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Brands and a point of view – shifting from purpose to purposeful

Truth Collective Truth CollectiveSeason 3Episode 3Oct 19, 2021

Planner Parley S3: Episode 3—Brands and a point of view – shifting from purpose to purposeful

Intro: Welcome to Planner Parley, a show where we come together under a flag of truce to talk about small agency planning. Why do you get up in the morning? Why do we exist? What do we promise people and how is that relevant to daily life? Believe it or not, we’re not talking about existentialism, we’re talking about, purposeful brand and marketing. In today’s branding landscape, authenticity and connectivity to your audience, so the name of the game, even for B2B. So how can brands make sure they’re living with purpose and sticking to their North Star, find out as Maggie Lower, CMO at Hootsuite and Preeti Philip, Managing Director and Partner at Sterling-Rice Group, join John Roberts, Chief Strategy Officer at Truth Collective. As they revealed the ways brands can mind their spiritual health to ensure their values and relevance are long lasting. And what it means for small agencies. Pull up a chair and listen in.

John Roberts: Welcome everyone to another episode of Planner Parley, where we, uh, stress just to promoting small agencies get to live, learn, and discuss, uh, topics that matter to us all. And I’m thrilled today to really start to dive into something that I know is near and dear to all our hearts. We’ve always known that the strangled, strongest brands have a purpose, have a clarity of definition of mission. But now what wolves are saying, not just in terms of, how we feel about work, but also what we’re seeing from the data is, a shift from being purposed to purposeful, action over intention. In fact, a recent walk study said three courses of, of, uh, marketers believe this is even more important, in the tumor that we’ve all been living through in the last 18 months to two years.

Maggie Lower: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: So I have two amazing guests today who are gonna dig into this and share some of their experiences. Maggie Lower, Chief Marketing Officer for Hootsuite, and grand champion both today and in the past of, what really matters to drive brands and make them more purf- purposeful and more connected to their audiences and customers. And her partner in crime from the past as well but, uh-

Maggie Lower: (laughs).

Preeti Philip: (laughs).

John Roberts: … I know I had the joy of working with, Preeti Philip, Managing Director and Partner at Sterling Rise Group, SRG in Chicago. So Preeti, welcome.

Preeti Philip: Thank you.

John Roberts: Maggie, welcome.

Maggie Lower: Thank you. Excited to be here.

John Roberts: So I’m gonna start jumping straight in. Maggie, when Preeti actually reached out and asked you to join us on this conversation, what was it about this topic that thought, “Yeah. I wanna chat?”

Maggie Lower: Yeah. I think in general, companies right now have to do a rethink on how they’re thinking about their brand strategies and their brand platforms. And Preeti is one of the best brand strategists I’ve worked with, so she calls and wants to have a conversation about branding, you pick up the phone. (laughs). You make sure you’re there.

Preeti Philip: (laughs).

Maggie Lower: So it was, there’s, there was a lot of interest in just, you know, talking to somebody who I’ve done deep work on branding with in the past. And I’m hoping to pick her brain a little bit today, too.

Preeti Philip: (laughs).

Maggie Lower: So it was an exciting opportunity to get some free intel and talk about some of the work that we’ve done together.

John Roberts: Excellent. And Preeti, thinking about what Maggie was just talking about, I know you guys have a, a storied past with the work you’ve done together.

Preeti Philip: (laughing). Yes.

John Roberts: What was it about the past work that you think is gonna be really interesting to dive in and make, uh, discuss today?

Preeti Philip: Well, you know, it’s really interesting because, you know, Maggie and I embarked on this rapid like crazy fast journey, to uncover like a truth that … Like you, you were looking for that aha moment of like, why do we exist? Right? And I think, an interesting reframe for us was, in the B2B space, a lot of folks were just kind of talking and acting like they were in B2B and there was kind of a construct there. And they w- like there was this aha moment where like, we still help people, right? At the end of the day, even if we’re a B2B business, we’re helping people in some of the most, maybe poignant moments in their life.

Maggie Lower: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Preeti Philip: And so, I think that kind of central truth of like, why do you exist? Like what benefit do you offer people? That is timeless, right? So searching for that kind of aha, whether it was in the past, whether it’s now, I think even more heightened from the pandemic, is, i-i-is like a need to like, understand why we do certain things. Why do I engage with certain things? Is it kind of furthering whatever my North Star is, right?

Maggie Lower: Yeah.

Preeti Philip: What brands do I engage in? I think brands should be thinking the same way, right? Everyone’s kind of having this purpose crisis, (laughs)-

Maggie Lower: Yeah.

Preeti Philip: … you know, even personally.

Maggie Lower: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Preeti Philip: And so, I think brands should be on that same journey too.

John Roberts: Excellent. Um, and that’s really interesting because of the, the, even ourselves, okay? What we’re seeing of the, the breakthrough the last 18 months, is people really starting to appreciate more about, what’s my personal why?

Preeti Philip: Totally.

John Roberts: Why do I exist?

Preeti Philip: Yeah.

John Roberts: W-what’s my mission? So Maggie, you were, you’re, we were just talking about your five weeks, so you’re not finding that old hand yet at Hootsuite.

Maggie Lower: (laughs). Yeah.

John Roberts: Talk a little bit about the shift at, uh, the, the new world of Hootsuite about the, the role of purpose for you.

Maggie Lower: Yeah. I think that’s a great question. And I think, you know, Hootsuite is, uh, when I was looking at the, the opportunity, what would happen is I would mention Hootsuite to somebody and the immediate response to anyone that you say Hootsuite to is to smile.

Preeti Philip: (laughs).

Maggie Lower: Like there’s just, there’s so much brand love around Hootsuite. So when you see that as a, as a marketer, you know, it just, it peaks your curiosity and you just wanna keep diving into it and understanding, well, where does that come from? And why is that? And why do they always seem like they’re having more fun than everybody else? Well, they are. (laughing). That’s why they’re, that’s why they’re smiling. And I think that, that energy is infectious.

Preeti Philip: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maggie Lower: And I think what’s gonna be the major moment of inflection coming up for Hootsuite, which is why I was really called to this particular role, is Hootsuite has to start to think about, all of the things that got them here and preserving that wonderful legacy. But what are the things that need to change to get us to where we’re going?

Preeti Philip: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maggie Lower: Right? So, you know-

John Roberts: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maggie Lower: … there’s a, I was talking with one of our, um, investors the other day and they said, “You don’t get to a billion without great marketing,” right? And so, I think even for Hootsuite, who’s a company that’s in the marketing space, they’d really looked at their portfolio and said, “How do we take all of this goodness? How do we take all of this first mover thinking that’s really-

Preeti Philip: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maggie Lower: … deeply embedded in our DNA, and take that into the next iteration of what’s happening on social?” And I think for us, we have a really strong perspective on, all of the possibilities available to people that are leveraging social in the right way. People are no longer throwing up a website first-

Preeti Philip: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maggie Lower: … they’re establishing themselves on social. And so, it’s the, the shift. And I think, you know, the last year and a half of COVID, has taken 10 years of transformation and bottled it into 18 months. I mean, digital storefronts are now the way we all do business and it’s not gonna go away.

Preeti Philip: Yeah.

Maggie Lower: I mean, we’re seeing this massive proliferation in business being in, transacted and customer care being transacted in chat. So it isn’t even just on the platforms anymore and through a tweet-

John Roberts: Right.

Maggie Lower: … it’s the DM, (laughs)-

Preeti Philip: Yeah.

Maggie Lower: … you know, on the platform that you’re on. So there was something about that that was just too intriguing to pass up.

Preeti Philip: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maggie Lower: And I think anytime you get to be in a marketing role where your job is to talk to marketers and help marketers solve problems, and, and really help the craft, that’s something I’m really passionate about. Marketing is a really hard job and it’s not very well understood in most environments.

Preeti Philip: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maggie Lower: A lot of people run around thinking they can be a CMO, not a lot of people run around saying, “I could be the CFO,” right?

Preeti Philip: Hmm.

Maggie Lower: There’s just sort of this presumption that, if it’s a creative endeavor, it must be easy, I can figure it out, and it, it’s truly not. And I think, when I was going through the process at Hootsuite, there was a lot of acknowledgement, that, we wanna have a professional marketing practice.

Preeti Philip: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: Right.

Maggie Lower: We wanna reengage in marketing. And they took a long time to find, you know, the right mix of things that they were looking for in a CMO. So I, I’m honored to be there, I think, that the leadership team is incredible. I work with people who I deeply respect. I deeply respect our competitors. I think we have a really healthy market. That’s a fun space to be in. So, it’s a really long answer two minutes ago.

Preeti Philip: (laughs).

John Roberts: Nice. Fantastic. Great.

Maggie Lower: But it was a very, it was a very, it was a really like invigorating process. I lo- I still, I still kinda am coming off the high of even the process. They, they’re very thoughtful, it’s a wonderful company.

Preeti Philip: That’s really interesting ’cause I, I’m helping a brand right now, um, a corporate brand, create a new consumer brand. And they’re very nervous about, over promising the type of community they can offer their consumers, and I’m very nervous for them that they’re nervous about that. (laughing). ‘Cause that’s, that’s what it’s gonna take, right?

John Roberts: Right.

Maggie Lower: Yeah.

Preeti Philip: It’s gonna take these interactions that feel more personal, that feel real time. That’s what it takes in the world today-

Maggie Lower: Yeah.

Preeti Philip: … to be truly relevant. So.

Maggie Lower: Well, and don’t you think too, I mean, this is something we talked a lot about when we did the brand launch four years ago, B2B no longer gets a pass, right?

Preeti Philip: Right.

Maggie Lower: But you still have to have a personality and you still have to be a brand that people can connect with.

Preeti Philip: Absolutely.

Maggie Lower: And so, B2B no longer gets to be a corporate, you know, monolith. They actually have to start to be branding companies. And I think that’s why B2B marketing is a really exciting place to be right now. And B2B to see, like, the, the evolution of this has been really thrilling to be part of over the last 10 years.

John Roberts: Oh, you tickle me. That’s it. Well, let’s talk-

Maggie Lower: (laughs).

Preeti Philip: (laughs).

John Roberts: … everything about, well, the past. Because, we all have grown up through an experience of, um … I talk about with our clients still about, B2B does not mean boring to board-

Preeti Philip: (laughs).

Maggie Lower: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: … right? And, and it’s been treated that way in the past.

Maggie Lower: Yeah.

John Roberts: It’s been like, I don’t wanna work in B2B and, and I’m in a creative company as strategist or creative or whatever.” ‘Cause it, because no one seemed to care that much, which I don’t think was true.

Maggie Lower: Yeah.

John Roberts: Talk to, talk to me a little bit about what, what was the experience four years ago? And then also, what have you learned from that, that we can all pick forward now about, how do we get that commitment that you were just talking about, Maggie?

Maggie Lower: Cool.

Preeti Philip: (laughs).

Maggie Lower: Where do, where do we, where do we start?

Preeti Philip: (laughs).

Maggie Lower: So the process four years ago, we were spinning out our, basically our benefits business, our outsourcing business to Blackstone. So Blackstone purchased, um, a division of Aon Hewitt and the very audacious goal-

Preeti Philip: (laughs).

Maggie Lower: … of the CEO of the company, (laughs), at the time was that they wanted to be in market with a new name, purpose, vision, values, fully branded assets, all of it, 30 days after close. So the deal closed in early February and we had the launch June 6th.

Preeti Philip: (laughing).

Maggie Lower: And so, as you can imagine, I spent a lot of time, at really inappropriate hours on the phone with them, (laughing), trying to figure out how to digest all of this data and what are we gonna do with this? And how are we gonna get through it? We both had, I had, I had just had a baby, so we were both, uh, dealing with really odd hours anyway. And so, the process, I thought, what was, what, what I thought was impressive about it, and I’m gonna give us a little credit here Preeti-

Preeti Philip: Yeah.

Maggie Lower: … we didn’t cut any corners. We, we said, “Listen, we have to do this research, we’re gonna be data-driven about this.” And so, even though we didn’t have time, we still put it through the full paces. Um, and that, that I think is why we came out the other side with something so compelling and new in the market. I mean, we tested everything.

John Roberts: Okay.

Maggie Lower: We did a full inventory on visual identity. We really hit voice hard. We interviewed customers, we interviewed-

Preeti Philip: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maggie Lower: … I think, 30 stakeholders, individually that were real influencers in the company. And so, we landed visual identity, May 7th, and then everything had to be built [crosstalk].

Preeti Philip: (laughs).

Maggie Lower: So we actually moved into the basement of the company that Preeti was working at. (laughing). There were 10 of us living in the basement of this agency in the West Loop, in Chicago. And we were there so we could just make decisions right away on the fly. Like, that’s just-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Maggie Lower: … we just had to keep moving. I mean, the whole thing was papered and business cards and templates. ‘Cause at the end of the day, you know what people want when you do a brand launch-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Maggie Lower: … wear as many business cards.

Preeti Philip: (laughs).

John Roberts: Right.

Maggie Lower: If that’s more business [crosstalk].

John Roberts: Right.

Maggie Lower: Maybe it’s gonna change now with COVID, but that was the-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Maggie Lower: … question we were prepared for. So, I think that the process was thoughtful, it was very intentional. We had a lot of engagement from the executive team.

Preeti Philip: Yes.

Maggie Lower: But we also had a lot of permission to move fast. And sometimes that helps ’cause you can’t sit there and belabour big decisions. Um-

Preeti Philip: Well-

Maggie Lower: … I don’t know, that’s my recollection Preeti.

John Roberts: Yeah.

Maggie Lower: What do you, what do you wanna say?

John Roberts: Exactly.

Preeti Philip: No. And I-

John Roberts: Preeti, you tell us your truth now.

Maggie Lower: Yeah. (laughs). Exactly.

Preeti Philip: (laughs). My truth. No, uh, I mean, we’re actually, our truths are the same on this one where I think, we laid a really solid strategic foundation, in terms of, you know, when you say something like a competitive audit or a stakeholder analysis, they sound fairly commonplace, but we really dove deep and aligned on the ahas coming out of those. So that when we were working through naming, um, and in particularly visual identity, we were like, like, we, we knew it when we saw it, you know, because we had all been grounded in the insights and the data.
And when it came to the purpose, I, I still remember that like moment when we’re like, “Oh yes. Like we need to be B2C.”

Maggie Lower: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Preeti Philip: And that kind of changed everything, right? It, it, it impacted the way we thought about the whole brand and the 360 experience. So it was, it was a lovely process. Like Maggie said, she was, I think, it was critical that she was like the expert at wiring, (laughs), internally, right?

Maggie Lower: (laughs).

Preeti Philip: Because I, that’s a, that’s a huge part of it.

John Roberts: Yeah.

Preeti Philip: It’s like, we can have all the wonderful thinking in the room, but if the organization isn’t wired for and excited for this kind of rapid movement, this kind of change in thinking, then of course, you can’t get, uh, where you wanna to go as fast. And so, I think also her, just kind of her stakeholder management, was, was solid. (laughs).

Maggie Lower: It was fun. We, we, we had to mo-

Preeti Philip: (laughs).

Maggie Lower: … we had to move fast so there was a lot of stakeholder management. (laughs).

John Roberts: So that’s why it’s interesting, right? Because I, I feel as though, from an agency perspective, we’ve all experienced where there’s that, that power and passion in the room, Preeti like you were talking about, but then it dissipates-

Preeti Philip: I know.

John Roberts: … or hits barriers internally. So I love the expression, uh, the, the wiring expression Preeti.

Preeti Philip: (laughs).

John Roberts: Uh, Maggie, you were talking about, making sure that you have really clear, in terms of, executive permission and commitment.

Maggie Lower: Yeah.

John Roberts: Uh, w-what are tips to us as, as strategists outside of a corporation? How can we help our clients get that permission and commitment? What works?

Maggie Lower: You know, I think, I think too often, there’s this idea that we can move faster if we close ranks.

Preeti Philip: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maggie Lower: Let’s just go in the lab and let’s create the visual identity. And everybody else doesn’t know what they’re talking about-

Preeti Philip: (laughs).

Maggie Lower: … so we’re just gonna say, “You know, you know what? I don’t care if you don’t like yellow. This is what we’re doing.”

Preeti Philip: (laughs).

Maggie Lower: It, it, it becomes a, it becomes a really tactical discussion quickly, instead of a strategic discussion. And so I think, when you’re thinking about stakeholder management, that’s why you, you, that’s why you don’t skip the step of bringing-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Maggie Lower: … people in and conducting those interviews. Because then people feel like they can see their feedback and their input in the process. And it needs to reflect the company, not marketing’s vision, right?

Preeti Philip: Yeah.

Maggie Lower: It has to reflect the brand’s journey. And so, I think in terms of stakeholder management, I did a lot of pre-socialization. I mean, anytime we were getting-

John Roberts: Okay.

Maggie Lower: … ready to do a big presentation-

Preeti Philip: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maggie Lower: … I tried to make sure nobody was seeing things for the first time, you know, at least giving them previews. ‘Cause sometimes the deck was being built the night before-

Preeti Philip: (laughs).

Maggie Lower: … but I could give them preview. And sometimes 20 minutes before, let’s be honest.

Preeti Philip: (laughs).

John Roberts: Right.

Maggie Lower: Um, but, you know, I could give them previews of what’s to come. And, and I really felt like that was my job in the process. But I had so much support from Preeti and team in saying, “Okay. How should we approach this? What’s the talk track? We spent a lot of time strategizing for the presentations.

John Roberts: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Preeti Philip: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maggie Lower: Like that was something we did before every major trend. Like every major pitch, if you will, internally, was proceeded by a strategy session with the team to say, “Okay. How are we gonna deliver this? What do we wanna say? Who are the people in the room we need to reach and land this particular point and what’s gonna be their drivers? Um, so we did.

John Roberts: Right.

Maggie Lower: We actually spent time on that and it helped tremendously. And, you know, we were-

John Roberts: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maggie Lower: … really clear on what needed to happen at the outset of every meeting. Like, we’re not here to discuss, we’re making a decision today.

Preeti Philip: Right.

Maggie Lower: We’re gonna call it at five minutes before the hour and we’re gonna make a decision or we’re off track. So we laid out the toll gates early. We were really intentional about that. And then, you know, we had strategies for everybody that we were working with to make sure that, the things that they would bring up as questions we were addressing every time we would go back.

Preeti Philip: Yes. Well, I think there was also, in the beginning, Maggie, we did this wonderful session with one of your executives where it was like, imagine you’re being interviewed five years from now by Bloomberg, right?

Maggie Lower: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Preeti Philip: How do you want to be able to talk about this new company? Like, what are the accomplishments you wanna brag about and how did you get there? And I think kind of, pulling someone out of the day-to-day-

Maggie Lower: Yeah.

Preeti Philip: … and like helping them think forward, it kind of set like a really great tone, and obviously gave us wonderful insight for where, like how we need to show up as a brand.

Maggie Lower: Yeah.

Preeti Philip: And I think that kind of tool in my toolbox, has been helpful, you know, throughout the years, but I really saw it be impactful in this project.

Maggie Lower: I agree.

John Roberts: That’s great. So also, for me, what it, I’m, I’m hearing is it helps us shift from, Maggie, you’ve talked about this, uh, as, purpose is not a marketing tactic or marketing PowerPoint.

Maggie Lower: Right.

John Roberts: And consequently, if we treat it, if, if, if it’s perceived that way, then it can never actually flourish. We’re actually starting by having people imagine that future-

Maggie Lower: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: … allows us to think about how to connect the dots to, to achieve that.

Maggie Lower: Yeah. Well, I think, you know, e-e-even though we talk about, you know, moving from purpose to purposeful and values-driven-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Maggie Lower: … you know, branding, and, you know, you have to acknowledge that while these things … And we came up with really like wonderful values. Like the-

Preeti Philip: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maggie Lower: … then it was, we got alignment on that really quickly-

Preeti Philip: Yeah.

Maggie Lower: … which I think kind of set the tone for the whole project. My recollection, we got that right early, and fast.

Preeti Philip: Very early.

Maggie Lower: We had like an ELT session and we did a little tweaking, but it wasn’t a very task.

Preeti Philip: It was more a words, like wordsmithing.

Maggie Lower: So, wordsmithing.

Preeti Philip: Yeah.

Maggie Lower: And so, because we had alignment on that so quickly and so early in the project, it helped us move quickly. But I think, you know, as we got closer to the launch, and we thought about the follow on to the launch, we had a lot of internal discussions and we really ema- like kinda had to mind our own spiritual health as a brand to say-

Preeti Philip: Mm-hmm (affirmative). (laughs).

Maggie Lower: … “Okay. Can we do this? Like, what needs to change to do this?” And so, in our first big leadership team, we brought a hundred executives in from all over the world and, we actually walked them through like a StrengthsFinder exercise. And, you know, we had people talking about, like, “How are we gonna apply this thinking to our values? What needs to change in order for us to embody this?” Because, if we don’t, and this is, this was pre-cancel culture. I mean, this is four or five years ago-

Preeti Philip: Yeah.

John Roberts: Yeah.

Maggie Lower: … four years ago. But, you know, we said, “If we don’t embody these values, we’re gonna get called out. Like it’s gonna be our customers, it’s gonna be our internal teams, it’s … And it should be each other as well, if we’re not doing what we need to do.

John Roberts: Yeah.

Preeti Philip: Yeah.

Maggie Lower: And so, you know, we made sure the values were a part of performance planning. They were a part of anything that we did, you know, publicly with town halls. And then we had that session with the executives and we gave each team, we split up the teams, we gave each to the, them goal and we said, “Okay. What’s gonna keep us from embodying this or what’s gonna help us?” And, I think it, and it build that. Yeah.

John Roberts: So investigating, sorry investigating the barriers as well as the, the strength, all of it. Yeah.

Maggie Lower: What would, what would we have to do differently?

John Roberts: Right.

Maggie Lower: And I think, what was neat about that is, there g- there were some really passionate discussions around it-

Preeti Philip: Hmm.

Maggie Lower: … which I think helped people understand, this isn’t a brand project, this is-

Preeti Philip: No. This is real.

Maggie Lower: … where we’re going strategically as a company, so get on the bus-

Preeti Philip: Yeah. (laughs).

Maggie Lower: … um, get a ticket to go to another station. (laughing). Well, it w- was, it was, it was a good process, but it, it, it didn’t happen overnight.

Preeti Philip: Well, and I think, I mean, what you’re saying is so important, like purpose, it should 100% influence like the type of people that we recruit, how we engage to each other, how we incentivize each other. But I mean, if you think about all the other levers, it should filter everything. Like the partnerships we have, how we show up in the world, how we communicate, like it should filter a lot of strategic decisions.

Maggie Lower: But we talked about it in terms of M&A strategy.

Preeti Philip: Exactly.

Maggie Lower: I mean, it was really the brand was, you know, that, that really had to live in our positioning.

John Roberts: Right. And when it boils down to it, just building on what you two are saying, Preeti, we talked about this before, it makes you force choice.

Preeti Philip: Yes.

John Roberts: What will we not do?

Preeti Philip: Yes.

Maggie Lower: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: And I feel, so help me on this because I feel some of the, the experiences from my, my perspective is that, sometimes, sometimes it can be a nice warm blanket of our, our values are really sweet and what we are today-

Preeti Philip: (laughs).

Maggie Lower: (laughs).

John Roberts: … are, are, are we good?

Preeti Philip: Yeah.

John Roberts: And actually, it’s, what I’m hearing a lot about positive tension and, and positive energy, is about forcing choices.

Maggie Lower: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: Is that, is that true?

Maggie Lower: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Preeti Philip: Absolutely. I mean, I think, it can be scary because you might polarize people, right? By being very clear about what you do value and would cross, (laughs), your boundaries, right? So it can be very scary, but I think it’s in, in this environment, it’s very important to be laser focused on who you are and how you show up and what is important to you.

Maggie Lower: Yeah. I think it can be so tempting just to be hip, you know, this is, we’re gonna, we’re gonna use edgy language and-

Preeti Philip: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maggie Lower: … you know, we’re gonna kinda do this with a, you know, a crook in our smile and ha ha, aren’t we clever? And I think, uh, uh, that just doesn’t sustain. It, it won’t, it won’t last, it won’t endure, and it’s not a platform to build a brand on. Like you really, you really have to have a bedrock of commitment. Um, [crosstalk].

Preeti Philip: It has to be like systemic.

Maggie Lower: Absolutely.

Preeti Philip: Like felt, felt throughout.

John Roberts: Right.

Maggie Lower: Felt and demonstrated.

Preeti Philip: Yeah.

Maggie Lower: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Preeti Philip: Everything that we do.

Maggie Lower: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: So I’m feeling as though the shift, when we think about the discussion we’ve been having about, uh, clarity of brand purpose, and becoming more purposeful, is actually becoming a much more active.

Maggie Lower: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: Okay.

Preeti Philip: Yeah.

John Roberts: I want to use the term activism carefully ’cause I think activism can be misconstrued into a-

Maggie Lower: Hmm.

John Roberts: … significant social change. But just being more deliberate about choices. Is that fair?

Maggie Lower: Hmm.

Preeti Philip: Yeah.

Maggie Lower: Yeah. I think so.

John Roberts: So how do we help? ‘Cause ultimately at the end of the day, organizations and corporations, we’re still people, as we’re talking about. How do we help leaders embrace activism in any shape or form?

Preeti Philip: That was re-

Maggie Lower: That’s an interesting one. Yeah, go ahe- Please. Please take that one. Sorry.

Preeti Philip: No.

John Roberts: Preeti, Preeti go.

Maggie Lower: ‘Cause I lo- I would love to follow up on that one. (laughs).

John Roberts: (laughs).

Preeti Philip: Well, I was, so I’m inspired by a non-business source, but I was reading Glennon Doyle, Untamed, and she talks about … I know, so good.

Maggie Lower: Yeah.

Preeti Philip: She talks about, kind of a moment where she was so enraged by something, that she was like, “Aha, like that’s related to my purpose.”

Maggie Lower: Yeah.

Preeti Philip: So sometimes it’s like digging-

John Roberts: Hmm.

Preeti Philip: … like, “Why do I get up in the morning? What keeps me up at night? What angers me?” Right? And so, putting that lens on the brand, right? Can really help illuminate what’s really important to you, and then you’re, you’re just motivated to act, right? Because you’re angry, right? You want to fix this, you want things to be better for whatever it is that’s angry at you.

John Roberts: Yep. Yeah.

Preeti Philip: But I, when I read that, I was like, “That is helpful to me.” (laughs). Right?

Maggie Lower: Yeah.

Preeti Philip: That, that, that is really helpful.

Maggie Lower: Well, I think the other piece too, like we always talk about, you know, the last moment that you actually own your brand is like, is like the moment before launch-

Preeti Philip: Yeah. (laughs).

Maggie Lower: … because then, you no longer own your brand anymore. (laughs). Like that moment has passed and now it’s, you know, your baby is now everybody’s baby. And I think that, you know, one of the things that you, you really need to be mindful of when you’re going out into the market is if you’re not gonna authentically live by your values, how are you gonna recover when there are missteps?

Preeti Philip: Hmm.

Maggie Lower: Because, you have large companies of thousands of people, people are gonna make mistakes.

John Roberts: Yeah.

Maggie Lower: And I think the companies that recover from those mistakes are the ones that have stayed authentic to their purpose. They try to do the right things, and you know what? When they screw up, they own it.

John Roberts: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Maggie Lower: They don’t, they don’t try to spin it, they don’t try to come up with a lot of excuses for why it happened. And I think, again, that comes back to that idea of being purposeful. I, I mean, you know, because human, human beings run companies, (laughs), right?

Preeti Philip: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maggie Lower: Heroes don’t run companies, human beings run, human beings run companies and we’re flawed. And so I think, as you really try to make sure that your brand is understood in the market, you know, you have to make sure that it’s understa- understandable in an authentic way. And with, you know, with the good comes the bad sometimes.

Preeti Philip: Well, and the humility, you know-

Maggie Lower: Yeah.

Preeti Philip: … that it takes to admit a misstep, um, and then demonstrating what you’ve learned from it, right?

Maggie Lower: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Preeti Philip: That’s just a, again, another human, (laughs), quality, a human growth quality-

Maggie Lower: Right.

Preeti Philip: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maggie Lower: … that’s important for brands.

John Roberts: Give me some examples of people that you’re looking at now brands and you, you admire them both for ma- perhaps even making a mistake and owning it or for the stance they’ve taken.

Preeti Philip: Hmm.

Maggie Lower: Well, that’s a good question. There’s a brand that I love. It’s a smaller brand, but it’s some former Nike, um, women, who started a clothing brand called Wildfang.

Preeti Philip: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: Yeah.

Maggie Lower: I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it. They, they did a big Wild Feminist campaign-

Preeti Philip: Okay.

Maggie Lower: … everybody in my house as a Wild Feminist t-shirt.

Preeti Philip: (laughs).

John Roberts: (laughs).

Maggie Lower: Uh, including my son, by the way, who loves it. And what I think is really like bold and brave and kinda bad-ass about this brand is, they’re really unapologetic about the fact that it’s a non-binary clothing brand and it’s for everyone.

Preeti Philip: Hmm.

Maggie Lower: And, you know, they’re sizing clothes for real people, but they also have a strong sort of political stance on empowering women and empowering all types of women who come in all different types of packages.

Preeti Philip: hmm.

Maggie Lower: And there’s just something that’s so unyielding and apolo- unapologetic about it, and that just is compelling.

John Roberts: Yeah.

Maggie Lower: I mean, these are s- the, the people that are doing the work they’re, they’re so smart. I mean, I think Emma was actually in, she was in the, it was either Forbes or, we’ll have to look that up so sorry.

Preeti Philip: (laughs).

John Roberts: It’s okay.

Maggie Lower: And also she was, you know, she’s like one of these like top 50 LGBT leaders, who’s doing just incredible work around partnerships and just an incredibly intelligent person. I had an opportunity to meet her very briefly at a conference in Portland.

Preeti Philip: Oh, wow.

Maggie Lower: And, um, you know, there’s pretty famous speaker up on the podium and she had come to see her friend speak. And I was like, “No. I’m actually here to talk to you. (laughs). I think you’re awesome.”

John Roberts: Okay.

Preeti Philip: Aww.

Maggie Lower: Um, and so, I think, you know, that’s a brand to keep an eye on. I think they’re weathering the pandemic really well and their small clothing company.

Preeti Philip: Right.

Maggie Lower: And, you know, they’re doing a lot more innovative work in digital. I mean, they’re selling over text and they’re, they’ve, you know, they’re constantly bringing in new inventory, they’ve … What they’ve become really well-known for is this work suit, it’s basically a jumpsuit.

Preeti Philip: Hmm.

Maggie Lower: And you see a lot of people running around in these jumpsuits.

Preeti Philip: Oh nice.

Maggie Lower: And I think they really, they really kind of brought that back to the table. So that’s one that I think is neat. I’d have to think of bigger brands, but that’s [crosstalk].

John Roberts: That’s fine.

Maggie Lower: Yeah.

John Roberts: Preeti?

Preeti Philip: Yeah. You sparked on the fashion train. I’ve actually been really impressed with how Old Navy is showing up lately.

Maggie Lower: Hmm. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Preeti Philip: And when you look at, even if you like kinda scroll as if you were going to purchase something, you are seeing so much diversity in all dimensions, right? Whether it be, size inclusivity, gender inclusivity, whether it be race inclusivity, like they’re really showing up in a, in a very big way. And for such a big brand-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Preeti Philip: … I’m really excited at like … You know, they’re taking their, their steps. Like there even, there even as like a gender neutral tab now, right? When you go shopping.

John Roberts: Yeah. Yeah.

Preeti Philip: And I think that’s amazing. Even Target, you know, when you, when you look at how they interact with what they call their guests, right? The respect that they show every type of guest, I think they’re living their purpose and in a very clear way. Like you can feel it when you see anything from the brand. So those are-

Maggie Lower: It’s like, it’s like, I, I think that people, I think there’s an opportunity right now, I think, for people to try to shelve some of their skepticism-

Preeti Philip: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maggie Lower: … around having more inclusivity in advertising.

John Roberts: Right.

Maggie Lower: ‘Cause I think, you know, people are so quick to, you know, hit the Twitter verse and say, “Well, this is, they’re, they’re not, they’re not committed to this and they’re not doing that. And they’re not, you know? W-w-w-what, what what’s going on?” Right? And I look at it as an LGBT person, and, I mean, I knew things were changing when I was watching one of my Hallmark movies, which I like to do, at times, because-

Preeti Philip: (laughs).

Maggie Lower: … (laughs), it’s a pleasure.

John Roberts: If the guilty is too great, it’s okay. Guilty pleasure.

Maggie Lower: They, they cut to a lesbian wedding in a Hallmark movie and I was like, “Oh, things maybe are changing.” And I, you know, I think, Pride Month is not like, Pride is no longer a day, it’s a month.

John Roberts: Yeah.

Preeti Philip: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maggie Lower: And, I, I just, like just even driving around Chicago and seeing, you know, LGBT families depicted and Indian families depicted and multi-racial families depicted, it’s so nice that you don’t have to wait for one day a year in June-

Preeti Philip: (laughs).

Maggie Lower: … or Diwali, we see some ads coming out from a bank that show inclusion. Like, more, more brands are getting on board and, I don’t know about you, but, it’s nice not seeing the same thing all the time on the TV. Like just seeing lives that look a little bit more like mine or a little bit more like yours.

John Roberts: Yeah.

Preeti Philip: Or for our children, right?

Maggie Lower: Yeah.

Preeti Philip: To, to see more of themselves in, in the content that they consume-

Maggie Lower: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Preeti Philip: … like that’s what I’m excited about.

Maggie Lower: Yeah. In Hallmark movies.

Preeti Philip: Yes, of course.

Maggie Lower: (laughing). You might wanna edit out the Hallmark part.

Preeti Philip: (laughing).

John Roberts: No. That, that is so staying in. That’s gonna be the lead. Here’s Maggie’s top Hallmark movies, top 10.

Preeti Philip: (laughs).

Maggie Lower: I am unashamed.

John Roberts: Hallmark movies.

Maggie Lower: I am unashamed.

John Roberts: [crosstalk].

Maggie Lower: We all, we all need guilty pleasures. (laughs).

Preeti Philip: Yes. Mine is, mine is My Palatine.

Maggie Lower: Cool.

Preeti Philip: That, it’s not a guilty pleasure, it’s actually very productive, but, it kind of speaks to, John what you were saying about like missteps. Like, we, we all remember-

John Roberts: Right.

Preeti Philip: … you know, the, the ad, (laughs)-

Maggie Lower: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: Yeah.

Preeti Philip: … that had people very enraged, but I think they’ve done a remarkable job of moving forward, right? And, just really owning, kinda owning the mistakes moving forward. And they are very progressive in what their views are, what they value and how that comes through the brand in, in every dimension. And that’s something I’ve been really excited to see from them.

Maggie Lower: Yeah.

John Roberts: That’s a really good perspective, Preeti. And um, I think it echoes what you were both saying, Maggie, you started this, this train of thought about, there’s, no matter the size of the brand, there’s an integrity to their purpose. So yes, it resonates and makes sense, okay, in terms of, for them, but there, there’s an integrity, in terms of, they will make mistakes-

Preeti Philip: Totally.

John Roberts: … and they will own them, if at all, that’s out there.

Preeti Philip: Yeah.

John Roberts: I wonder whether, as, as, first with, with giving the, the examples is, it’s really interesting perspective in terms of, how we manage a brand to be more relevant in real world.

Preeti Philip: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: But also, does, how does that connect to a sense of, of purpose and activism? Because, I feel as though, some of the conversations I’ve experienced or heard about from a client perspective, Maggie, would be a little nervousness about, um, we can’t solve the world’s problems.

Maggie Lower: Hmm.

John Roberts: And I, I feel that actually everyone can, everyone should stand up and contribute to actually owning some of that problem and how we resolve it. But I also think, your purpose doesn’t have to be world changing-

Preeti Philip: No.

Maggie Lower: Right.

John Roberts: … purpose has to be about world helping, does that, does that make sense?

Maggie Lower: Yeah. It does.

Preeti Philip: Well, it’s like, uh-

Maggie Lower: And I think the companies that do it well … Sorry. I think the companies that do it well, find a way to make that commitment kinda back into their value chain.

John Roberts: Yeah.

Maggie Lower: So they, they’re able to bring something to bear that they’re very good at to help solve a problem. And it, sometimes it’s just as simple as that, like, don’t go out and take on a topic that has nothing to do with what you do. (laughs).

John Roberts: Yeah.

Preeti Philip: Right.

Maggie Lower: ‘Cause everybody’s gonna be scratching their he- you’ll do all these wonderful things and nobody’s really gonna understand why. (laughing). Right?

John Roberts: Right.

Maggie Lower: And I think it’s these companies that actually take some of these key skills that they have and they apply it to a problem or they just, they help. Like take Walmart, for example, with the work they do, they have their own Doppler radar.

Preeti Philip: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maggie Lower: Um, and they basically show up first, whenever there are major traumas.

Preeti Philip: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: They do.

Maggie Lower: Um, hurricanes and natural disasters, and they’re the first ones in there, like setting up a tent and making sure people have water and doing cleanup. I mean, what a fantastic way to take what they’re exceptional at, which is-

John Roberts: Right.

Maggie Lower: … you know, sort of supply chain management, and apply it to really helping people? And so, that’s one example. I think there are probably others that are smaller scale, to your point, but, I think it has to connect back to what you do and who you serve.

John Roberts: Right.

Preeti Philip: Well, and I, I think it ha- definitely has to connect and I think it can be overwhelming, like, what’s our purpose?

Maggie Lower: Yeah.

Preeti Philip: Like wha- (laughs), are we solving like the biggest problems of the world? But in, if you look at like the psychology of behavior change, sometimes it’s like a five minute action, right? Like an action will pre-seed motivation. So sometimes they’ll say, if you’re trying to change something in your own personal behavior, just make a five minute plan, a day, right?

Maggie Lower: Yeah.

Preeti Philip: Of something that will help you towards your goal. And sometimes that snowballs, sometimes that doesn’t, but that precedes motivation and it keeps you going. So from a brand perspective, what is, what is the equivalent of, how do we help consumers take that five minute action, that’s important to us that’s relevant to us, that makes sense for our brand? That inevitably will drive change over time.

Maggie Lower: Yep.

John Roberts: That’s a great question, Preeti, that, I think all agency planners can think about, in terms of, that five minute impact to make, to, to connect the dots from, as we were talking about, about the elevation, my sense of purpose-

Preeti Philip: Right.

John Roberts: … can be, uh, lofty and almost sometimes maybe feel unachievable. But, they, uh-

Maggie Lower: I think though, I think the other thing, and I think this is a-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Maggie Lower: … uh, an important business imperative for B2B companies is, is you need to always be listening.

Preeti Philip: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maggie Lower: And I, and I think that’s-

John Roberts: Okay.

Maggie Lower: … that’s a piece that, you know, in some of my experiences in B2B industries, well, we just, we, you know, we’ve created this so the market miss need it.

Preeti Philip: (laughs).

John Roberts: Right.

Maggie Lower: Um, maybe we should’ve started with what the market needs and then develop a product.

Preeti Philip: (laughs).

Maggie Lower: And I think that’s gonna be something that, you know, customers just aren’t gonna give you any credit for that anymore. They’re just not gonna buy your stuff.

Preeti Philip: Yeah.

Maggie Lower: And if they don’t feel like you’re developing things based on their needs, then don’t expect to make a big splash in the market when you launch it.

Preeti Philip: Exactly.

Maggie Lower: And so, you know, I think, anybody, that’s not really thinking about their listening strategy, like, versus just they’re talking to the market strategy, like, what’s your listening strategy? How are you aggregating fact patterns in order to understand better how to-

John Roberts: Right.

Maggie Lower: … service to the customers in the market? And depending on the industry, like the world at large, you are gonna be in such a scramble to catch up, even a few years from now. Like the companies that are thinking about this now are the ones that are gonna win, over the next five to 10 years. But you, you have to have a listening strategy.

Preeti Philip: I love that.

Maggie Lower: Thanks.

John Roberts: It’s great. I’m gonna steal it.

Preeti Philip: Yes.

Maggie Lower: Thanks. (laughs).

John Roberts: So what else can I steal?

Maggie Lower: Wonderful. (laughs).

Preeti Philip: (laughs).

John Roberts: If we start with, I wanna close with, uh, the three, three things that planners in, uh, any agency and company, but, you know, primarily the loader parties, thinking about smaller agencies, just in terms of scale of, of resources. Maggie, great question, what’s your listening strategy? What would be two others?

Maggie Lower: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: Two other questions that you think strategists should be asking themselves and their clients?

Maggie Lower: So, I mean, I work in social media, so I have a really robust listening platform. (laughs).

Preeti Philip: (laughs).

John Roberts: Yeah.

Maggie Lower: Um, so I’m very fortunate, right? So I, I kind of have an embarrassment of riches on that front. But, you know, in prior companies that I was working with, I mean, they were, they were also thinking about these things. And so, I think from a listening strategies perspective, you need to first identify what, what are, what are the areas of the market that you think you can own, or at least uniquely contribute to?

John Roberts: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maggie Lower: And then, where do your customers chat?

Preeti Philip: Hmm.

Maggie Lower: Where are your customers talking? And it isn’t just on social platforms, I mean, there’s so many different endpoints, um, of how, you know, people talk about your brands in the world. And so, I think from a listening strategies perspective, there’s a lot of different ways to go about it, and you can actually buy listening software. But my guess is, there’s probably a lot of places within your own company where you have data streams that you’re not mining-

Preeti Philip: Hmm.

Maggie Lower: … that you’re not even looking at.

John Roberts: Okay.

Maggie Lower: And pulling that kind of triangulation strategy together. And then, you know, if you can do that, you can take what you’re hearing internally, map it to the external end points that you’re monitoring and say, “Okay. Do these things match?” If they don’t, “Why?”

John Roberts: Yeah.

Maggie Lower: And then I think that can really inform, you know, a segmentation strategy or a go-to market strategy. Um, so those are things I think, you know, as a strategist, I would be asking companies upfront, “Okay. What do you know, how do you, and how do you know it? And who are you listening to and why are you listening to them? And what are they saying? And, are they saying the same thing internally, as they’re saying externally? Do our people who are servicing customers actually mirror what’s being said in the external world?” Because then, I think that’s also a really rich conversation. Do we even know what our customers are talking about?
So I obviously have a lot of passion on this topic.

Preeti Philip: (laughs).

John Roberts: Yeah.

Maggie Lower: That I can go on for a lot longer.

John Roberts: I can hear. Fantastic.

Maggie Lower: Um, but I do think that it’s a really critical area of modern marketing. That, if you’re not focused on it, like sta- like start getting smart about it.

Preeti Philip: Hmm.

Maggie Lower: It gets important.

John Roberts: Great. Awesome. Preeti.

Preeti Philip: Yes. Yes.

John Roberts: Same question for you.

Preeti Philip: Of course. So from a brand perspective, I would, as a strategist, I wanna know, like, why do we get up in the morning? Like why do we exist? What do we promise people? And then, if you think about the people that you wanna engage with, like, there’s proba- there’s fundamental emotions that are probably holding them back, right? From living their aspirational life. And then there’s parts of that aspiration, there’s emotions that help drive them towards. Like, whether it’s joy or achievement or sense of confidence or empowerment. So knowing why you get up in the morning, why you exist, what you promise people, how is that relevant to people? Like, what are you helping them overcome something that’s holding them back? Are you helping them actualize, you know, their aspirational self in some way? Getting very clear on your role-

John Roberts: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Preeti Philip: … in that jour- in that emotional journey, I think can be very helpful for brands.

John Roberts: Great tips guys. When I think back to the, the vibe and discussions we’ve been having, I, I, I really resonated with a lot of these, these reminders for me in terms of, Maggie, you were talking about stakeholder management and different ways of doing that.

Maggie Lower: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: Okay. But a reminder for me that, you know, that we need permission and commitment from our senior leadership. Okay.

Maggie Lower: Yeah.

John Roberts: And that, that’s because the human aspect, as we’ve just talked about, like, you can’t-

Maggie Lower: Yeah.

John Roberts: … both in terms of the role of brand purpose, but also the people that we’re dealing with as leaders, that, you can’t outsource your soul, people have to believe.

Maggie Lower: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: Okay? And then believe and understand their role. The no close ranks was really interesting to me because I think we’ve come at it certainly historically, or thinking about as brand champions-

Maggie Lower: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: … we, we buff and can and polish this beautiful thing that we build-

Preeti Philip: (laughs).

John Roberts: … and it’s not true. It’s just not true.

Maggie Lower: Yeah.

John Roberts: And the last one, I think, we, we talked about it really at the beginning, and we’ll unpick for another day, about that blend you talked about that the data. Balance in the data and humanity-

Maggie Lower: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Preeti Philip: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: … was really important and critical for us to understand, not just what our purpose is, but then how are we being purposeful?

Maggie Lower: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: Fantastic. I love the discussion. Thank you. I’ve learned so much from both of you. It’s been really great to have you both together.

Maggie Lower: It was lots of fun.

Preeti Philip: Of course.

Maggie Lower: Thank you for having us.

Preeti Philip: Yes. Thank you so much.

Outro: This has been a True Collective production.