By Chris Peregrin on LovinMalta.com, 19 October 2016
How can advertising make the world a better place? How can brands come across as genuine and compassionate? And what can you do to inspire your own workplace to do business in a better way? Those are some of the questions that Thomas Kolster, author of the book Goodvertising, plans to answer next Saturday at a free workshop being organised at Hilltop Gardens by the Sync Hub.
Lovin Malta spoke to Mr Kolster in the run up to the event.
You’re known as Mr Goodvertising. But if you had to elaborate, how else would you describe yourself and what you do?
I’m a change agent. My mission is to push brands to realise they must change their current behaviour and embrace a new model. By heart I’m a creative person. I spent the first years of my career on the creative side of advertising, so my passion remains using creativity to unlock growth and solve problems. I’m also a surfer, a foodie and a nature lover, so sustainability resonates deeply with me.
In your opinion, what are the key ingredients of a good advertising campaign?
Tomorrow’s success stories are brands that deliver exceptional value through service and product. Isn’t this in reality what the capitalist society is all about? We must compete to improve services and products in a way that propels us forward, rather than having a beauty contest based on incremental or advertised made-up differences, which leaves us stagnating. Advertising is facing a world that doesn’t want it any more. Consumers are tired of brands behaving like self-serving dictators. Goodvertising offers a new way forward where it’s about serving real needs instead of creating wants. If businesses and brands can move from being part of the problem to part of the solution, then you might be able to rebuild the lost trust.
“When Coca-Cola uses cans to talk about “Saving the Arctic”, that campaign alone is probably worth the same voice impact as five years of Greenpeace campaigning for our furry white cousins.”
In what ways can advertising be a force for good? Doesn’t that depend on whether the product/service being advertised is a force for good in itself?
Companies are more than what they do, they have a massive voice impact in our lives. So we should think twice before we witch-hunt the companies taking their first nervous steps in a greener direction. When Coca-Cola uses cans to talk about “Saving the Arctic”, that campaign alone is probably worth the same voice impact as five years of Greenpeace campaigning for our furry white cousins. That doesn’t make Coca-Cola a saint or a company that’s not depleting global water resources or adding pounds of fat to our ribs and hips. But it’s actions do inform a mass-market about an important issue, that we as consumers (and people) should think twice about.
Should brands stay silent out of fear of their voice backfiring or should they speak up for an attractive, healthier, funnier sustainable future waiting around the corner? I believe staying silent is not an option anymore. A survey from Globescan ”The 2014 Sustainability Leaders” shows an interesting correlation between the brands being most outspoken and their perception as the most sustainable. On the list you find big brands like Unilever, Patagonia, Interface, M&S, Natura, Nike, GE or IKEA.
“What if Malta embraced sustainability better than any country? Think about the tourists they could attract and the many emerging sustainable businesses that will set up shop here.”
In 1972 a company’s value was primarily based on tangible assets such as factories and equipment. Only 17% was the brand value. If you look at a company’s value today, 80% of the value is tied to intangible assets such as patents, trademarks and of course the brand. Using advertising is a way of reassuring not only consumers, but also your employees and your investors that you’re a future-proof brand.
From what you’ve seen or been told about Malta, do you think it offers any unique opportunities?
I think smaller countries have unprecedented possibilities to embrace sustainability and charter a new model. In Denmark we’ve a small island called Samsoe that’s become completely energy self-sufficient. What if Malta embraced sustainability better than any country? Think about the tourists they could attract and the many emerging sustainable businesses that will set up shop here.
Do you feel advertisers should use their budgets to support individuals and platforms who are using their voices for good? How can this be done?
Yes, I do believe there’s a win-win to be explored and many companies are already starting to explore that like Unilever’s Foundry or Ikea’s Space 10. I recently launched a project trying to explore this new collaborative space called CPH:CHANGE. The project aims to support projects at the intersection of art, technology and social entrepreneurship. The main goal is to connect some of the most innovative and impactful cultural projects with like-minded companies and organisations, applying their combined creative power and marketing reach to inspire and accelerate social change. Beyond cultivating concrete partnerships, CPH:CHANGE aims to create a space where artists, companies and non-profit stakeholders can meet to explore the possibilities to generate broader global meaningful change in a wired and well-connected world.