Thursday, April 9, 2009

Exclusive! The M+G Blog-erview w/Saatchi S’ Director of Brand Planning, pt. 2 of 2

(continued from yesterday’s post, the rest of the conversation with one of Saatchi’s sustainability gurus. Scroll down for the first half of my chat with Cari Jacobs.)

M+G: What Saatchi S project do you think has had the biggest impact so far?

Cari Jacobs: I’ll start with the practice that I love, because I love it. We call it “sit in bliss.” And it’s one day a week across all the Saatchi-S offices, we simultaneously sit for about an hour in sort of a “mindfulness” or meditation state, and it’s a practice we’ve done together since the beginning. When you’re sitting with your colleagues around the work you’re doing, it’s a really powerful tool. And you’re doing it with your colleagues. You hear about these corporate retreats and stuff, but it’s something we really believe in.

As for the work, probably our work with WalMart has had the biggest impact. For most suppliers, WalMart can represent 25-40% of a brand’s revenue (like Coke, Pepsi). Think about the power of that. If WalMart puts out communication to their supplier that if they don’t do these five things you won’t get shelf space – or, conversely, if they do – they have a huge about of influence at the billion- and trillion-dollar level. It’s something we did with the PSP (personal sustainability project) for WalMart’s employee base. It really gives them a way to connect.

One employee had the idea to un-light the soda machines to save energy, and it saved gazillions – like a couple million dollars – hang on - (goes off phone to ask a co-worker) – it saved one million dollars. Just from unscrewing the lights in soda machines. From one employee. They also started doing this thing called a “recycling sandwich” where they bail their recyclables into big bundles, so they could turn recycling into a money-making thing.

M+G: How do you think successful brands will be doing “good” say, 10 years from now?

CJ: There’s so many questions inside that question. My first answer was going to be Free, Clean, Clear, and Good. (As in, free of bad things chemicals, additives, etc.) But I think it’s about brands ultimately being transparent, authentic, local (even if they’re global), and I’m hoping soulful in the most traditional sense of the word – like having a real soul that matches the soul-identity of consumers. And I’d hope that’s the way they design their entire revenue stream. So they increase margins not by increasing price or adding skus, but by decreasing waste. They measure growth by how much waste and excess they don’t create. Like “reverse-excess” brands, ya know? I think there’s some magic in the cottage-industry feel too. A modernized version – getting goods to people in ways that support a local community. We don’t want to retreat into our safe little caves, of course. But I’d just be happy if everything in five years was just Free, Clean, Clear, and Good. From the food we eat to the stuff we put on our skin. If everyone just did that, the impact would be unfathomable.

M+G: I get Free, Clean, Clear … but what’s “Good?”

CJ: That’s hard to define, but just operating with integrity. Like with skin care, and phthalates. Commonly listed as “Fragrance.” But it’s not. It’s what makes stuff stick. – lipstick, makeup, lotion … the beauty care category is completely unregulated. Think of your morning routine. Soap, shampoo, lotion, after shave, etc – all of it has phthalates in it. All of it. And they don’t measure the total effect of using it all. And I wish some company had the courage to take a good hard look at that.
In the EU, they have better controls on those things. … When I think of good I think of the four strains of sustainability and operating with the highest level of integrity.

We also define it as a “Blue” company, which is what we call those that go beyond green. And that really kind of covers it, doesn’t it? Those four things. Hopefully the zeitgeist is moving that way, and even “bad seed” brands will come around.

CJ: Can I answer a question I saw on your blog?

M+G: Please do!

CJ: It was something like, “Can a brand actually stand for ‘good?’” When I was growing up, I had friends that were into very esoteric studies at Berkeley and stuff. But I always believed that what I was about was trying to communicate as authentically as possible. I believe that at the heart of the brands we connect with, it reflects back into our own hearts. If I could do one thing, it would be to make that connection more important in the heart of our brands. And we both have to show up – the brand and the customer. It’s about the mom wanting a sustainable product, and knowing that her little decision is one small vote toward her own shifting identity. That’s the cultural anthropologist in me. The extent to which I can affect that, that would be a great contribution in my tiny life.

Thanks, Cari. Fantastic stuff. I'm reading: Exclusive! The M+G Blog-erview w/Saatchi S’ Director of Brand Planning, pt. 2 of 2Tweet this!

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