Puzzle – seeing the bigger picture

Best of Brand Marketing Distilled – 11/04/2011 – Occupy Wall Street

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Best of Brand Marketing Distilled is our weekly distillation of the best of brand marketing and business intelligence. This week’s edition features the Occupy Wall Street movement.

As set out in the articles distilled below, the Occupy movement has no one core message but is comprised of a large number of voices expressing their discontent with (i) the growing economic disparity in America and (ii) the disproportionate influence and power of the financial and corporate power elites.  While the Occupy movement itself dates back only as far as July, 2011 Adbuster movement naming or its first protests in September, 2011, it has become an instant force and it is poised to have a big impact on political discourse, businesses and brands.  We hope that it continues to shine a light on the need to redress growing economic disparity.  We also hope that the movement fosters and builds political engagement and discourse on the wide number of issues raised by protesters.

The following 4 articles  distilled below consider Occupy Wall Street as a broad movement, as a brand, as a force to propel start-ups innovating in the financial sector, and for its potential to cause massive shifts in banking and business.

1. Occupy Wall Street as a movement deserving attention

HBR Blog:  Occupy Wall Street: What Businesses Need to Know, Hari Bapuji + Suhaib Riaz

Two illuminating quotes from this article:

  • “So if Occupy Wall Street is leaderless and unfocused, why isn’t it going away? The persistence of the “occupations” is a signal that there is authentic, deep-seated unhappiness with the failings of the U.S. economic system. It’s an indicator that economic inequality is perceived as an important issue — one requiring business’s immediate attention.”
  • “The demonstrators are asserting that they are stakeholders in American business, and they’re correct — they are stakeholders, as consumers, as employees, and as citizens affected by the financial system in general. Businesses would do well to accept that fact and engage with the protesters, rather than trying to demonize or dismiss them.”

2. Occupy Wall Street as a Brand

Globe and Mail: Occupy Wall Street, the brand, Simon Houpt

Interesting piece considering how Occupy Wall Street is astonishingly successful in terms of brand awareness. Describing this success in terms of conventional marketing wisdom may seem wrong since the movement stands against traditional corporate power and controlled messaging.  However, it is clear that Occupy Wall Street has quickly become a highly recognizable “brand name”.  Simon Houpt notes that key aspects of the Occupy brand success go against traditional branding wisdom in that the Occupy movement is:

  • “speaking with a panoply of voices”,
  • resisting creating and controlling a narrow core message, and
  • avoiding using the traditional language of corporate and political messaging.

3. Innovating in Financial Sector

The Washington Post: The Real Wall Street Occupation is Online, Dominic Basulto

  • The old guard of financial institutions and payment intermediaries may find themselves ousted by start-ups who innovate to greater simplicity and less Byzantine systems.  An example is the start-up WePay being used to send money to the Occupy protesters instead of PayPal.

4. Big Banks vs. Credit Unions

Rolling Stone: People are Ditching Their Banks and Shredding Their Cards, Julian Brookes

  • The anti-big bank movement in the U.S. seems to be gaining steam.  There are a number of campaigns (which seem to be the ideological offspring of the Occupy movement), for consumers to vote with their money and move their bank deposits from big banks to smaller credit unions.  Rolling Stone reports that credit unions have ad campaigns are advocating customers to “ditch their banks” and “shred their cards”.
  • Business and brands need to be cognizant of the consumer power that such campaigns represent.   Connected consumers acting in a unified manner can exert big influence on businesses.  There will be opportunities for innovative businesses who offer a legitimate and authentic alternative to out of favour business practices.