Current gig Director of Brand Citizenship, 72andSunny
Previous gig CEO, Surfrider Foundation
You joined 72andSunny from the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation. What big idea did you bring with you?
At Surfrider, we had one idea and that was coastal environmentalism. One of the fastest-growing opportunities to scale ideas is through corporate partnerships, and specifically, those connected to brands.
You oversee the agency's brand-citizenship initiative. Tell us about it.
It shows brands that doing good can be good for business; it's how they build deeper relationships and turn customers into advocates. The Tillamook Co-op, which gives consumers more control over the dairy products they consume, also supports the real-food movement through microloans in partnership with Kiva Zip [which makes interest-free loans to small-business owners].
How were you involved in the recent Tillamook campaign?
Tillamook deserves huge credit for being part of the real-food movement for the past century. The brand-citizenship piece is to say if we stand for real food, then let's stand for real food with as kind of a warm embrace as possible. We partnered with Kiva Zip. You can vote to support a real-food project, and your vote is the equivalent of a $5 loan at Kiva Zip that Tillamook makes on your behalf. People are stoked about it.
Why now for such a program?
What we've seen in the past five years were some early, small brands being launched around the idea of brand citizenship—Warby Parker and Toms come to mind. You can almost think of that as the startup of brand-citizenship brands. 72, being an early adopter of concepts, was also early on that. What we are doing now is leaning even more heavily into that idea.
Why is that consumer connection so important?
The short version is millennials stand for more, want more and want to purchase brands that have meaning. It's really not just millennials. It's all of us that have access to all the same toolsets. Within five years, 80 percent of all adults on the planet will have a smartphone. We have access to information that's transparent. We can find out what companies are doing. We can be vocal about that. We can share our views. So bad practices will be punished and great practices will be celebrated. In this case celebration mean purchases.
What don't marketers understand about consumers, specifically millennials?
One of the most interesting elements I see with millennials is their willingness to support new brands and brands that are evolving quickly. Jessica Alba was here last week and had a lot of one-liners that summarized this question. One was that new moms read labels. If you read labels and you're looking at Method soap versus a [top 10] soap company and you are reading something positive on one, whether it's a new or established company you're drawn to what the label stands for, what the brand stands for.
What do you hope to accomplish with the initiative?
I hope to have brands that are already operating at scale using their influence to further enrich their customers' lives. Some of our brands are already doing that brilliantly. The opportunity is really to not just support great ideas, but to also have your consumers understand what you're doing. I think that every brand can get better at connecting their messages and what they stand for [with consumers].