Branding With Purpose: Interview With Jonny Madderson, Co-Founder, JustSo
We met up with Jonny Madderson, Co-Founder and Emma Caldwell, Head of Strategy at BCMA member agency, JustSo, to discuss what Branding With Purpose means to them and their clients. Please see their fascinating and insightful answers below...
What does Branding With Purpose mean to you and how does it make a difference?
Brands occupy public space, they are mass communicators and they have the agility and resources to influence positive behavioural change, perhaps even in a more powerful way than governments. As humans we think in stories, so the stories we tell matter. Brands should rise to this! Uncle Ben said it well in Spiderman… "with great power comes great responsibility."
Why should brands take this approach?
Not only is it the right thing to do. But it is also an increasingly urgent commercial imperative for brands. Customers are demanding more good (rather than just less bad) from their brands. The bottom line and positive impact are becoming mutually reinforcing. All brands need to step up. The rise of the B Corp movement is testament to this - with over 5000 businesses seeking to balance profit with people and the planet. We are proud to have been accepted as a B Corp in 2020 and it sharpens the work we do and the way we do it.
Most compelling of all is that - when done right - it offers a win-win to both brands and audiences. Because the best of this work is highly effective in achieving results. Our Weekend Not Wasted project for Diageo, is a very successful responsible drinking campaign that has achieved measurable behaviour change in 18-24 year olds. Previous work in this space had been unsuccessful - quite negative public service style interruptive ads. We flipped the creative and produced an entertainment series on MTV that tapped into young people’s trend for self-improvement, and showed the positive
side of swapping hangovers for adventures. The work works as you can see here.
It’s also just good for the soul. Brands are made up of people. Talented people who want to wake up everyday feeling like they are making a difference, working for a brand that matters to people’s lives. Some of the projects we’ve done with the likes of Clarks, Netflix and Diageo, we’ve had clients telling us that it made them feel proud to work at their company because of the stories they tell and the values they are rooted in.
Are there any brands that are doing a good job in this area?
In terms of purpose-led storytelling… there’s an outstanding showcase every year at the Sundance Film Festival called the Brand Storytelling Awards. The best brands like Apple, Nike and Patagonia are all often represented, as well as some you might not readily think of that are breaking new ground.. A few examples of brands and work from 2022 provides a few core tenets of how to go about brand storytelling successfully amd authentically:
Empower your customer. KitchenAid found an alarming stat that despite women accounting for 50% of culinary school graduates, they hold only 7% of executive chef roles in the United States. So KitchenAid created a documentary campaign called A Woman’s Place. It tells the stories of emerging women working as chefs, restaurateurs and butchers, as they fight for their place in the industry. The work is emotionally charged and urgent. It’s living, breathing proof of KitchenAid’s mission to empower their core audience. All backed up with action in the form of a mentorship scheme.
Breathe life into your brand initiatives. In the case of the US Postal Service, sometimes the best stories can be hiding in plain sight. The organisation had been going through a dramatic decline in relevance - up against the likes of Amazon and private couriers… They needed to bring themselves back into the public’s consciousness - so they looked within and made a documentary celebrating a heart warming scheme that they’d been running since 1912 - but which not many people were aware of. It’s called Operation Santa. Kids letters to Santa are ‘adopted’ by generous volunteers who do all
they can to reply and fulfill these Christmas wishes. The stories feature wide eyed kids wishing for toys, clothes and also very touching things. As one writes: "Dear Santa. The ONE biggest thing i want this year is for me and my family to get along". What I love about the doc, is that it makes you feel something about the US Postal Service and the job they do - moved by the wonder of kids’ hope and the kindness of strangers.
Champion a new type of role model. When we worked with Red Bull, there was an ambition to broaden their audience beyond their core fans…to break away from the long-standing norm of typifying one type of individual as a participant in outdoor and adventure sports. We wanted to tell stories for audiences who never saw themselves represented in this kind of content. So we worked with the team at Red Bull on what became a groundbreaking project. Because it was the first time Red Bull found and told stories from outside of the traditional Red Bull sponsored athletes. This enabled us to search the world for truly extraordinary human stories. The diverse characters we found from the likes of Colombia, Nepal, Uganda, Ireland were all bound by common values that chimed with Red Bull…things like courage, resilience, passion and a motivation to build a better future. The stories became our series The Way of the Wildcard. Our film that won at the BSA at Sundance this year is the uplifting tale of Mira Rai - a nepalese former child soldier who lives through civil war, trafficking, earthquakes and poverty to become the world’s greatest long distance runner…And an inspiration to young girls everywhere. Just reading the youtube comments you can feel young women resetting their horizons… As one writes: "Thank you Mira - your energy is infectious…you make me feel nothing is impossible". We love the power of this kind of storytelling. Fresh, original and inspiring - "you can’t be what you can’t see."
Our Red Bull project can be seen here. The specific Mira Rai film is below.
How will it positively impact the branded content and influencer marketing industry?
The work is becoming part of our culture and conversations - at the front of people’s minds. The best of this work stands shoulder to shoulder with the best that’s out there. Essential stories that people care about. Quite simply, it makes brands matter to people.