April 7, 2020

FORBES—Brand Purpose 101: Advice From The Experts

This article was originally posted on Forbes and was written by Afdhel Aziz

The topic of brand purpose has never been hotter -- and also more misunderstood. The power of purpose to energize a brand’s consumers, ignite passion in its employees and drive growth that impresses investors has never been clearer. At the same time, the road is littered with examples of brands that have attempted it and failed. I asked a selection of some of the leading agency leaders in the space a simple question: What one piece of advice would you give to clients who want to do purpose-driven brand work? Here are some of their insights and advice.

Kirsten Ludwig, President and Founder, In Good Co

Kirsten Ludwig, President and Founder, In Good CoIN GOOD CO

Kirsten Ludwig - President and Founder, In Good Co (Los Angeles)

  1. Do it authentically: “The bullsh*t meter has never been so high. We can tell the difference, we can feel it. Do it because you believe in the purpose and making the world a better place, or don't do it at all. if you are doing it for the buzz of a campaign, it will backfire. and if you know you do really have that honest, passionate reason for the work you're doing, but don't quite know how to put it into words, take a beat and spend the time to discover and clarify that, internally, before moving forward.”
  2. Aspire to inspire: “Passion and drive is contagious. inspire people to be a part of what you are creating. If you are operating from a place of genuine impassioned purpose, and people believe in it, they will be your brand advocates and share the message for you.”
  3. Focus: “Don’t try to be everything to everybody all of the time. don’t worry about pleasing everyone (you won’t, and your unique message and mission will also become diluted along the way). Focus your purpose on one message, one cause, one effort. Do that well.”
  4. Do better: “The reality is, we're hit by more messages, advertisements, and information than ever before. We are bombarded. Every space is a crowded one. Like it or not, it simply pays to play that the brand must connect, must be cool, must feel elevated. brand aesthetic, tone, and voice are important. Don’t believe otherwise.”
  5. We are all human: “Remember that those are people out there who are the ones actually making things happen. They are not statistics, consumers, or dollar signs. They are people, and if you put yourself out there from a place of authenticity, chances are there will be people out there who personally align and connect with your purpose and want to support it.”
Beto Fernandez (left) and Paco Conde (right), Cofounders, Activista

Beto Fernandez (left) and Paco Conde (right), Cofounders, ActivistaACTIVISTA

Paco Conde and Beto Fernandez - Cofounders, Activista (Los Angeles)

Gandhi said, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’ and we couldn’t find a better piece of advice for clients than the wise words of Mr. Gandhi. First, you need to visualize what’s the change you want to see in the world and be sure that change is related to your brand. There are so many clients out there trying to do purpose-driven work that has nothing to do with their brand. Once you’ve found out what’s the change you want to see in the world, act to be that change. Act more like an activist and less like a brand. Your acts will be always more powerful than your ads.

Another great piece of advice is to watch the Pepsi spot starred by Kendall Jenner and avoid to do anything they did on that spot like using a cause that has nothing to do with your brand for your own benefit.”

Philip Haid - CEO, Public Inc

Philip Haid - CEO, Public IncPUBLIC

Philip Haid - CEO, Public Inc (Toronto, Canada)

I would strongly recommend doing the hard upfront work to find the issue (not cause) that is deeply aligned with its business and brand. The reason is that if the brand is serious about being purpose-driven, it needs to find an issue where the business is in a great position to help solve a problem(s) via the range of assets it possesses  (product, marketing channels, senior leadership, supply chain, employees, brand ambassadors, etc.) while also driving positive bottom line business benefit. Issue alignment helps the brand recognize purpose as a business strategy that can help drive sales, acquire customers, attract top talent AND achieve social impact.

The selection of the issue matters because to be credible with consumers and employees they need to see and believe it makes sense for the brand to want to solve the identified problem. It's what gives a brand "license to operate" and the credibility to engage others in helping to solve the problem. When Levi's introduced waterless jeans, it made sense for the brand because of the tremendous amount of water (and cost) that goes into manufacturing jeans. Having established an issue directly related to their business, they then attacked the problem across the brand's business needs from manufacturing to marketing (to engage consumers in reducing their water usage associated with washing jeans). The results have been very positive.

The same is true of CVS Health. By becoming a purpose-driven brand "helping customers on their path to better health", they aligned the issue of health improvement with their business model leveraging the range of assets at their disposal (products, health services, marketing, employee engagement). Doing so drives health outcomes and business growth, a mutually reinforcing and sustainable value proposition.

The more integrated the issue is to the core business of the brand the greater the potential for scalability and sustainability, the holy grail of purpose-driven brands.”

Carol Cone - CEO, Carol Cone On Purpose

Carol Cone - CEO, Carol Cone On PurposeON PURPOSE

Carol Cone - CEO, Carol Cone On Purpose (New York City)

Use authenticity as a guiding principle. To be meaningful and activate its potential, purpose must evolve from the core attributes of the brand, as well as the company’s values, heritage, and overall business.”

Russ Stoddard - President, Oliver Russell (Boise, Idaho)

Integrate purpose into the core of your company so that it comes from your heart and not just your mouth. Communicate your purpose to your employees before you go to the outside world—they are your core audience and advocates. Then be sure to live it and measure it.

Russ Stoddard - President, Oliver Russell

Russ Stoddard - President, Oliver RussellOLIVER RUSSELL

The goal of a purpose-driven company is not to tell a story, but to become the story. The best way to do this is to intentionally integrate purpose into the core of your company and communicate it first to your employees—they are your core audience and advocates. Once you’ve done this, share your purpose with the outside world and watch them become the tellers of the story you’ve created.”

Max Lenderman - Founder, CEO and Chief Creative Officer, School (Boulder, Colorado)

Purpose is the new digital. It has the same amount of transformative power on brands and business as digital did only 25 years ago. Or more specifically, marketing that is led by purpose will change consumerism in equal ways as digital marketing.

Max Lenderman - Founder, CEO and Chief Creative Officer, School

Max Lenderman - Founder, CEO and Chief Creative Officer, SchoolSCHOOL

The easiest way to explain it is like this: digital marketing allowed consumers to activate their personal preferences in choosing brands; purpose-led marketing allows consumers to activate their personal values in choosing brands.

Before the advent of digital power, traditional marketing relied on perfecting and controlling a consistent message and communicating a well-crafted image. It created a brand promise (real or not) to create a transaction. Modern marketing is much different. Brands are now built as an interplay of coherent ideas rather than a singular message. Brand trust is now created through transparency – a product of t the information age that digital technology enabled – and brands are much more interested in creating community rather than just a transaction. And most importantly, brands and businesses are moving away from delivering a promise and more on adhering to a purpose. They are not answering the question of “why should anyone buy us?” but fixated on answering the question of “why should anyone care about us?”

Being purposeful answers that question for brands. And if they can’t communicate their “why” in a compelling way, they will suffer similar fates to those brands that were too late to the digital party.”

Dan Shannon - Managing Director, Purpose

Dan Shannon - Managing Director, PurposePURPOSE

Dan Shannon - Managing Director, Purpose (New York City)

General public audiences are engaged with social issues on a deeper and more regular basis, while at the same time NGOs and non-profit organizations are building higher brand recognition and favorability with these audiences. Because of this increasingly sophisticated audience base, brands need to be mindful of the fact that they will need to earn significant credibility in the eyes of these consumers if they want to be taken seriously as purpose-driven brands. A cause marketing campaign isn’t enough anymore -- brands need to lay the groundwork for their public engagement on an issue with significant internal action.

Brands can build credibility on social issues in advance of doing public communications and/or cause marketing work in one of three ways:

  • Engaging employees. Creating space and incentives for employees to take the lead on social issues helps integrate the issue into the corporate culture from the inside out, and build greater employee buy-in for future marketing and communications efforts. It can also be a great way to capture stories and content to fuel a public-facing campaign.
  • Making changes to the business model. If a brand wants to engage publicly on the issue of recycling, and it comes out that it’s still not recycling waste material in its supply chain, it’ll be hard to gain public trust on the issue. Brands should get their own house in order first by making meaningful changes -- and not just easy ones -- to the way they do business to make sure they’re living their values in advance of any public-facing efforts.
  • Partnering with established non-profits and NGOs. There are a lot of amazing organizations doing critically important work in local communities. Brands don’t need to reinvent the wheel or duplicate efforts. Find amazing local partners who are leading the way on the issue most important to the brand, reach out, and see what the brand can do to help them be even more successful. It’ll help the brand learn more about the issue, find gaps that they are uniquely well-qualified to fill, and find credible partners for future public-facing efforts.”

April 7, 2020

FORBES—How This Woman-Owned Design Firm Creates Brands That Last

This article was originally published in Forbes and written by Jane Claire Hervey

We live in a world where the way we get our news, tell stories about ourselves and communicate with each other is rapidly changing. From the latest social media platform to the newest design trend, it can be hard to keep up—let alone stand out.

So, what does it take to create a long-lasting brand for ourselves and for our businesses in 2019?

Kirsten Ludwig and Chris Danton of In Good Co., a brand consultancy based all around the country, have a few ideas. Ludwig, In Good Co's president and founder, and Danton, In Good Co's Chief of Ideas, both come from advertising backgrounds. A few years ago, they joined forces to work on projects that push culture forward. "My idealism was something I had hidden and apologized for in the past. And the idea [for In Good Co.] was just to really believe in brands and really get collaborative with clients and build a great culture. That’s what leads to the best work," Ludwig says. 

And that's what Ludwig and Danton say characterize In Good Co. today. Formed as a B-Corp, the company's team works all over the country and their clients span Capital One, Under Armor and Beats. Moreover, the firm is true to its name—ten percent of In Good Co.'s energy goes toward nonprofit, pro bono clients.

I chatted with Ludwig and Danton a few weeks ago to explore their collaborative process and the design of In Good Co.'s projects. Read on for the five things they think about when creating brands for their clients that last.

Chris Danton (left) and Kirsten Ludwig (right) of In Good Co.

Chris Danton (left) and Kirsten Ludwig (right) of In Good Co.COURTESY OF IN GOOD CO.Today In: ForbesWomen

1.) A solid brand starts with a business' values.

When we think of the word "brand," we often think of marketing tools, like Instagram, and visual, grid-like mood boards. But for Danton, the Chief of Ideas at In Good Co., a company's brand is its decision-making tool. It's the values and ethics that guide the decisions it makes, the conversations it joins and the products it introduces. "There’s a lot of tendency with start-ups to put up a website and a logo, and then they’re done. We very much believe that if you don’t start with the values of your company, it doesn’t mater what your logo is or your name is. You need to know your value and purpose. There’s so much worry when you have no money and your’e a start-up, but it’s the most valuable part of process," Danton says.

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2.) The creative process behind a company's identity and communication should reflect collaboration and communication.

A brand is essentially a company's culture, translated into a logo, website, visuals, graphics and copywriting. For that reason, Ludwig and Danton approach brand-building as a collaborative process. "We always kick every project off with a brand workshop. We have the most fun ridiculous meetings—with dancing and exercises—and it really breaks down the whole client-agency relationship. In those meetings, we establish how to have a dialogue. We’re listening to them have a conversation among themselves, too," Danton says. "Ultimately, we’re just very collaborative in nature and truly believe that when we’re collaborative, the work is going to be better and the ideas are going to better. As you go back and forth and push each other and pull each other, you’re going to get better results. We do that internally as a team and externally with our clients as well," Ludwig adds.

3.) A coherent communication strategy needs focus.

Social media has changed the way we communicate with others, and it has completely revolutionized the way companies communicate with their customers. Moreover, many companies and brands feel the pressure to join any and all online conversations with their digital communities. Danton argues that authentic brands should pick and choose the conversations they join online and off, instead. "The less tacked on that anything feels, the better. The reality of a brand is that it needs to be super focused on what your authentic purpose is. If you can’t really join that conversation, don’t," Danton says.

4.) An authentic brand starts with a company's culture—not its market identity.

Now more than ever, consumers have the ability to measure up a company's external image with its internal structure. To avoid manufacturing authenticity, Ludwig says a solid brand extends throughout a company's internal and external experience. "Internally, we have to change culture, which then externally changes the brand. The bullshit meter has never been higher. It’s all about transparency and incorporating that purpose piece of it in a really authentic way that’s right for the brand," Ludwig says.

5.) A purposeful brand is less about influence and more about meaning.

Although we live in the age of viral media, both Danton and Ludwig argue that a strong brand shouldn't exist solely to chase social media follows and likes. At the core of it, companies should expend their energy on understanding their values and translating those values into how they communicate with their customers.  "I think brands have to really engage their audiences. The rest of it just feels like image," Danton says.

April 7, 2020

FORBES—The Power Of Purpose: How Kirsten Ludwig And In Good Co Help Brands Innovate With Purpose

This article was originally posted on Forbes, written by Afdhel Aziz

Kirsten Ludwig is the president and founder of In Good Co, a Los Angeles-based creative agency working at the intersection of purpose and innovation. I caught up with her recently to find out more about the work they do, what advice she has for leaders in the purpose-driven space, and why Los Angeles has a chance to redefine the future of work.

I began by asking her about their philosophy on purpose and brands. “We make brands that lead in ways that go beyond profit, that shape culture and make a world we're all stoked to live in. Our philosophy on purpose and brands is that, first and foremost, you won't make an impact without defining what purpose means to you. Today, consumers are looking to align with brands that share their values, so it's the beginning of everything for us and where we start with every brand we work with.”


This has led to a diverse cross-section of clients for the agency. “We work with everyone from Fortune 500s to start-ups. We work across disciplines too—we've found that purpose-driven work resonates across the spectrum. In food, health and beauty, some clients include: Mars, Belcampo, Amass, Nakedpoppy, Elysia Life Care and BareSnacks. In tech: Waze, Google, Sonos, Pinterest and Booster. We also have a lot of fun in other categories, like cannabis, working with Serra, Beautygrass and 710Labs. And in retail, working with Joann's, KEDS and UnderArmour. And, of course, the work we do with non-profits, such as VoteTogether, Tas Somoza and the 3% Percent Conference to name but a few.”

Beauty Grass
Beauty Grass IN GOOD CO

I asked Ludwig what she was proudest of. “We're most proud of the fact that 90% of the brands we work with are purpose-driven. That was a lofty goal when we started out 5 years ago. Purpose was a fringe concept but it was why we started the agency so to see the cultural shift that's happening and to be a part of it what makes us excited for every Monday. For specifics, we're really proud of the work we've done recently with some amazing female-founded companies including BeautyGrassNakedPoppy and Mia Becar—all amazing, purpose-driven companies.”

Mia Becar
Mia Becar IN GOOD CO

Ludwig continued, “We're also working with this amazing east-meets-west healthcare and acupuncture brand called Elysia here in LA. The new brand is launching soon but what they are doing is truly extraordinary, especially in the world of fertility and making that a less painful process for women. We've also been consulting with some large groups like Mars, looking at how they can bring purpose to their brands—that work is very inspiring because if you can use large corporations to start making an impact it can be HUGE.”

Elysia Fertility
Elysia Fertility IN GOOD CO

I asked Ludwig what other purpose driven brands she loved and why. “Brands that we aren't working with but that really inspire us?! Wow, there are so many. We're really into what ByHumankind is doing with reducing plastic consumption. Seed is doing some wonderful things with transparency, sharing their packaging resources for example. ForDays really love how they are questioning convention and pushing for a better product experience and being environmentally conscious. Those are just the first two that come to mind but the list is endless, there's so much good happening right now (despite how the current climate of the world might feel)!”

Ludwig also has some explicit advice to CMO’s in this new age of purpose. “Purpose isn't a marketing tactic. People will read through that fast, the bullsh*t radar is higher than ever. That's how gaffes are made. Also, don't try to jump into a purpose conversation that isn't authentic to you just because it's trending—that's a sure fire way to have no one believe in you. Do the work to find your purpose and then find and support the conversations where your purpose is made to thrive—even if they are small and niche, because in the blink of an eye they won't be.”

The Vote Together campaign
The Vote Together campaign IN GOOD CO

Finally, I asked her why she thought Los Angeles was so interesting right now as a City of Ideas? “The surge of creatives coming to LA has been happening for a while and now brands and businesses are flocking to mingle with them. What's interesting is that all these people are coming to escape one thing: burnout. LA has a unique opportunity to really define the future of work and what that means. But, it needs to do it fast before it falls pray to bad Silicon Valley or New York habits. We need to put our flag in the sand and say 'we do things differently here' and show the world that doing things with employees (a.k.a humans) in mind is the way to win.”