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An Eye on the Future

Topic: Sustainable investments

Kevin Clark: The closer the category itself, where green is relevant, such as a Prius car or marketing solar technology for people to use in their home where it might supply electricity or heated water, there you can make a very direct connection between the category and the purchase and how the company is behaving and its characteristics in driving a green movement.

Now a little bit further afield, we see that companies that are doing a good job of managing resources and talking about it -- General Electric, for instance, with their EcoMagination campaign was one of the first to talk about this across their portfolio of offerings. It's a little bit more difficult to make the direct connection to what I bought in green, but I would point out to the work that's been done in cradle-to-cradle. Not cradle-to-grave, but the notion that I can design something that at end of life can actually be reused, the components, is now driving awareness to a new level of not just sustainability but thrive-ability. Something that is more important than simply getting by but cradle-to-cradle is about being able to do something that is positive, that has momentum in the future. So when I think about green, I think about green in terms of being thriveable.

Question: Do all brands peak?

Kevin Clark: No, I don't think so. If you look broadly at what is a brand, one of the first organizations that had a structure that we might consider similar to a contemporary company -- is the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has been around for a long time. You can talk about what kind of a brand is that, but it's a fairly salient persistent organization. In terms of commercial activity, there are department stores such as a Daimaru in Japan that are almost a thousand years old. We wouldn't think of them in contemporary terms as brands that change.

The oldest brand probably in your kitchen is Kikkoman Soy Sauce, the symbol of the turtle that's highly stylized goes back to the Kikkoman family making soy sauce all the way back into the 1200s. So that's a very old brand. It's been very pervasive and persistent in delivering quality that was appropriate in Japan and is still appropriate in your kitchen today.

Topic: Social networking

Kevin Clark: I think it's extremely important for companies to engage, but I want to remind people that online is not the only way to do it. If you have known someone personally, in person, I think the quality of online engagement is so much stronger when I've had a face-to-face meeting or I've known you for awhile. The pure online world is relatively flat without the personal engagement and face-to-face relationships. So what I want to remind companies is that as you make these investments, online is -- it's a miracle what we can do today in terms of connecting with others, but it's just that much stronger and the emotional ties really come from the face-to-face personal engagement that we have with others. So we need to blend both the physical world and the virtual world together to have the most powerful impact.

Recorded on: August 25, 2009

From sustainable investments to social networking, we ask former IBM marketing executive Kevin Clark if companies should engage.

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Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
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