Ask The CMO: Joey Bergstein

Ask The CMO: Joey Bergstein On Cause Vs. Brand Purpose + Having A ‘True North’ For Your Business

Marketing continues to rise in importance inside the leading organizations in the world. As brand purpose goes from a marketing tool, to a critical driver of long-term growth and development, the creation of authentic experiences that allow brands to connect and engage with a consumer in ways that assure their safety and the hope of a better and brighter tomorrow has never been more important. As a result, CEOs are looking to collaborate with CMOs more so than ever before to ensure that these shifts take place quickly and effectively, in ways that deliver enhanced performance.

For my latest Ask the CMO column, a series dedicated to analyzing the latest trends and disruptions in the marketing landscape, I had the pleasure of speaking with purposeful business pioneer Joey Bergstein, former CMO, COO and now CEO, of Seventh Generation.  His rise within one of the world’s most purpose driven brands is a shining example of what we are seeing in the way of leaders and the brands they serve being rewarded for doing well by doing good, and setting a new bar on what is expected of business in today’s uncertain and challenging times. Following is a recap of our conversation:

Billee:  This column has been getting some attention because the marketing role is really in a period of flux. Instead of seeing that as a challenge, many smart marketers are viewing it as a major opportunity as the function rises in importance. I’d love to talk about your journey from CMO to COO and now CEO, and from that unique perspective, hear your thoughts on the changing face of marketing and its growing connection to overall financial performance?

Joey: It’s certainly been an amazing voyage that I’ve been on since joining Seventh Generation. I’ve been here for six years now. As you said, I came in as the CMO, leading the marketing team, but three years ago I took on the role of GM in addition to being the CMO which was pretty unique. It was a great opportunity for me to lead the business, while still overseeing the marketing team quite directly. Wearing two hats was a little bit like marking your own homework sometimes, but fortunately, it seems to have worked out in the end as we mastered that intersection and have built the business rapidly.

I would say over the last six years that our business has been through an incredible transformation. We’ve been remaining true to our founding mission, which is all about inspiring a consumer revolution that nurtures the health of the next seven generations. We have been able to continue to grow by sharpening our message, continually improving our products and building a passionate community base. People really want to get involved in the issues that we’re concerned about and believe in and the values that we stand for.

Billee: You were acquired in October 2016 by Unilever.  Can you factor that into your journey as well

Joey: That’s been an exciting voyage too and are discovering some really huge mutual benefits. Obviously, Unilever is enormous and brings a lot of scale and capabilities that were difficult for us to access on our own as a small company, but at the same time, we are playing a big role in Unilever’s sustainability agenda. They are clearly leaders amongst the multinationals when it comes to sustainability but there are many issues where we feel like we were able to help them find an even stronger voice.

Ingredient disclosure is a great example, as it’s an issue that we’ve taken a hard stance on and helped Unilever embrace authentically.  Starting in 2008, we listed all of the ingredients on the label on the back of all of our products, which isn’t required in the cleaning business but that was something that we felt the consumers had a right to know because these are products they use around their families every day. We’ve been advocating for that to become a standard across the industry and we’re seeing more and more companies moving to more disclosure of ingredients, particularly over the last year. So, for us with Unilever, it’s really been a nice relationship where we’re both giving and taking as we’ve been working through this integration.

Billee:  Wow. A ton of great information. I’m going to take a step back. It sounds like your evolution is emblematic of the shift that we’re seeing in the marketplace related to how you can no longer separate the brand from the product and how success is contingent upon an intersection of the two. Would you say that is the structure or path that you’ve taken?

Joey: Yeah, I think so. I’ve always believed that the consumer is at the heart of any strong brand or business. I think what I bring to Seventh Generation is the ability to bring together holistically what is it that we’re trying to achieve in the world. What is it that people are looking for and how do those things come together into a company to be able to reach all stakeholders in a powerful way?  One of the things that I’ve found amazing about Seventh Generation, as a company, is the fact that we are mission-driven and we embrace all stakeholders, not only in relation to the consumer.  So, a lot of decisions we make start with what is the change we’re trying to create in the world?  And, how do we move society and the business to a better place? Right now, I think what it takes to lead in the world today is just being able to think holistically about what any given company is trying to achieve.

Billee: I think that’s exactly right. You actually live brand purpose and ensure that it’s not just a nice ‘wrapper’, but actually a critical driver of long-term strategy and growth, regardless of what constituency you’re trying to reach. It’s at the core of your DNA. Are there any thoughts that you can share with other marketers about best ways of approaching that?

Joey: I love that you mentioned DNA. We talk about our DNA and purpose all the time and I think it is often confused with cause. I think real purpose is quite different. Purpose should be about why was a company developed and what is its mission ? What is it that it is trying to achieve? The key is identifying the things that you think are really important and driving that purpose through all aspects of the business. If you really believe in your purpose, then it affects everything that you do. It affects the products that you make. It affects every choice you make and how you treat your employees. It even affects your compensation system.

A great example of how purpose impacts our compensation system is that 20 percent of our annual bonus is based on delivering against our mission-oriented goals. Goals such as: improvements in post-consumer recycled plastic in our packaging or reducing the environmental impact of our diaper. We set very specific goals that go to 2030. And we’ve got a path that gets us from where we are today against each of those goals to 2030 and success in achieving these goals becomes a really substantial part of us of our compensation. It’s amazing how that helps everybody focus on the totality of what we’re trying to do. Not just driving sales and profit but making everybody into 360 degree stakeholders.

Billee: That’s fascinating and leads me to my next question. We’re in an experience economy. Regardless of who you’re selling to, be it a business, a consumer, or an employee, it’s really got to be about getting people to believe in the why and who, as much, if not more so, than the what. Can you talk about that and share an insider perspective from Seventh Generation?

Joey: I think that’s really true. People are looking for companies that are trying to make a difference. They want to support them with their dollars. And we live in a world where there’s just so much transparency, that people can learn almost anything they want to know about a company and it impacts the choices they make. Inside our business, we’ve been amazed when you run a market mix analysis and see the benefit of some of our advocacy efforts. So, taking a stance on ingredient disclosure, or taking a stance on toxic chemical reform, which isn’t really about trying to sell Seventh Generation products at all, but really just about trying to move the industry to a better place, benefits the business.  We do this simply because we believe business should be a force for good and instill trust.

It seems like many brands have just imploded on trust over the past years. I don’t remember a year where you heard so many stories about brands just losing consumers’ trust and I think a lot of these brands will get it back, but it won’t be easy, as it can’t be bought. It must be earned.

Billee: That’s brilliantly said. One of the areas that I’ve been looking at in my work in this column and with clients, is the reason behind that closing point, so I’m actually really glad that you brought it up. What I have found, is you can say you are as purposeful as you want, but if you’re not informed through the lens of emotional intelligence it really doesn’t matter. I’m seeing a lot of brands that are succeeding placing g an increased emphasis on emotional literacy across the board. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Joey:  I think you’re absolutely spot on. I think what’s going on, not to get all nerdy, but I often think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and it feels like as a society particularly in a developed country like the U.S., that safety, security, health and well-being are generally pretty well met needs.  What people are actually looking for, is a form of self-actualization and in making the choices that they make, they are seeking to make more meaningful statements about who they are and what they stand for.  I think the brands that are doing it well have acknowledged that. I think the brands that are doing really well are not just creating marketing campaigns that are purposeful, but are really finding ways to truly bring purpose into the products that they create and I think that’s what’s making an exponential difference.

Note:  We have designed a platform to help businesses catalyze their growth through a unique blend of AI, neuro-based technology, business and creative consulting services. You can learn more about our Emotional Intelligence Accelerator Platform right here

Billee: Amazing. It kind of goes to what I think is a shift in business overall. Beyond just the notion of purpose, to this idea that in the uncertain times that we’re living in, there is an increased desire for business to step in and give back to the world as much as the bottom line. Almost a need for CEOs to have a grander sense of moral leadership and responsibility. What do you think about that?

Joey:  I think that that’s absolutely true.  Much of the change in the country is being driven by business and that it’s also amazing how people are looking to business leaders as a source of inspiration in many cases. I think that there’s absolutely a responsibility for CEOs and for business to take stances on issues that are important and to make their voices heard because ultimately, they can make a real difference. We certainly see that in our business and the issues that we get involved in. We are able to make a difference where we want to. I think when it comes to the greater social issues that are out there, when big business makes bold statements it’s hard to ignore.

Billee: Circling back to something you just said about scale. I’ve noticed two things happening. One is big brands trying to demonstrate authenticity and failing to do so. The other is that smaller brands are trying to become bigger and losing their authenticity in the process. Do you have any thoughts on the best way of scaling a business, but not at the expense of your ‘North Star’ if you will?

Joey: I think North Star is exactly the right word. I feel like we have the same dictionary sometimes (during this conversation). I think it’s exactly that. It’s knowing who you are, what you’re about, and what you stand for and holding yourself accountable to continuing to make the right choices even when that means making decisions that may not necessarily enable you to grow at the pace that you want to grow. Where Seventh Generation takes its name from is the Great Law of the Iroquois. In our every deliberation, we must take into account the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations. So that’s where the name came from. We have that stenciled on the window of our big conference room and it makes a difference for us.

We’ve made decisions not to launch products because we weren’t 100 percent sure of consistency with all of the standards that we set. I’m thinking about one product in particular, and while it would have been a huge success, we’re pretty confident it wasn’t up to our standards so we actually took more than a year to improve it to get it consistent with our standards. Those are hard decisions when you’re growing a business. But if you don’t make decisions like that, then you know, with each decision that comes after that, it becomes easier and easier to lose sight of that North Star. Our new Maya disinfectant product is a great example of us staying true to our North Star throughout the entire process, from invention to market.

Billee:  So true, and so impactful. Just one final question. The end of the year will be here before we know it and it’s been quite an interesting one chock full of many changes.  I’m sure that business and leadership will continue to face some new challenges and opportunities in the year ahead. Is there anything you’d like to leave us with along those lines?

Joey: I think that business can be a real powerful force for good, especially during difficult and trying times. I think the stronger the voices are that keep us moving forward towards a true North Star, the better off we’re going to be as a society. I think there’s an opportunity for business to lead in a big way. It’s times like this that people need strong leadership most and today it’s the responsibility and duty of business to step in and accept that challenge.

 Note: This article was first published on Billee’s Forbes blog

trump for business

Finding A Silver Lining In The Trump Presidency: America Is the World’s Newest Emerging Market

Twenty-two years ago, I graduated from college into a world vastly dissimilar to the one that faces us today. The 90s were quite a different time with a different Clinton in the White House. The excess of the go-go 80’s had paved the way for more purposeful ideas, and America was still viewed as a bright and thriving nation and economic powerhouse.  A country of grace and elegance and ease. Jobs were plentiful, daily terrorist threats were not a reality, and while people swept up in the “grunge” of the times, exhibited a bit of the artist worthy angst that helped define the era, an overall sense of contentment and pride swaddled the nation.

It was at this time that I took my first job at a boutique government public relations firm who’s sole mission was to represent the Philippines, and its new democratic President, as great havens for overseas U.S investment dollars in the burgeoning Pacific Rim region.

President Fidel Ramos, my client, had been elected following the coup by Corazon Aquino, the country’s and Asia’s first female President, of billionaire dictator Ferdinand Marcos, and his notorious shoe loving wife Imelda. The country had a reason to swell with pride and the fledgling emerging market nation wanted the world to know about it.

This was not surprising as the Southeast Asian region, particularly hotbeds of growth like Singapore and Indonesia, began to assert themselves as viable and vital economic engines. Before BRIC there was the ASEAN list of third world nations poised for rampant growth and development as technology first reared its head as the great equalizer. The era of the mighty and transformation driven emerging market was born, and today, twenty years later, it is these very nations that stand out as the world’s most innovative and vibrant economies.

What makes me think of that time in my life at this moment is the amazing similarities that are evident in our country today. We too had a mighty woman fighting to overturn the establishment and break new boundaries. The only difference lies in the fact that she did not win her fight, and instead of us moving forward with a great new Democrat, we are moving in reverse with a Marcosian Republican who has his very own gold encrusted palace, replete with designer shoes, and matching bejeweled wife.

While this all sounds like extremely horrific news, what if it wasn’t? What if our nation’s massive regression actually was seen as the greatest act of creative destruction of all time? What if tearing down everything to the core, instead of building upon band-aids and broken promises, will actually enable the world’s greatest emerging market ever to emerge in its place?

With a Trump presidency, fail as it may, won’t a new America in some way most certainly arrive? An America that has a big “Open for Business” sign on it announcing to the world that while we are no longer the home of industrial manufacturing, we are still the place that produces the greatest ideas and innovations the world as ever seen ? The country known for rising from the ashes like a Phoenix in its most dire hour? The phrase darkest before the dawn was born in the USA after all wasn’t it?

Amidst all of Trump’s buffoonery and blustering over non-actionable ideas, (i.e. shutting down the FDA and EPA??) there are few infrastructure driven ones that seem plausible and practical given his background, and in the best interest of our nation.

It’s not hard to imagine Trump improving our country’s energy grid, transportation systems or technological backbone, which will ultimately make us more successful, competitive and might even return a bit of our luster on the global stage.

It’s not hard either to imagine well placed brilliant business people stepping into vitally important roles as part of the new Administration. Jamie Dimon helming the Treasury doesn’t give me pause. It gives me great hope for resumed prosperity. Peter Thiel in charge of innovation, technology and entrepreneurial growth and development, would also offer me a bright light at the end of what currently feels like an extraordinarily long and dark tunnel.

innovation

A new made in the U.S.A. movement has been quietly taking shape across our great nation for the past several years, with old industrial regions being remade into hotbeds of innovation. Think of the new Silicon movement. Dallas is no longer just known for oil, but is regarded as Silicon Prairie, home of gaming technology and disruption. Venice Beach is still about brawn, but not for Muscle Beach, but rather the legion of revolutionary tech start-ups dominating its streets, earning it the title of Silicon Beach. SnapChat, BuzzFeed, Google and Parkme all have footholds in the new thriving center of creativity and disruption.

There is also Silicon Bayou, (New Orleans), Silicon Forest, (Oregon) Silicon Hills (Austin), Silicon Hill (D.C), Silicon Anchor (Virginia) Silicon Desert (Arizona) and so on and so on. And these just aren’t bright shiny new names. They are real monikers for hubs of new high-tech industries ranging from semiconductors, to biotech, to financial services, to healthcare, putting good and hard working Americans, regardless of race, creed or color, back to work.

There are also towns with former factory driven economies long gone, with new vibrant economic ecosystems arriving in their place. Detroit, Michigan and Braddock, Pennsylvania just to name a few. Both rebuilt anew after being torn down. Started completely from scratch out of a place of darkness, but fueled by the courage to imagine a brighter and better tomorrow.

While a Trump presidency seems like the end…The end of rational thought, empowerment, idealism, equality and all other things a thriving democracy is supposed to be associated with….Maybe, just maybe, if we try hard enough, not in the best interest of our new President, but ourselves as Americans, we can see it as the beginning. The beginning of a new day in America, where we are in fact great again, not because of the division Trump has ignited, but rather for the spirit of collaboration, ingenuity, resilience, intellect and hope our great nation was founded upon, and that only recovery from great failure can kindle.

Billee Howard is the Founder of Brandthropologie where she helps CMOs and CEOs executive produce their brands. Schedule a 15min call with Billee right here.

Note – This article first published on Billee’s Huffpost blog right here

Business Artistry

Warhol Passes Baton to Haring To Further Inspire Age of Business Artistry

As we all know, the sharing or “WE” economy, is a socio-economic ecosystem built around the sharing of human, physical and intellectual resources. It includes the shared creation, production, distribution, trade and consumption of goods and services by different people and organizations and is heavily reliant upon a few core principles: collaboration, creativity, and a celebration of the type of business artistryinvented by Warhol.

In our current world of WE, creative industries like fashion, art, and music drive the economy as much as—if not more than—finance, real estate, and law. And according to author Elizabeth Currid in her visionary book “The Warhol Way,” these creative industries have been fueled by the societal happenings that whirl around the clubs, galleries, music venues, and fashion shows where creative people meet, network, exchange ideas, pass judgments, and set the trends that shape popular culture.

These counter-intuitive ideas continue to drive our economy forward, and can without question be traced back to the days of Warhol, where the key tenet of culture driven commerce, sparked by collaboration was born. In the days of Andy Warhol’s FACTORY, boundless collaboration became integral to innovation, the worlds of art and business fused together, the POP Art movement consequently arrived…and the seeds of today’s sharing economy were planted.

It is therefore no coincidence, as the era of collaborative creativity has come to take center stage, that the works of Warhol have had a massive resurgence in recent times. Last year, Warhol was the second highest revenue generating artist, behind only Pablo Picasso, with sales totaling $416.5 million.

We have also witnessed an indelible Warhol imprint on culture driven commerce. There was the Perrier Warhol campaign, the Dom Perignon Warhol campaign, and the Absolut Warhol campaign alone in the last few years. And that’s just the beverage industry. NARS cosmetics had a Warhol inspired make up line, and just this past summer, Gucci launched a “meeting Warhol’s ghost in a public toilet” campaign with an eye on revitalizing its brand and making it more accessible. Perhaps they were following suit to their former creative director Tom Ford, who also launched a Warhol inspired campaign for his line three years ago.

And it didn’t stop there. Brands across the land also took a less literal interpretation to fusing the Warholian lens of collaboration and craftsmanship to invite consumer engagement and to spotlight his idea of everyone having a chance to be famous for 15 minutes.

There was the Lincoln rebrand around artisan automobiles and the Lays consumer innovation driven DO ME A FLAVOR campaign. There was also the explosion of Factory-esque sharing platforms in the workplace like We-Works, Office Nomads and Icehouse.

As I said in my book We-Commerce, we have entered a Warholian age of creative commerce driven by culture, where we are consequently being pushed to emerge as “artists of business” if we are to stand out and succeed. We without question live in a world which increasingly rewards collaborating around the idea of art + commerce = innovation, and are being forced to agilely adapt as a result.

In my book, there is a chapter entitled “Become An Artist of Business” where I explore these ideas and mention that other disciples (past and present) of the “Warhol Way” will soon begin to flood the landscape as proof of this concept and as the age of all things Andy reaches a critical saturation point.

One of the artists I flag that this would most likely happen with was Keith Haring, and as 2016 comes to a close, the era of sharing or “Haring” could not be more evident.

Haring took the idea of art + commerce equaling innovation to the next level honing in on the notions of accessibility and purpose. He opened the first ever Pop Shop in the 1980s in Soho to make his drawings available to everyone. Pop up shops by leading brands as disparate as e-Bay and Warby Parker have flooded the landscape for the last several years and show no sign of abating anytime soon, as winning brands seek to make their offerings available to all through one of a kind experiences that “pop.”

Haring also pre-dated acclaimed graffiti bandit Banksy with his underground subway scrawlings, seeking to make his art accessible, but to also showcase the power of visual imagery in conveying influential messages. In a world where images clearly trump words everywhere we look from Instagram to Emojis, Haring’s influence is palpable. Snapchat, perhaps the king of visual imagery, which recently rebranded itself as just Snap, even just released its Spectacles glasses product designed solely to help consumers capture and share unique visual imagery.

Haring used his one of a kind visual communication to imbue a sense of activism around critical societal issues like drugs and AIDS. There was the infamous Crack is Wack series and the memorable Stop Aids collection.

As I highlight in We-Commerce, this influence can be seen taking shape in the new age of business, with companies of all shapes and size, and across all industries, demonstrating the need to act with a sense of purpose each and every day, not just around sustainability or philanthropy efforts. Using commerce to instill purpose and not just profit is ubiquitous today and clearly mimics Haring’s use of art to activate meaningful change.

Pepsi pioneered this idea over a decade ago with its critically acclaimed Refresh platform, and we see these concepts at work everywhere today from GM partnering with Lyft to advance the age of autonomous vehicles, to brands like Tom’s Shoes and Salesforce innovating and disrupting around the 1:1 give back model, where portions of profits are immediately put back into the world to do good.

Keith Haring’s art was auctioned for a record price this year, hitting the $4.2 million mark for one piece at a Sotheby’s event this summer. If we continue to play out the Warhol influence paradigm, perhaps this is a clear indication that our world of creativity, collaboration and purpose has only just begun.

Business Artistry

cc – proudlyyours

I for one hope it is a clear harbinger of the era of “artists of business“ meaningfully  taking hold. An era of commerce where creativity, sharing and a sense of worthwhile contribution, set the bar on what true innovation, profitability and leadership could, and should, really look like.

As Keith once famously said, “The public needs art – and it is the responsibility of a ‘self-proclaimed artist’ to realize that the public needs art, and not to make bourgeois art for a few and ignore the masses.”

Today maybe, just maybe, we can all continue to extend that notion to business and entrepreneurialism, using the age of sharing or “Haring,” and the artistry of business driving it, to realize the vision of us all being better in the service of the collective we over the singular me.

Read an excerpt from We-Commerce on “Becoming an Artist of Business” in Time magazine’s Motto here: http://time.com/author/billee-howard/

Billee Howard is Founder + Chief Engagement Officer of Brandthropologie, a cutting edge communications collective specializing in identifying the most powerful collision point of culture and commerce for each client to create captivating stories that are consumed, shared and drive meaningful and measurable engagement. Billee is a veteran communications executive in brand development, trend forecasting, strategic media relations, and C-suite executive positioning. She has a book dedicated to the study of the sharing economy called WeCommerce released in December 2015 as well as a blog entitled the The Brandthropologist (http://brandthropologie.com/the-brandthropologist/blog) dedicated to curating the trends driving our economy forward. She is also a regular contributor to Forbes and HuffPo on the topics of marketing, storytelling and the collaborative economy.

Billee Howard WeCommerce

Top 5 Reasons Why I Wrote We-Commerce

We-Commerce is about the idea of identifying and highlighting the one critical thing driving us all forward today- – profiting for the we instead of the me. Our world hit a massive reset button after the 2008 global financial meltdown, and in the aftermath, a whole new world has flourished with levels of transformative innovation that we haven’t seen since the industrial Revolution. My book offers business people everywhere the insight and advice that they need to navigate this entirely new business terrain and realize a new definition of success for the many, not just for the few.

My book introduces the idea of a new age dominated by“artists of business” who are driving disruption and innovation today and into the future. The book was launched last week (Dec 1st, 2015) and is available in major outlets like Amazon, Barnes & Noble and many more. Here are top 5 reason why I wrote the book We-Commerce.

  1. I have a crush on Nostradamus and wanted to predict the future.

 

  1. I wanted to help give voice to the new generation of sharing we are living in today.

via GIPHY

  1. There has never been a time of more transformative action taking place in society daily since the Industrial Revolution, and I felt a map was needed for our new cultural and economic topography.
  1. I have always wanted to be an author and I felt that the recent daily collision of my two cornerstones of passion, art + commerce, was a sign that my time to write was now.
  1. Because the movement from me to we is palpable and things as we know them will never be the same!

Billee Howard is Founder + Chief Engagement Officer of Brandthropologie, a cutting edge communications consulting firm specializing in helping organizations and individuals to produce innovative, creative and passionate dialogues with target communities, consumers and employees, while blazing a trail toward new models of artful, responsible, and sustainable business success. Billee is a veteran communications executive in brand development, trend forecasting, strategic media relations, and C-suite executive positioning. She has a book dedicated to the study of the sharing economy called WeCommerce due out in Fall 2015 as well as a blog entitled the #HouseofWe dedicated to curating the trends driving our economy forward. You can read more about “WE-Commerce: How to Create, Collaborate, and Succeed in the Sharing Economy” right here!

Wecommerce book Sharing Economy