We had the chance to interview Mr. Goodvertising Thomas Kolster during his visit to Helsinki. Thomas is a man on a mission — one of the early pioneers in the do-good space, coining the term “Goodvertising” to describe the changing impact-advertising landscape that’s become a movement in itself.
Thomas’ topics spread in the do-good space of marketing and advertising. He holds sustainability and other ESG values at the core of what he does and talks about. Thomas argues that today consumers don’t trust companies or their words but demand actions. He even takes this further saying that only actions aren’t enough either as companies should rather be helping people achieve their personal goals in which ever endeavours they set out to achieve.
“Exactly, the journey I’ve been on during the past 15 years to unlock this message about what’s needed right now? There’s so much uncertainty in the market and everyone is wondering how they’ll create growth going forward? So I want to challenge people and say everyone looks to purpose as the lifeline for growth, but in fact the challenge is that the people and the brands have forgotten how they play a meaningful role in people’s lives.
“Purpose has become mainstream.”
From my first book Goodvertising to my second book The Hero Trap a decade has passed and so much has happened, and I believe purpose has become mainstream. That’s why I tell companies and my audiences that people aren’t buying their values because everyone is shouting from every rooftop that they are so value driven. We’re necessarily not buying actions either because for the most part companies aren’t properly doing that either. Of course there are some great examples in the world that do amazing things and their actions should be required valuable.
However, what really lasts and what I describe as a “post-purpose market” is really about who can you help people become? That’s a pivotal question when we talk about authenticity and transparency. The reason is that when you as a company or a brand are asked that question, it’s not about what you’re playing or what you say, but the fact that anyone can feel the difference. I can feel if your company will help me fight biases, or if you genuinely want to help me become healthier for example. So it’s really a journey from the navel-gazing “Why” as a corporation to focusing on people and asking yourself “Who you can help them become”.
“I really believe that this a time for brands to not step back and think about short term promotion, but to say that this is a time to reimagine ourselves and truly be there for people in these challenging times.”
The current trend is basically that you have people who obviously are worried about rising prices on their daily shopping, inflation in general and energy prices going up so in that sense they really need a new sort of leadership from brands as well because it’s such a vulnerable time. I really believe that this a time for brands to not step back and think about short term promotion, but to say that this is a time to reimagine ourselves and truly be there for people in these challenging times.
In my talks I sometimes give examples of larger companies who help smaller businesses prosper in these challenging times or companies who help consumers. As an example Hyundai believes that it will be difficult for people to invest in a new car with the current financial instability so they came up with an insurance policy that people could go ahead and buy the car, even though they could loose their job at some point. The insurance allowed people not to take on this extra burden of worry while buying a new car. So it’s very much about the shift in mindset from thinking about the product or the navel-gazing purpose to thinking about transformation and the real change that you can make for you consumers.”
While companies think of change and transformation toward a more sustainable future, the aspect of growth is almost always present in the scenario. This is why we wanted to ask Thomas about this potential paradox that companies face while aiming to change and become more sustainable in what they do while ultimately always wanting grow as a result?
“I think this is a definite challenge that I didn’t fully see in my first book Goodvertising. With my second book however, what I realised was that the challenge truly is this “two headed purpose-monster” within any organisation. The one head says “profit, profit, profit” while the other one says “purpose, purpose, purpose”. Aligning those two paths of being nice and respectful toward society and the environment and earning money can sometimes be a tough deal for a lot of companies out there.
So, in fact what I found was that the companies who build a foundation in people’s lives, in the things that are the human truth – the the challenges, struggles, and aspirations, tap into the ideas that transcend. The better a company for example is in helping you become healthier, the better business case it is.
“A lot of everything what I talk about is really about human betterment. I believe that the brands that do this really well are the ones that are going to prosper.”
One example is a Canadian retailer called “Respect Your Universe” which is all about helping people achieve their goals in life and in sport, which is quite a broad range as many competitors help consumers only improve their athletic performance, for example. The great thing about doing that and focusing on ordinary people, while having stores where the sales people aren’t always the most athletic guys but ordinary people, “Respect Your Universe” really opens the doors to a whole new group of people who just might want to buy a pair of sneakers and walk around the lake.
A lot of everything what I talk about is really about human betterment. I believe that the brands that do this really well are the ones that are going to prosper. Even in the retail space, we don’t need more stores or to sell more products, but what we need is an experience – a transformation. I want to go down to a store and see something that changes the game. Be the change!”
This article is written based on an interview with Thomas Kolster. Read more about Thomas here!