Agency Post Interview: Purposeful Brands and the Aspirational Consumer

Mitch Baranowski is the cofounder and chief creative officer of BBMG, a brand innovation consultancy located in Brooklyn, New York.

Tell us a little about yourself. Describe your job, how long you’ve been doing it, and how you got into it.
My co-founder Raphael Bemporad and I met in graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin. We used to teach a class on utopian literature. Since then we’ve always been interested in how to “make a life, not just a living.”

When we started BBMG in 2003, we decided to take on only those projects that had some deeper meaning. We believe successful brands of the 21st century will be purposeful brands, delivering practical benefits as well as societal and environmental benefits while connecting us to a community that shares the same values. Think of pioneers like Patagonia and Clif Bar or newbies like Warby Parker and TOMS.

Day-to-day, I support the team here in translating our strategies into a wide range of creative solutions. We’re an idea shop, which means a lot of conceptual exploration.

What differentiates BBMG from other advertising agencies?
First, we’re not an ad firm. We’re a brand innovation consultancy. A twist on firms like IDEO or SYP. We have a particular focus on creating new brands, products, services, or platforms that help our clients grow while also having a positive social impact.

We’ve been privileged to work with some of the world’s most iconic brands these past several years. Examples of recent projects include creating sustainable packaging innovations for a major beverage company, developing a global brand platform for a renewable energy initiative, and collaborating with a major big-box retailer to embed sustainable design into its business strategy.

Why does “purpose” mean so much to your agency, and how does it help you create more impactful work?

It goes back to our founding values, our worldview. The issues are too great (e.g., waste, water, energy, equity) for us not to imagine how to do old things in new ways and new things in new ways. There’s only so much tweaking we can do. If you think about it, sustainability is an innovation imperative and a huge economic opportunity for forward-looking brands.

We use certain criteria to guide the projects we select. Essentially we have to believe we’re a fit for the work, that we can exceed expectations and that the work will have a net positive effect, even if the client’s organization is still on the journey to becoming a purpose-driven organization.

Why will sustainable brands be the ones with the most success in the coming years? How do you define a sustainable brand?
A sustainable brand is a smart brand that embodies a higher purpose in ways that make it undeniably compelling to a mass audience. It never needs to mention the word “sustainable.” It just is. It’s liberating and inspiring when done right. And the market is quickly maturing. We’ve proven that we can make better stuff cool, and cool stuff better (to paraphrase our client will.i.am and the team at EKOCYCLE). The trick now is scaling sustainable design and consumption, not just making things “less bad” but making them “net good.”

What is the Aspirational customer? What do they care about?
For decades, the green movement has been chasing the wrong ball. If only we could cultivate so-called “advocates” (pejoratively dubbed “treehuggers”) then we could scale the market for sustainable goods and tip the business paradigm toward more conscious capitalism. Wishful thinking. The data couldn’t be clearer: Advocates will never be more than 20% of the consuming public. But that’s okay. There’s a new kid in town, one who cares about style and shopping and status and . . . wait for it . . . doing right by the planet.

Last year, working in partnership with our friends at GlobeScan, we discovered a high-velocity segment we call Aspirational consumers. It’s significant for many reasons, but mainly because they are the largest consumer segment globally (38% of the population representing nearly 2 billion people) and the first to unite materialism, sustainability and cultural influence. In short, they are the most critical audience to reach and engage if we want to drive sustainable behavior change at scale: Aspirationals love to shop, want to consume less and have a more holistic view of happiness beyond material possessions.

We created a special microsite and film to help communicate what drives Aspirationals.

Why should brands want to connect with this Aspirational customer?
It’s smart business. Gen Xers and Millennials make up the biggest segments of Aspirational consumers. They want brands to disrupt the status quo, delight their senses and embody their values. Aspiration is a universal human experience. It transcends age, geography, education, income, and social status. That’s why so many marketers hew closely to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and why so many lifestyle brands struggle with differentiation. Who doesn’t want to help us live our dreams?

The opportunity here is to stop thinking narrowly about prompting a one-off transaction and start a much deeper, more creative collaboration by honoring these consumers’ universal aspirations —purpose, belonging, voice, status, participation, and impact. If we do that —if we align brand purpose with the Aspirationals’ worldview and need state — then we can drive significant behavior change, business growth, and positive social impact.

We break down the five secrets to engaging Aspirationals in this article.

What is one of your favorite campaigns your agency has worked on?
We love working with early-stage companies, where you really get to help define the brand platform. Getaround, a new peer-to-peer car sharing service based in San Francisco, must convince car owners to rent their vehicles by the hour. There are 1 billion cars in the world, and most sit idle 92% of the time.

To help Getaround jumpstart the car sharing revolution, we created a new brand anthem — “Live Unidled” — that equates car sharing with a purposeful lifestyle choice: to earn more, enjoy more choices, seek new adventures, and join a community doing good by taking cars off the road.

What’s one trend in advertising you find interesting and why?
I think one of the most fascinating things to watch over the coming decade will be the paradigm shift from “push” to “pull.” Big data allows for much more personalization. Soon we’ll be able to stop broadcasting irrelevant messages and start sliver-casting highly relevant offers based on what consumers are actually sharing and co-creating with us. And it won’t be strictly transactional. It’ll be much more experiential.

http://www.agencypost.com/mitch-baranowski-bbmg-purposeful-brands-aspirational-consumer-pov/