What We’re Reading – January 2022


What We’re Reading is a monthly roundup of current news, commentary, challenges and trends that impact our industry as well as those of our clients. From another Peloton crisis to ExxonMobil’s climate strategy to engaging with others more intentionally, here’s a look at the news that stood out to our team in January.


What is ExxonMobil’s new climate strategy worth? – The Economist

“ExxonMobil’s recent ambition to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 comes at a time when the oil industry faces stakeholder pressure to act more aggressively on climate change. The article notes “it has been quite fashionable of late for big energy firms to claim that they will achieve net zero emissions by some distant date. Not all of them lay out specific plans for how they will actually do this.” The Exxon move, which was deemed a “comprehensive approach” by the oil giant outlines new operational emissions and investment targets for hydrogen and biofuels. However, critics accuse Exxon of avoiding commitments to offset fossil fuel emissions — which accounts for most of the company’s profits. For a company that has historically brushed off the notion of climate change, the verdict is out on whether these commitments will hold up over the long term, but it’s a good start.” – Gene White

How The North Face is moving to compete with Patagonia – Shawn Baldwin, CNBC

“While not the focus of this piece, I thought this captured the unique moment in time well that many brands are facing, and the different ways in which brands are looking to communicate and engage with their consumers – through influencers, collaborations, expressions of their values and environmental/societal commitments. The pandemic has given many brands the opportunity to reset their focus and it is imperative that they clearly articulate how and where they are addressing those changing consumer preferences. As Steve Rendle, CEO of VF Corporation, says ‘consumers are looking to connect with brands that speak to those particular trends.’” – Andrew Moyer

Climate Change Branding Can Lift Recruitment and Retention – David Beck, SHRM

“I enjoyed this article not only because of the great insights it provides on job seekers’ desire to work for companies that are environmentally responsible, but also because the example company they point to as a leader in sustainability happens to be from my hometown (shoutout to Toledo, Oh!). There is no one-size-fits-all approach to overcoming the recruitment and retention challenges companies of all sizes are currently facing. It’s an obstacle that companies need to evaluate from multiple angles – one of which being what they’re doing to improve the planet and how they are communicating about it.” – Paige Borgman


Employers should remain cautious on reopening plans, says UChicago doc – Katherine Davis, Crain’s Chicago Business

“As the return-to-office debate among employers continues to rage on, one thing remains true: communicating with employees about COVID continues to be a balancing act. This remains a hot topic, and while ‘official’ positions may vary, a few keys to lowering the temperature of this conversation includes employers prioritizing open, and transparent communications, leading with empathy focused on the health and safety of all employees, and finding ways to engage with employees directly.” – Brendan Griffith

The Key to Good Offsites at a Time When Everything Feels Off – S. Mitra Kalita, TIME Magazine 

“How do we gather with purpose and meaning in the midst of so much uncertainty? This TIME Magazine piece dives into key tips for how we may still gather together with success, pulling insights from think tanks and the 2018 “The Art of Gathering,” by Priya Parker, which I also read this month. According to Parker, it has become even more important to focus on meaning, bonding and connectivity. While digital may be our default for everything – from client calls, team huddles, brainstorms, happy hours and more – how do we take greater care and consideration for engaging our meeting attendees from the moment the invite is shared to the time when we say goodbye? This article and Parker’s book both shares great tips to achieve this, and I’m looking forward to implementing them in my work and personal life in 2022.” – Fran Fyten


CDC Director Aims to Improve Covid-19 Messaging, Data Collection – Sarah Toy, The Wall Street Journal

“Sadly, there are few things these days most Americans can agree on, but one of them is that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has been less-than-effective with its messaging about the pandemic. Given that, and the life-or-death implications it has, it was good to see they are beginning to publicly acknowledge and address the issue. Communicating effectively with the media, especially in a tense or high-stakes situation, is something very few people naturally do well. Add in uncertain or complex scientific information and the margin for error shrinks dramatically. While some might scoff or characterize as “spin” this article’s revelation that CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky is “being coached by a media consultant,” my thought is: I hope that consultant is good at their job and that Dr. Walensky takes their advice and counsel very much to heart.” – Nick Kalm


Instagram Creators Can Charge for Subscriptions Under New Test Service – Meghan Bobrowsky, The Wall Street Journal 

“This week, Instagram announced that it will be testing out paid subscriptions with content creators. For a monthly fee, users will have access to subscriber-only content from the creators they follow. Not only does this new feature drive traffic to Instagram, but it also provides influencers/creators with a more predictable income. This launch provides yet another option for brands to partner with creators for their digital marketing campaigns in order to reach their target audiences.”– Haley Hartmann

Looking ahead: 9 trends that will steer marketing in 2022 – Peter Adams, Chris Kelly and Natalie Koltun, Marketing Dive

“2022 is shaping up to be another year of evolving trends. The consumer appetite for short-form content continues to grow at a rapid pace. Because of this, marketers who used to focus their attention on Facebook are beginning to shift their attention to social media platforms TikTok and Instagram Reels. Brands that want to stay relevant will soon need to adopt one of these platforms into their strategy, or they risk being left behind.”

Ryan Reynolds taunts Disney with ‘Winnie-the-Screwed’ ad as copyright battles heat up – Jeff Beer, Fast Company

“The Ryan Reynolds-fronted ads for Mint Mobile have become a masterclass in how to troll without being mean. The latest Mint ad shows how Reynolds and his companies continue to embrace creativity in their external communications and advertising by leveraging news/pop-culture to stay relevant. The work from Reynolds/Mint is proof that being disruptive can pay off when coupled with communications that convey an appropriate tone and lots of fun energy. ” – RJ Bruce


Peloton faces challenges before it can recover from their latest crisis – Edward Segal, Forbes

“To avert potential bankruptcy and weather this crisis, Peloton should consider a product rebrand to show innovation with their star instructors—incorporate more interactive and customizable elements to each specific user vs. just one product for all, and find ways to have smart partnerships with national gym chains that could incorporate their products on-premises. Peloton’s leaders, beginning with CEO John Foley, should be more present answering this crisis, explaining the vision forward, and being transparent about the difficulties the company is facing. Instead, Foley is posting tone deaf tweets ignoring the crisis.” – Michael Grimm

Peloton Pauses Production on Bikes & Treadmills – Anne D’Innocenzio, AP News 

“Peloton was a popular option for in-home fitness at the start of the pandemic; individuals and families in quarantine were desperate to preserve their daily fitness routine at home. Following a string of highly publicized incidents, shares have now plummeted resulting in Peloton pumping the brakes on production of their popular stationary bikes and treadmills. Peloton has an uphill battle ahead to address lingering consumer safety concerns, while also attracting new customers, retaining their existing business and finding investors. What once was considered a unicorn of the home fitness world, Peloton may now be forced into survival mode to save their business.” – Alex Engel

Adele postpones Vegas show in tearful post, saying half of her team is out with COVID – Jonathan Franklin, NPR

“With COVID continuously taking everyone by surprise, it’s understandable that nothing these days can be set in stone as we never know what is right around the corner. Unfortunately, Adele was forced to postpone her Vegas residency merely 24 hours before the start of the first show. Some fans gave her support after she released a video on her Instagram explaining the situation, where others were deeply upset by the lack of advance notice. Although there are probably many ways a situation like this could be handled, it’s tremendously hard to anticipate how COVID will continue to affect events and our everyday lives in the future. It will be interesting to see how Adele and her team handle this crisis moving forward.” – Stephanie Carlson