World Economic Forum: Employee / Consumer Engagement Focus Area: Expert Query Survey

I have been asked to be a Discussion Leader at the World Economic Forum on the topic of ‘Employee and Consumer Engagement’. Session attendees are expected to include the CEOs of firms including Timberland, Best Buy, Archer Daniels Midland, FEMSA, General Mills, Henkel, and Monsanto.

As part of the preparation, the Discussion Leaders were asked to submit their thoughts on key areas. In the spirit of openness, fitting the goals of the WEF, I thought it might be interesting for those who are not CEO’s of giant corporations to see what my thoughts are. Or maybe not… only you can tell!

Employee / Consumer Engagement Focus Area: Expert Query Survey

1. What are the key forces among consumers, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers and other stakeholders that are shaping the sustainability landscape in this focus area?

  • Role of new Internet tools & uses – collaboration, social networks, cameras everywhere, free bandwidth, near free mobile bandwidth
  • New social phenomena – crowdsourcing, flash mobs, at global scale
  • Shifting demographics – boomer generation retires as richest retired generation, impact of Gen-X and Gen-Y with different life views, such as the Gen-Y desire for authenticity and trusted brands (to help them through Attention Deficit Disorder – ADD – myriad of choices)

2. Where do you see the key opportunities to improve sustainability along this part of the value chain?

  • Potential for transparency at scale
  • Leverage consumer passion
  • Leverage the long tail of consumer needs / production

3. What are some of the challenges and obstacles to improve sustainability along this part of the value chain, in particular in regards to the opportunities identified above?

  • Notion of control – what can be controlled? What should be controlled?
  • How will mainstream, large enterprise CPG / retailers handle the ultimate in user-generated content – products, retail channels

“Imagine two 12-year olds…

1. In Berlin, a heart surgeon’s son is a Lego wizzkid, he and his father build models, upload them to Lego Factory, and sell them on the Lego Factory store. They have used a ‘consultant’ on craigslist who helped optimize the model and the cost. The son uses an internet challenge site to design a box, which is uploaded to the Lego site. Lego give the son a cut of sales – which he boosts with an internet web site and eBay store. After 12 months, using viral marketing, his products are a hit, and he is earning half as much as his father.

2. In England, a 12-year old loves drawing and playing on his WII. His uncle offers him a deal – if you design a WII add-on, he will fund $10K to take it to market. The child draws his design, and a contractor, uncovered on, turns the drawing into a CAD file. The CAD file is used with an outsourced 3-D modelling company, who use a stereolithography machine to turn the CAD file into physical mock-ups – in three different countries. The contractor also makes a 3-D visualization model. The models are used to support virtual focus groups, involving 1,000 target customers, selected using the Orchid psychographic tool, collecting input and ideas using Idea Central. The successful design is uploaded to a Chinese trading site, where manufacturers bid to produce the product. A contractor is used to design the package. An internet site is set up to sell the product, and a viral marketing campaign using Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube kick-start online sales. The 12-year old is glad his uncle had a budget of $10,000 – he has saved $4,000 form this money, and the revenue from sales will more than put him (and his brothers and sisters) through college.

  • How can mainstream retailers / CPG respond to joined-up thinking in the general public about sustainability in the value chain, prompted by viral initiatives like

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