and media innovator with a highly engaged following.
  8. @gatesfoundation (462,501 followers)The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives, focused on global health, global development, & U.S. education.  
  9. @padmasree (1,386,559 followers)Padmasree Warrior is the Chief Technology Officer of Cisco. In 2010, Fast Company Magazine named her one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business.”
  10. @billgates (2,065,785 followers) – Attendee Bill Gates remains dedicated to his foundation and other endeavors since stepping down from his full-time role at Microsoft, becoming another social media celebrity in the process.

Our Big Takeaway

It’s clear that influencers take many shapes and forms.  Paulo Coelho, who isn’t a rockstar, but has written songs for a few, may not have even been on our radar for making this list, let alone topping it, but his combined following alone is over 1.2 million and multilingual in English, Portuguese and Spanish.  In all, these top 10 influencers reach over 5 million people.

These influencers’ thoughts, questions, observations and perspective on the event are highly valued by those who follow them.  In that way, Davos continues to open doors and, at least virtually, bring more people to the table to join the dialogue.

If you would like to reccomend someone to follow who is not on the top ten influential list, let us know!

 *As of January 28, 2011.  The Annual Meeting takes place January 26-30, 2011.

What happened in 2010 continued: 5 top sustainability communication trends

Posted on December 20, 2010 by Comments Off

As Marianne mentioned, it has been quite a year for Social Innovation and the debate fairly heated as the team thought about what has made the most impact in 2010.  Yet, we shouldn’t be surprised given passionate conversations seemed par for the course throughout this past year and this was particularly evident in the sustainability community. 

That being said, I think there a few things we could agree on when it comes to how we told the sustainability story:

Show vs. Tell:  As Todd Woody said at the recent annual BSR conference, “Don’t tell me your story, SHOW me your story”.  In the world of complex narratives and ideas, being able to visually demonstrate impact or solution has been key.  Marianne mentioned info graphics in her post, and while this has become a critical tool for this community, let’s not forget the good ‘ol video or animation that can bring a case study, process or partnership to life.  While we like to think everyone is as interested in supply chain, energy or materials issues as we are, the reality is, unless you make it simple, interesting and visually compelling, it’s likely to get lost in the conversation.  

The Starbucks Cup:  Now I know we joke that there is pretty much a Starbucks on every street corner, but in 2010 I couldn’t go anywhere without someone talking about this cup. It started at the Sustainable Brands conference and just steamrolled from there.  I am sure you came across this story in some form or fashion, but essentially after more than 8 years of investigation, Starbucks finally pulled all of the various stakeholders into a room that even remotely touch the cup and basically said “we need to figure this out”.  It’s no secret that they have a huge waste issue but finally creating a system that takes advantage of the cup material and creates a market for the recycled content, well, that’s more than just a waste issue being solved, that’s figuring out how to make sustainability profitable.  So sure, by the fifth time I heard the story I may have tuned out, but we all know that this is going to be huge.  

As a side note, there could be a completely separate conversation about the Sun Chips bag as well but needless to say, I think we all learned that louder is not always better. 

Sustainability as A Health Issue:  Now, more than ever before, the link between climate change and personal health is dramatically apparent.  Toxicity issues in 2010 became a household concern with the threat of BPA in plastic bottles and packaging so prevalent that some countries started banning it altogether.  This was a significant turn for the environmental community as consumers, largely driven by peer pressure to create behavior change, prioritize consumption concerns by first thinking about what I put “in me” and then “on me” and finally, “around me”.  Reinforcing this link in order to humanize the challenge and impending impact if there is no action taken was at the top of the “to do” list. 

Data… Data… and more Data:  While getting anyone to agree on anything in 2010 was a stretch, I do think there is a fundamental understanding that is no way to get where we want to go, unless we measure where we are right now.  Data is the hot commodity in the sustainability community and how we source it, what we do with it and whether or not we share it is critical to success.  As written in the McKinsey article “The Internet of Things” sourcing data in new ways through sensor applications will give us insight into our global environmental challenges like never before.  The technology will help get us there, it’s just a matter of how we use it.  For many, creating open source options is the only way to truly solve our issues and they made sure we all knew it.  So, while proprietary information has value, we began asking ourselves, in what way?

US vs. China:  It was everywhere. From conversations about renewable energy to smart grid case studies or the electric vehicle, you couldn’t read an article in the New York Times energy section without there being some allusion to the great green race.  Are we winning?  At times.  So, we are losing? At times. Does it even matter? As these two world powers push one another to establish the new green economy it was far too easy to pull out tortoise and hare analogies in 2010 and as reality TV continued to dominate mainstream pop-culture, it seems to have momentarily overlapped with major news networks worldwide.  All of a sudden it felt as if global companies were in hotly contested relationships and key players were being “kicked off the island”.  Rest assured, this won’t be slowing down in 2011, in fact, I think a new season is right around the corner.   

Needless to say, getting to a list of only five was challenging.  I didn’t even touch sustainability reporting trends or how the call for considerable investment in cleantech R&D was the platform of choice for people such as Bill Gates.  What else did I leave out?  What do you think should be included on this list? 

Or better yet, what would YOUR list look like?

Jumo launch: why is this important to your nonprofit or cause?

Posted on November 30, 2010 by 2 Comments

Chris Hughes, one of the co-founders of Facebook, launched a new site, Jumo. Jumo is a social network centered around charities and social activism. The site, which is entering its beta today, aims to connect socially engaged audiences and their causes, rather than facilitate donations. 3,500 organizations are currently on board.

“Unlike other groups in the space, we’re not interested in the big red donate button. We’re not interested in a one-time donation on your friend’s birthday or a $10 text message to a cause or organization you never return to,” the site said in a blog post. The aim is for people to join a cause and be part of its ongoing success.

The site, which is fully integrated with Facebook, allows users to “follow” nonprofits and causes, but it wasn’t exactly clear how users could contribute to or interact with the organization of their choice. After logging into the site with via Facebook accounts, users are prompted to fill out a survey, which helps determine their specific interests. The site then matches the outcomes with organizations related to their social interests. At the same time, Jumo’s homepage will feature fresh content from the different nonprofit organizations.

Jumo is itself a nonprofit organization, and will rely on payments from users and sponsorships from organizations that want better promotion on the Web site.

Why join/invest?
Anyone can create a page for any given nonprofit organization or cause. By starting the page for your own organization, you own the space from the start instead of having other people set this up for you. Although individuals can create a page for an organization, only administrators with tax-exempt status (you have to have an email address at the nonprofit organization) will be able to solicit donations from the community. According to Hughes, donations should only be solicited after organizations have established strong ties with Jumo users.

Jumo draws on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, blogs, etc. pulling content from all these social media sites into one place. That way, followers can check out a wealth of information on a single organization all in one framework. Ultimately, the site is more about the organizations and people who care about following these organizations, than focused on individuals and their “likes”. It is a platform to raise a broader awareness amongst more socially engaged audiences. Organizations that have the resources and bandwidth right now to experiment and check out the possibilities can help blaze a trail for this platform. It’s a very specific place for organizations to tell stories, show impact and engage new audiences. It will be interesting to see how overall adoption picks up. What nonprofit organization do you hope sets up a page?

Connections Worth Making

Posted on November 30, 2010 by Comments Off

Last week, an interesting connection point was established between small social entrepreneurs and major NGOs. Social entrepreneurs are truly changing the way things are done in the aid and development community, but they tend to be limited in their reach and impact. The interesting question this creates is how we can help these innovations grow to scale and adopt them to reach the large number of people who need them. Things the NGO and IGO community can do. A recent article from The Economist talks about the role of social innovation and scale, noting that “The problem is instead one of speed and scale. Successful innovations have spread only slowly, if at all.”

Microsoft’s new “Imagine Cup Solve This” program could be one way to make this crucial connection. Imagine Cup is a technology competition, sponsored by Microsoft, which encourages students from around the world to use technology to solve the world’s toughest problems. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to attend the Imagine Cup 2010 Worldwide Finals in Warsaw, Poland. More than 325,000 students entered in this eighth year of the competition, and more than 400 students participated in the final round of the event. These students’ ideas and passion for making a difference – and their creativity in thinking completely differently about the problems – was astounding.

Last week Microsoft created “Imagine Cup Solve This”, which gives students a library of real-world problems from which they can choose to create solutions as part of the Imagine Cup 2011 competition. The real-world problems are coming from global IGOs and NGOs including NetHope, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the United Nations Programme on Youth, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and local New York City nonprofit the Robin Hood Foundation. These groups will enlist the help of the young social entrepreneurs competing in Microsoft’s Imagine Cup to develop innovative solutions to real-world problems. Making the connection between the global development community and budding social entrepreneurs could be a key stepping stone in helping to bring innovation, at scale, to some of the world’s most pressing issues.

And these students are good. At last summer’s finals, I met Croatia’s Team ThinkGreen, who used cloud-based computing to monitor and regulate conditions in greenhouses. The goal is to give farmers needed real-time knowledge to help them increase food production. And, Team Savant from Mexico wants to fight malaria infection by using social media to grow more Artemisia annua, a plant with properties that could help combat malaria and other diseases. These examples, and there are literally hundreds more, show how young people all around the world are not only using technology to solve problems but creating entirely new ways to think about how to solve the problem. This represents a shift that is happening in so many areas.

From using mobile phones as “wallets” in Haiti to portable solar devices that can be used for cooking, heating and electricity, things are changing and changing fast.

It’s good to see that groups are beginning to see how the innovations coming from students and other social entrepreneurs can be adopted and broadened to reach and positively impact the greatest number of people. I hope Imagine Cup Solve This starts a conversation and a connection that can truly make a difference.

Chicken Feed

Posted on October 25, 2010 by 4 Comments

By Melissa Waggener Zorkin, founder and CEO

I was musing about farming over the weekend as I am in the Berkshires. And while I’m certainly not a farmer, when I was little, I did keep a garden in the backyard of beans, tomatoes and three ears of corn. So when my friend and colleague, Bishop Addei, asked me this past June to help with a new startup venture in chicken farming, he wasn’t seeking technical advice. He wanted me to review his “business plan” and provide seed (or shall I say “feed”) money to get started.

The bishop is the leader and caretaker of the Good Shepherd Orphanage outside of Accra, Ghana, and I’ve been working with him for a while now on various projects, including a school for the children. This is the first economic development project we’ve undertaken, and our plan had to get into action quickly to meet the Christmas egg sales season. I’m very enthusiastic about this project, as it is not simply a donation, it is a potential means to “bring an income to help us carry some of the burden away,” in the bishop’s words.

My first comment on the plan was why couldn’t we start with 200 chicks; why 1,000? Seems like a lot of little mouths to feed and nurture to egg-laying stage. The bishop and our chicken farmer/advisor convinced me of the viability and economics in a very entrepreneurial way, with a few handwritten charts — almost like on the back of a napkin.

I am impressed by the bishop’s innovation here. Too often we default to a narrow definition of innovation as a cool gadget or inventive new product. We need to broaden our views — innovation scales from thoughtful business plans that look at creative ways to solve problems to how companies can act responsibly as part of (not in contrast to) good business practices, in addition, of course, to the latest technology.

We now own 1,000 chicks, which are living in a proudly built and very clean coop. They are eight weeks old now, and the kids are working with the chicken farmer we hired. The kids are beside themselves with curiosity and joy. They have written me letters and sent photos — of which I have posted a sampling.

So far, so good. But let’s not count our proverbial chickens until…

Frito-Lay: Embrace the Noise and Save the Bag

Posted on October 7, 2010 by 1 Comment

Frito-Lay announced it will discontinue producing its biodegradable chip bags for all of their products except the Original Sun Chips. Why? Because consumers complain that the bags are too noisy and Frito-Lay is attributing the noisy bag to an 11 percent drop in sales.

This news has stirred a lot of conversation at Waggener Edstrom that has led to the following blog post that is a blend of our team’s thoughts and ideas around the announcement.

Overall we’ve decided it makes us sad. Not mad, sad. Frito-Lay has the right to make their own business decisions: they are a consumer products business, and they have a responsibility to look for business value in all that they do. And, we give them credit for introducing the bag in the first place, and for not abandoning it entirely. We’re optimistic that their materials gurus will investigate sustainable but less noisy bags and we’ll see them down the line.

That said, we can’t help wonder if Frito-Lay has missed an opportunity here. Rather than fall in line with “well, what can you do? Profits must rule the day” thinking (sounds a bit like economic determinism to us), what if FL redefined business value beyond “mere” profit? (We don’t have the facts here—and can’t say if the bag is causing SunChips merely to underperform or is truly a train wreck; we’re assuming the former.)

Case in point is the opportunity Frito-Lay truly has to use this dilemma to engage its customers and refresh their brand. Every marketer is impressed with the brand loyalty SunChips has among college students. They not only like the chips, but they buy Frito-Lay products BECAUSE the bags fully decompose in 14 weeks! Companies around the world would do anything to have the attention (or fly under the radar) of college students. These are the most vocal, socially networked, valued consumers on the planet – why didn’t Frito-Lay didn’t go them first?

Imagine the impact Frito-Lay could have made by “embracing the loud.” Saying you know what, maybe it isn’t the perfect solution, but it’s the best solution we have right now. They could have created a campaign about how if you want to protect the planet you have to be loud – because quite frankly we’ve been quiet for too long! They could have developed a contest for college students to develop a quieter bag. They could have even given out free (biodegradable) earplugs with each purchase. How great would it have been to see them own it and build awareness around the fact that their consumers understand that our planet is worth a few extra decibels.

The social media opportunities here are nearly endless; Frito-Lay had an opportunity to engage with their audience and actually create brand advocates. They could have developed an entire campaign around saving the bag with college campus rallies and social media fervor. It could have been a truly educational campaign around the environmental impact of consumer goods and the need for consumers to give just a little.

Currently the Facebook page “I wanted SunChips but my roommate was sleeping” has nearly 700 followers (many who joined in the past couple of days just to rant). Frito-Lay advocates are all over it– blaming the page for ruining the planet. Imagine how vocal they could have been on the other side. Some of the tamer posts include:

  • “This sucks. Because of your page, they are discontinuing the bag for all but one of the flavors”
  • “Hey, have you cry babies every herd of a RESEALABLE PLASTIC CONTAINER? Buy your chips, pour them in the container, keep them fresh longer, no annoying bag, and slap yourself for complaining about a company who is trying to better the world by going green.”

These are the voices Frito-Lay needs to be listening to, because these are the voices of change—these consumers would reward FL for their stand, and build their business—and of course, they would create disproportionate “brand halo” for Frito-Lay as a corporate brand.

Now, as consumers, we have the ability—and the responsibility—to speak with our wallets. What we have apparently “told” Frito-Lay (and their competitors) is that even if a chip tastes and costs the same, a noisy bag is too high a price to pay. The question is, did Frito-Lay give up too early, or listen carefully enough?? Instead could they have engaged more with their consumer base to buy in to the relevance of snack bags to landfills and what that means for people at an individual level? Could they have asked consumers to form coalitions to help tell this story to their peers? Yes, they could have–We argue they did not.

We hope the takeaway for consumer products companies is that they can do the right thing AND keep their brand healthy, if they are willing to invest in a strategic communications and engagement to make the change meaningful at that local, personal level. This takes more than humorously playing up your noisy bag and hoping your consumer understands why composting is a good thing.

As a global practice group we have the opportunity to work every day with clients and innovations that are changing the lives of people in the developing world. When we look at this through that lens, there is a bit of irony here. We are, trying to get about 4 billion people to change their FUNDAMENTAL lifestyle in developing countries – how they live, how they work, how they cook (wood vs. solar), how they take care of their children and one another, etc. And yet, we get annoyed by the decibel level of a bag of chips!!

Someone in Frito-Lay’s competitive sphere will stake this claim and take it forward as a platform. You’d think it would be the actual leader!!

My takeaway from the Clinton Global Initiative: so, what’s new?

Posted on October 1, 2010 by 1 Comment

I had the privilege of attending the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in person last week.  Much has been said about this meeting already.  On this blog, my colleagues Seema Bhende and Caroline Sanderson did a masterful job earlier this week analyzing the vast online conversation  that CGI was able to generate, the top Tweeter influencers, the top re-tweets (very useful if you want to learn how to extend your own influence online!), and the key conversation topics.   

Today, I want to share some personal reflections from this meeting.  I won’t focus so much on its main topics and content – a lot has been said about it already by people who are more knowledgeable than I am about clean cookstoves and financial services for the poor!  Rather, I want to focus on how, from my perspective, CGI is helping change the way in which we approach global development.  Among much doom and gloom, CGI is a wonderful example of how we can think differently, creatively, and collaboratively about ways to address some of the major issues of our time. 

How so?

Entrepreneurship, innovation – and permission to fail!  Innovate, innovate, innovate! One striking feature of the Clinton Global Initiative is its focus on innovation, entrepreneurship, and action.  This is part of a broader trend, of course, which started years ago with visionary organizations such as Ashoka, the Skoll Foundation or the Rockefeller Foundation. These organizations were among the first to call on all of us to move beyond mere giving, charity and philanthropy.  CGI is helping to breathe new air in a sector that had grown somewhat stale, old and tired over the years.  It was very inspirational to experience, first-hand, the power of innovation and entrepreneurship to address some of the world’s most pressing problems. From Jaqueline Novogratz, CEO of the Acumen Fund to Ory Okolloh, founder of Ushahidi; from Muhtar Kent, CEO of Coca Cola, to Helene Gayle, CEO of CARE USA, the call to action at CGI was clear:  try new things; take risks;  innovate;  develop new models;  and most importantly, don’t be afraid to fail!

Power to the Poor!  We are used to thinking of people living in poverty as vulnerable, disenfranchised, passive recipients of charity and assistance.  Of course, noone can deny the fact that in many cases poor people need basic assistance.  At the same time, many voices are now calling for a different approach: poor people are more than powerless, passive recipients of assistance; they can be powerful agents of change.  They understand their conditions. They know, in many cases, what the solutions are.  And if given the right tools and techniques, they have the capacity to become positive change agents.  Among the many companies and organizations present at CGI, Procter & Gamble and Tata Sons are two examples of companies that have embraced this view, and are working with poor people and marginalized communities on innovative product design and distribution. Many others – for-profits and non-profits alike — understand that there is a very different paradigm out there: poor people do, indeed, have the power to be producers of social and economic value, and we can help make this happen by creating the right conditions for them to exercise this power!

Unlikely partnerships.  Strange bedfellows.  Partnerships have clearly come of age.  The issues we need to confront, and the solutions we need, are just too big, complex and multi-faceted for any one company or organization, no matter how large, rich and influential, to tackle it alone.  It was very humbling, as well as energizing, to hear this message come from organizations as influential as WalMart, Cisco, the State Department, or the Gates Foundation, in sectors as diverse as information access, water sustainability, or girls’ education.  As a result, new cross-sector partnerships are being created that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.  Two in particular stood out for me — the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves and Partners for a New Beginning – because of their clear focus, breadth of ambition, and depth of alliances.  Beyond that though, CGI really brought home the very notion that partnerships and new business models ARE a big part of the solution, and that leading organizations, rich and small, commercial, governmental or non-profit, have now embraced partnerships as a core element of how they operate and make a difference in the world.

Scale, scale, scale.  And sustainability.  What a difference a few years make.  Up until recently, much of the talk in global development was centered around individual programs and projects.  At CGI, the focus has clearly moved beyond the impact of individual projects.  The focus is on scale. Replication. Sustainability.  From Room to Read’s 10,000 Bilingual Libraries to Habitat for Humanity’s Global Housing Microfinance Fund and SNV’s Impact Investing for Small and Medium Enterprises, among many others, the focus of most ventures featured at CGI was to find new strategies to achieve scale and sustainability – and to avoid reinventing the wheel in the process!

The power of influence.  Finally – and this is of course very dear to our heart here at Waggener Edstrom! – CGI is a further demonstration of the power of influence through smart communication and engagement. As I was witnessing the dialogue – online and offline – that CGI was generating, it became clear to me that CGI isn’t really about the individual innovations, solutions and partnerships that are featured there – although of course that’s a big part of the story.  The real impact of CGI is to act as a catalyst of conversations, on a large scale, and inspire others, in turn, to join forces and contribute. Nowhere was the power of influence more visible than in the role President Bill Clinton himself plays as CGI: he is the consummate convener, as apt as ever at using the power of media, dialogue and relationships – online and offline — to extend the reach and impact of the innovations featured at CGI.

The Clinton Global Initiative is part of a broader movement that is redefining the way we think about global development.  This goes beyond finding new solutions to address global poverty and build healthier and more sustainable communities.  It was very inspiring to see at CGI that these five elements – entrepreneurship and innovation; empowerment; partnerships; scale and influence –are a fundamental part of the solution!

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