Strategies We're Watching

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  • by Courtney PeGan Stevens

My aim is to highlight interesting, empathy-driven choices that I see brands and companies making each month. While I don’t have any insider knowledge of these strategies, I have been around the business block and seen enough to make educated guesses on how these strategies are addressing real human needs.

From short-term suit rentals to 3-D printed houses for the homeless, I am featuring uniquely empathic marketing & innovation strategies that caught my attention this month.  

The Strategy: Free 24-hour Men’s Suit Rentals for Job Seekers 

The Player: H&M (US & UK)

Why I’m Watching:   

As a volunteer for Dress for Success Cincinnati, this H&M move made big waves with me! 

H&M is now offering a free 24-hour men’s suit rental program to support those seeking employment. The empathy embedded in this strategy is the understanding that clothing is so much more than fabric to cover our body; clothing can instill confidence, communicate information about our personalities, and provide necessary access to professional environments. Being able to afford quality suits is a privilege many can’t afford; H&M just leveled the playing field in a meaningful way. I’d be willing to bet that showing up to support consumers while they are entering the job market is a great way to build loyalty for when they are ready to start buying more clothing with their hard earned paychecks!

The Strategy: Local Brewery Offers $5K Scholarship to Boost Diversity in their Industry

The Player: MadTree Brewing (Cincinnati, OH)

Why I’m Watching: 

My dad would have called this empathic strategy, “putting your money where your mouth is.” MadTree Brewing is now offering a $5,000 scholarship to Cincinnati State Technical & Community College’s Brewing Sciences program in an effort to bring more diversity to brewing. This scholarship is available to demographics underrepresented in the industry, specifically women and people of color.

“We believe change comes through representation. We started with education because we wanted to be a part of systemic change. By starting at the root of an issue – like easing the financial barrier for education – we help make it easier to join the industry. And the more we diversify the brewing industry, the better we will make it,” says Rhiannon Hoeweler, Director of Strategic Impact at MadTree Brewing. “This scholarship is one way to invest in our beliefs and spark change.”

“Investing in our beliefs” is the new “putting our money where our mouth is.” I believe that consumers want to support change-makers, especially those investing in shared values. This is a long term strategic move for MadTree that I am excited to keep tabs on.

The Strategy: Solving the Housing Crisis with 3D Printed Neighborhoods

The Player: Icon Construction & Community First! Village (Austin, TX)

Why I’m Watching:   

I am perpetually in awe of people who tackle massive, societal issues with no simple solutions, like homelessness and the affordable housing crisis. The Community First! Village in Austin, TX is a beacon of hope for anyone else who may be trying to solve the same problems. By strategically leveraging 3-D printing technology to streamline portions of the construction process, Icon Construction and Community First! have been able to provide more than just housing for the homeless; they’ve built a community. 

This is not a homeless camp -- this is a village being built to last. Icon’s proprietary 3-D printed building materials are low cost, and more resilient to natural disasters than traditional stick-built housing. The village has outdoor kitchens, a dog park, a garden, a community market, and other places for people to meet and talk. “There’s all [kinds of] activities to bring you out of the house and to interact with each other and support each other,” according to one of the residents. It’s these details that create a neighborhood, and not just a collection of houses.

I will be paying close attention to this strategy for two key reasons: First, affordable housing is in short supply and projected to worsen in the near term future; this will be a pervasive issue for many cities for many years to come. Second, creating planned communities that preserve dignity and human connection for those struggling with homelessness will better support the most vulnerable in our society. 

What do you think of these empathic strategies and how do you see them playing out?  Let’s keep the conversation going!  Follow us on LinkedIn or email me directly: