Guest Blogger: Amanda Brinkman’s career started at top ad agencies Fallon, Cohn & Wolfe London and McCann with campaigns for over a dozen brands such as Virgin Mobile, Reebok, NYSE, Colgate-Palmolive, H&R Block and her favorite client of all time - BMW on breakthrough work like the BMW Films. She then carved out a niche as an “intrapreneur,” cultivating creativity from the inside out at General Mills, Allianz and UnitedHealth Group. Amanda also serves on the boards of the Children’s Cancer Research Fund, Make-A-Wish, the Children's Theatre Company, the Ordway, the Women's Business Development Center Chicago and the Association of National Advertisers. She’s a trusted media source and a sought-after speaker, sharing her belief that all brands can “Do Well By Doing Good,” when they go beyond brand purpose and take meaningful brand action.
Amanda Brinkman is a revolutionary brand marketer, passionate speaker and the creator, producer and co-host of the acclaimed “Small Business Revolution – Main Street” series on Hulu and SmallBusinessRevolution.org. We were lucky enough to have her as a keynote speaker at this year's Ecomm Forum (read the takeaways here!). Following up from her presentation, we asked her more about her "Do Well by Doing Good" philosophy and how it relates to ecommerce. Below are her thoughts, insights, and actionable next steps.
You have a unique philosophy about how brands can make a difference while making money. Can you explain?
I believe all brands can “Do Well By Doing Good.” It begins with determining your brand purpose – what is authentic to your mission, and what the world would be missing if your brand didn’t exist. But you then need to take a meaningful brand action, based on that brand purpose. And it must be something that makes a meaningful and lasting impact on your customers’ lives. This isn’t philanthropy (although philanthropy is great too). This is tying your business results to an impact in the world and on your customers. At Deluxe, we created the Small Business Revolution to shine a light on small businesses – and we took true action, giving a $500,000 revitalization to one small town and its small businesses every year, as part of our Small Business Revolution – Main Street program.
Where does "why" (or company purpose) fall in relation to everything you do? What ways does your team use this to inspire others?
The why is critical. The why defines us. It’s what informs the brand purpose, which in turn informs the brand action that your company takes. And more than that, it’s why our team loves coming to work. It’s what makes people feel fulfilled. And when we travel to towns across the country, it’s amazing how small businesses “pay it forward.” When you take action based on your brand purpose, the ripple effect is incredible.
What do you mean when you say “brand action”?
Once you’ve pushed yourself to discover the unique reason your company exists, and what you uniquely offer the world, you then must find a way to translate that into tangible action. Something where you can put your money where your mouth is, and then step back and see the real impact it has made on your audience’s daily lives (outside of the services or products you might be selling them).
Are there examples of other companies that are Doing Well By Doing Good?
Absolutely! There are many great examples, and I’ve written about a few on my blog at AmandaKBrinkman.com. Some companies have a “doing good” component baked into their business model. Think about Toms or Warby Parker. Or take Bombas, a company that makes socks. With every pair of socks, it sells it donates a pair to organizations that serve the homeless population. That’s such an inspiring combination of brand values and brand action. Simple, easy to understand and effective.
But I’m particularly intrigued by companies who take brand action even if donations are built into their business model. Consider Tide’s “Loads of Hope” campaign. They created a mobile laundering operation and brought it to those affected by Hurricane Katrina. Since Katrina, Tide Loads of Hope has washed more than 68,000 loads of laundry for more than 48,000 families, from people hit by tornadoes in Missouri to flooding in Pakistan. The company not only cleans clothes on site, but it also helps countries find permanent solutions.
One of many other amazing programs comes from Savlon, which manufactures soap and is part of the Indian conglomerate ITC. They wanted to help kids with hand-washing hygiene, which is a big issue in the country since children use their hands to eat but don’t always have access to soap. Savlon identified solving this challenge as a core value; in other words: brand purpose. Then it moved to brand action. It provided its incredible product, Healthy Hands Chalk Sticks, which look and work like normal chalk except with the powdery residue left on fingers turning to soap under water, to rural schools for free, in the hopes of reducing the country’s infant mortality rate.
In what ways can ecommerce companies find success by doing good that might differ from other types of businesses?
Just because you don’t have a brick and mortar store doesn’t mean you can’t make a tangible impact on consumers’ lives. The steps are the same: Find your brand purpose and then find a way to translate that into action. For ecommerce companies, especially those that don’t have face-to-face interactions with customers, it’s especially critical to tell your story and articulate your purpose on your website, so people can see what you believe in and are attracted to your business. But then show them how you’re also acting on those beliefs and making a positive impact.
How do you measure the impact of these efforts?
There’s the bottom line, of course. And when you Do Well By Doing Good, it will be reflected in the bottom line. But it’s also about building long-term trust and advocacy. You can see these things in metrics like brand awareness and affinity, and it is often reflected through social media. We spend a lot of time helping small businesses maximize their websites and their search presence and coaching them on how to make sure they’re listening to customers via social, which helps them measure whether their brand action is resonating with consumers.
Do you see opportunities to help other companies learn how to Do Well By Doing Good in the future?
Of course! In fact, I often speak on the subject at conferences and other events. There are some key steps, including making sure that your team and leadership have aligned on expectations at the outset, with an understanding that this approach often requires a longer runway. It’s not a short-term approach to boosting sales immediately – it’s about building a lasting brand that will be successful for the long haul.
What are action items that companies can do today to start making a difference?
Have an internal conversation. You can do it right away. But take your time and really talk through your purpose. After that, build out a strategy and execute. And here’s the secret weapon: have fun! There’s a real gratification to making an authentic difference and it will give you energy. It will all come back to you ten-fold. So get started, and good luck!
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