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Brian Hickling

2020 saw drastic cultural shifts that included health concerns, working from home, massive unemployment, economic hardship, the emergence of social movements such as the Black Lives Matter, and increased environmental concern. While 2020 was a time of disruption and turmoil, many brands stepped up and responded to the call, leaning into social impact branding!

As a way to reflect on the last year, we thought we would highlight seventeen social impact brands that admire and that have stood up this year and lived their purpose.

Consumers are now more than ever paying attention to how brands operate on key issues…


Understanding consumer activism in the New Economy and its impact on brands.

Consumer activism, also known as “Consuming With A Conscience”, is on the rise and an integral aspect of the New Economy. Consumers’ wants and needs for social impact will have to be factored into brand planning and embedded into a company’s DNA.

Social Impact brand attributes be a defining factor in determining the brand winners and losers in the post-pandemic marketplace. The brand landscape has changed. Here’s what brands need to consider.

The people are in control of your brand.

If you are a Chief Marketing Officer or a CEO, the first thing you need to understand is that your stakeholders are in control of your destiny. The…


Meet Generation Everyone.

We are now entering the New Economy and the emergence of Gen-E (Generation Everyone). Armed with money and values they intend to change things. Gen-E is everyone: Boomers, Millennials and all the other Gen’s, bound together by a unifying experience of a pandemic, economic disruption, the acceleration of online commerce and communications, working from home, and political upheaval. Gen-E, is a cross-generational, digital-first, market psychographic galvanized by the transformative impact of COVID-19, and they are an emerging critical segment of customers business leaders and marketers need to pay attention to and line up with.

In my time spent in advertising…


A few years ago I co-founded a small social impact organization called The Give Agency.

The Give Agency was a five-day strategic hackathon for Not-For-Profits built on a simple idea — that a gathering of smart-talented people, who took a day off from their normal work, could provide big impact by helping a Not-For-Profit solve one of it’s most pressing challenges.


Photo courtesy of Nina Strehl — Unsplash

Move over Digital Transformation, there is a new transformation in town. Social Impact Transformation.

The mass global mindset shift event now underway.

I heard a funny statement on one of my favourite podcasts today - “2020 feels like it's been seven years long already.” So true. This year has certainly been a year of disruptions. The drastic changes and disruptions in our lives due to COVID-19 has put many things into focus for me, and for a lot of people.

Health insecurity, the environment, social injustice, political trust erosion and economic hardships for so many, people are recalibrating what is most important to them. …


Now Brand Managers can join a movement too!

The Social Impact Branding movement is underway and it represents the single biggest new marketing tool since TV and Facebook. Brands should want to leverage their power for no other reason than brand growth potential, Full Stop! But many brands are stuck in the old ways.

Brands have always looked for ways to connect with their audiences and stakeholders, and ways to differentiate themselves from the competition. They have traditionally looked to ad agencies to do this for them. Ad agencies are great at coming up with clever stories and use expensive media to promote and help to differentiate their…


Does your brand have an OVS or Operating Values System?

Most of us understand that our computers have a foundational operating system or OS. It’s the interface between a computer user and computer hardware.

Your computer’s OS is vital software that performs all the basic tasks like file management, memory management, process management, handling input and output, and controlling peripheral devices such as disk drives and printers. Without it, your computer would be a large paperweight.

Like computers, companies and their brands also need an OS. Often a company’s OS is expressed as their production process or internal work methods…


The word “Brand” has become so over-used in sales and marketing that it has nearly lost its meaning.

Webster is running the spectrum when it comes to describing the term “brand.” From the mark burned in wood to the attestation of the manufacturer or of quality or of possession, to the mark on the offenders, to the class of products known by name, to the characteristic of something, to the tool used on the cattle ranches.

Catalyst 17’s brand definition is: a brand is the sum total of all human experience with your business and its products. It encompasses the…


Just as explorers depend on the North Star when there are no other landmarks in sight, An unfaltering spot on the horizon. The same relationship exists between your employees and your company. They are now separated, only connected by pixels and sound waves. Do they have a clear North Star? An unfaltering spot on the horizon? Or do they feel lost?

The “unconnected” connected employee.

While many of your employees have made the pivot to online, and have adapted to new ways of working collaboratively using new technologies and platforms (some have even grown to appreciate and favour working from home lifestyle) don’t be…


It’s a trend that has been growing over the past decade. People are increasingly looking for brands to do more than just make products that they can buy and throw away.

“We have a lot of consumers who want to know what a brand stands for,” says “They want to know what they stand for.”
— Karen Finerman, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

And the fact that the environmental and social issues are becoming more important to consumers has brands scrambling to do more to make their products more sustainable.

For example, Levi Strauss &…

Brian Hickling

I believe in the power of creativity to change the world.

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