Communications in a New Cuba: Rum, Cigars and Corporate Responsibility

150720_cuba_us_embassy_lgYou probably know that U.S. relations with Cuba are on better terms than they have been in decades. In fact, today marks the official opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Havana.

This is important for many reasons: Cubans are closer to reconnecting with the wider world, and the world is closer to tapping in to 11 million people ready to buy stuff that they never could before. This is not to say that Cubans don’t know what a Big Mac* is, but in the near future, they may be granted access to spend their hard-earned pesos on the American classic. The opportunities for growth are immense to say the least, but how do the world’s largest mega corporations, like a McDonald’s, or even a smaller business come to plant their American flags in Cuba’s white sand beaches? Corporate responsibility… In order for these businesses to really make a case for their Cuban operations (facilities and a native workforce, they’re going to have to earn it.

In order for these businesses to really make a case for their Cuban operations (facilities and a native workforce), they’re going to have to earn…

Corporate Responsibility

Sugar, Dopamine, and Infographics: The Importance of Responsible Content

Did you see it? Last week, an infographic claiming to show what happens to your body within the first hour of drinking Coca-Cola tore across the internet like wildfire. Created by blogger The Renegade Pharmacist including statistics from this BlissTree article, it featured claims such as: at “45 minutes: Your body ups your dopamine production, stimulating the pleasure centers of your brain. This is physically the same way heroin works, by the way.”TheRenegadePharmacist

Well, if the earlier mention of “10 teaspoons of sugar” hadn’t caught your attention, the heroin reference sure did.

Clearly, this infographic isn’t exactly an ad for a refreshing can of Coke. And the accuracy of the content has been criticized more than a few times (see here and here), but that’s not what I want to talk about.

There’s a ton of science about why infographics and visuals are such effective ways to convey information. According to the SAGE Handbook of Political Communication, it only takes one tenth of a second to process visual information—that’s 60,000 times faster than it takes for the brain to decode text. We know…


From Your Cup to the Global Stage: 5 Reasons Why Coffee’s Future is Brighter than Ever

This month, I attended the most buzz-worthy conference of the year. No, it wasn’t SXSW (although the crowd in attendance was probably equally stimulated) – it was the National Coffee Association’s Annual Convention. And, yes, it was just as delicious as it sounds.

Between sipping samples from vendors around the globe, I absorbed a lot about coffee’s past, present and future. My lessons began with the legend of Kaldi the goat herder, who first discovered Coffea Arabica when his flock became unusually frisky after ingesting some bright red berries while grazing in the Ethiopian hills, and progressed to philosophical discussions on the increasingly dynamic, venture capital-backed Third Wave movement.

While coffee’s trajectory thus far is a fascinating one, the key insight I left with is that the industry’s future is exceptionally bright.

Here’s why:

1-      Health Halo in the Making. Coffee has a myriad of health benefits that are backed by sound science, but are not yet widely acknowledged by consumers. Dr. Alan Leviton, of Harvard University Medical School, shared data showing that regular coffee consumption (3-5 cups/day) is associated with decreased risk of Type 2  Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and cancer or malignancies. Basically, the more coffee people drink…

Corporate Responsibility

Starbucks’ #RaceTogether Campaign and the Shift toward Pro-Social Brands


Photo credit:

If you’ve been to a Starbucks in the past week, you may have seen something other than your name written on the side of your coffee. The company recently launched a new campaign encouraging baristas to write “#RaceTogether” on coffee cups in order to engage customers in discussions about race relations.

While the sentiment behind this initiative may be good, the public response was not. As it turns out, standing at the register with a line of caffeine-deprived customers waiting behind you, anxious to get their coffee and be on their way, may not be the best time or place to start a conversation about such an important issue. And that’s putting aside the question of whether all Starbucks’ employees were given the appropriate training to initiate these conversations.

Not surprisingly, earlier this week, Starbucks announced in a memo to employees that it would be dropping this aspect of the campaign.

And yet, with all the attention focused on the above issue, most aren’t aware that this was just one element of Starbucks’ overall Race Together initiative, which stemmed from a company forum…


Chocolate Cupcakes and Corporate Identity

Last week, Fox News published the Hungry Girl’s guide to outsmarting Valentine’s Day overeating. It’s dedicated to recipes options that won’t “ruin your budget, waistline, or the mood”.

Valentine’s Day aside, the majority of religious and civic holidays have become synonymous with overeating. The national Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders even describes over-eating around the holidays and on special occasions as a “normalized” part of American behavior.

All you have to do is google “holiday overeating” and you’ll find hundreds of articles describing tips to avoiding binge eating and over indulgence – as well as one that includes five ways to avoid a post-holiday heart attack. But this got me thinking – are the holidays the issue? Or, are we causing the problem?

Let’s talk about food-specific holidays. According to The Nibble, a magazine dedicated to specialty foods, there is a food dedicated to just about every day of the year.


Photo Credit: Flickr – Farrukh

Here’s a taste of your food holiday options:

Corporate Responsibility

Promoting Healthy Habits in the Workplace

Yesterday, the New York Times Well blog ran a story about the effects of exercise on the human brain. For a while now, people have believed that regular exercise improves cognitive function, but a recent study examined just how real those benefits are. Not surprisingly, the results suggested that not only does exercise change the [...]

Corporate Responsibility

Are Retail Clinics Just What the Doctor Ordered?


Last week, CVS Caremark announced that it was pulling cigarettes and other tobacco products from its stores because it wanted to focus on becoming more of a health care provider, with CEO Larry J. Merlo stating, “We came to the decision that cigarettes and providing health care just don’t go together in the same setting.”  And, while the retailer will lose about $2 billion per year as a result of the move, it stands to gain much more.  Merlo said the decision to stop selling tobacco products “was really more of a discussion about how to position the company for future growth.”

CVS has the largest chain of pharmacy-based health clinics in the United States, offering care for common illnesses, like strep throat and pink eye (Bob Costas could benefit from a visit).  By 2017, it anticipates growing clinic locations to 1,500.  Retail health care is becoming big business with approximately 20 million patient visits to date and Accenture indicates that the industry could see 25% to 30% growth in the next few years. What about CVS’ move positions the retailer to take advantage of the opportunity?

  • A perfect storm – there is a shortage of primary care doctors…

Conducting a Successful Product Recall in a Social World


It’s a company’s biggest nightmare.  A product recall.  What’s worse?  When it’s a children’s product, since emotions run especially high when the wellbeing of little ones is at risk.

Last Friday, baby food and toddler snack brand Plum Organics issued a voluntary recall of a range of their products.  I found out about it on Monday night, while browsing my Facebook news feed.  Comparatively, the well-known Tylenol recall in 1982 was initially communicated with Chicago police driving through the city announcing the warning over loudspeakers.  Indeed, the communication of product recalls has changed since the advent of social media.

In today’s social world, a product recall can present great risk to brands if done incorrectly.  However, as demonstrated by historical best practices from brands such as Tylenol and Lexus, a product recall can provide an excellent opportunity to connect with consumers in a meaningful way.  UK-based Eclipse Marketing found that almost three quarters of consumers will consider a repeat purchase following a recall if they had a good brand experience.  On the flipside, if a recall is badly executed and poorly communicated, 70% of customers would actively criticize a brand online and through word-of-mouth.

While Plum Organics…

Corporate Responsibility

Movember Proves Cause Marketing Isn’t Just For Women

Is it just me, or have most of us been treating cause marketing as if it’s synonymous with women? If men are being ignored, it would seem to be for a reason. Let’s consider.

Studies actually show that women are generally more attuned to cause marketing than men are. The Dynamics of Cause Engagement study released by Ogilvy and Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication (CSIC) show that women believe supporting a cause creates a greater sense of personal purpose. This may result from a physiological difference, but years of breast cancer and children’s health awareness programs have likely played a role in embedding a deeper connection to cause marketing. This inevitably increases the probability of achieved awareness, behavioral change and a program’s overall success.

Men’s interaction with causes poses a marketing challenge. In part, achieving awareness means using different tactics and messaging, but their tendency to be moved by a message or issue is typically contingent on external or social factors, like talking and connecting with peers, rather than women’s tendencies to be internally driven by feelings.

As a leading example, this week marks…

Corporate Responsibility

Voting with Your Dollars: 3 Strategies for Getting Millennials to Buy Into ObamaCare


When Barack Obama was elected President in 2008 (and re-elected in 2012), it was largely because of the efforts of Millennials, the generation of people who are approximately 18-34 years old.  The impact of youth on these elections is well-known, but did you know that the President needs Millennials just as much now to ensure the success of his healthcare reform initiative?  This time, he’s asking that Millennials vote with their DOLLARS instead of casting an election ballot.

The Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as “ObamaCare,” expands access to healthcare to all people through a variety of initiatives.  One of them is to offer more affordable and accessible health insurance through online exchanges, which officially opened for business on October 1, 2013.  As an incentive to participate, ObamaCare has established a “shared responsibility requirement” (aka a $95+ fine that will increase to $695+ in 2016) for anyone who does not obtain some form of health insurance.  Now, here’s where the more than 19 million uninsured Millennials come in.  According to, “Insuring young, healthy people helps balance out the risk of covering older, sicker adults.  But if America’s 20- and 30-somethings don’t sign up,…