PSFK 2017 Speaker Interview: How Social Good Became The New Cool For Brands

PSFK 2017 Speaker Interview: How Social Good Became The New Cool For Brands
Advertising

PSFK 2017 speaker and youth marketing expert Bobby Jones discusses how brands can better incorporate social causes into their messaging

Matt Vitone
  • 1 may 2017

Bobby Jones is sharing his expertise on marketing to youth audiences at our PSFK 2017 conference on May 19. Get your tickets today before they sell out!

Everyone wants to do good, and if the reaction to the most recent U.S. presidential election is any indication, people are more motivated now than ever before to become involved in causes that matter to them. And this is just as true for brands as it is for individuals. As social good becomes something more and more (especially younger) consumers care about, brands are trying in their own ways to keep up. The question then becomes how brands can do good and reach audiences while staying true to their values.

In his new book, Good Is The New Cool, marketing expert, author and PSFK 2017 speaker Bobby Jones examines how media-savvy millennials are driving brands to depart from traditional marketing schemes and address audiences in a more authentic way. We recently had the chance to pick Bobby’s brain about how marketing has changed in recent years, and what lessons brands can take from his new book and his upcoming PSFK keynote.

What will you be talking about at PSFK? What do you hope people take away?

I am excited to talk about this massive shift occurring in business and culture where social ‘good’ has become the ‘new cool’. I will explain why this shift is happening, spotlight some of the bold leaders driving it and share key lessons from our book Good is the New Cool that anyone can apply to help change the world for the better in ways that grow their business and brand. It is my hope that my talk gives everyone, regardless of their profession, a renewed sense of purpose and a useful model to be powerful forces for good.

In your role as CMO at Peace First, you work with young people from around the world. What sort of issues are they passionate about?

Peace First was founded 25 years ago on the belief that if we as a society are going to address any of our biggest issues—violence, homelessness, inequality and injustice in any of its forms—the single most powerful thing we can do is prepare and call our young people to collaboratively solve those problems with courage and compassion, what we call peacemaking. Every day we invest in young people’s ability to solve injustices as peacemakers in all 50 states here in the U.S. and in over 90 countries around the world. We recently launched the Peace First Challenge made possible by The Allstate Foundation, which is a national call to action for young people to solve injustices in their schools and local communities. Right now, young people are working on a full spectrum of issues including racism, sexism, education inequality, LGBTQ rights, bullying and the environment. We are providing them with a digital platform that gives them access to our full peacemaking curriculum, adult mentors, youth peer support and up to $250 to get their project started.

Has your work changed at all given our current political climate?

I think more than anything the election has created a greater sense of urgency among people who want a better world to become much more active in helping to create it. The problem is most people don’t know how or where to actually start. So I’ve realized that much of my work is helping people to get started and to support them along the way. For example, at Peace First, my work is helping young people on their journeys as peacemakers. My work through Good is the New Cool is helping marketers, entrepreneurs and culture creators to use their talents, influence and resources to impact a greater good. So I would say the biggest changes for me have been greater clarity on how I can help people and more urgency to do so on a larger scale right now.

Your Book, Good Is The New Cool, deals with a transformation in the old ways of marketing. What’s unique about the times we’re living in?

I think what is unique about the times we are living in now is the increasing level of social accountability people are demanding from the brands and individuals they give their attention and dollars to. People are demanding to be treated not just as consumers who want the latest and greatest but also as citizens who give a damn about what’s right, and the quality of our world. That is a major rise in expectations that brands and celebrities are really struggling to keep up with. If you couple those new expectations with the control technology gives people over what they see, support, and share it creates a new landscape where unless you meet or exceed these needs, you can become completely irrelevant to their lives.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give brands then to better get their messages across in today’s world?

One piece of advice I would give to brands and individuals to get their messages across is to involve the communities you want to connect with in the development of your offerings and campaigns. So many massive mistakes made by brands (Pepsi, Shea Moisture, Nivea, etc.) could have been avoided if they actually included their target communities in their process.

I feel like a lot of your book also touches on ideas of brand authenticity. As doing good becomes “cooler,” a lot of brands are wanting to cash in without necessarily thinking about how it makes sense to their message. I feel like for my generation in particular, well-meaning good isn’t enough, it needs to be conscious and considerate. How can brands do right without coming across as inauthentic or tone-deaf? Is all “good” good?

When brands come across as inconsiderate or lacking consciousness it’s generally because they do not have a real connection to the issues and communities they are trying to connect with. So, two pieces of advice I would give, and these are the first two principles in our book: first, ‘Find Your Purpose’; identify the core reason why you exist as a brand and find ways to make a positive impact in the lives of others in ways that are consistent with that purpose. Heineken is a good recent example of that. They exist to help people “Open Your (Their) World”. In the past, that was light-hearted and inspiring people to live adventurous, open-minded and well-traveled lives. In today’s climate, they are beginning to do that by bringing people together across lines of difference to open themselves up to others in compassionate ways. They are doing ‘good’ in a ‘cool’ way that’s consistent with their brand purpose.

The second piece of advice would be to “Find Your Allies”. Too often brands enter the social good space feeling they need to play the role of the savior, when oftentimes they don’t have a real understanding of the issue, how to solve it or even how they can be most helpful to those who do know how to solve it. Invest time in finding allies in these issues. Nonprofits can be great in this role. They know the issues and can really help brands identify a valuable role in the solution. Nonprofits also bring an element of compassion to the stories that are told, which is really important.

A lot of Millennials and Gen Z-ers don’t trust traditional marketing. How can that relationship be re-built?

When I was a researcher, we would often hear young people talk about their favorite brands as friends with shared passions that they could trust to know their interests and add value to their lives. Today, brands have more data on people than ever before, so it’s even more important that they use that data to help optimize people’s lives by bringing them offerings and experiences that they will enjoy. Young people love to talk about things bring them joy, or solve a problem or give them an unexpected delightful moment. So, instead of only trying to spend more money in disruptive advertising, focus on creating products and experiences that bring such joy and value to their lives that they bring you into their world and become your new media.

On a personal level, how did your passion for causes start? And when/how did you make the connection to your professional career?

I started working in the field of youth marketing when I was a teen. I have always been inspired by the energy, creativity, and influential power of young people, particularly in underground and popular culture. So I always knew I wanted to stay connected and contribute positively to youth culture and I’ve done so throughout my career as an entrepreneur, executive and now as an author and activist. I realized in 2015 after a lot of introspection that my calling in life was to feed the good in young people and to help them feed the good in the world. That clarity put me on a path to working at Peace First and continues to guide everything I do including telling the story of how young people are making ‘good the new cool’ in business and culture.

Would you have any advice for others who want to make a similar type of connection?

I believe that clarity of purpose is powerful, but I also know that clarity follows action. My advice is to pursue the things that energize and inspire you and always stay connected to those things even if they are not putting any money in your pocket. Pursuing your passions often put on a pathway to purpose. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Tru Pettigrew helped me a great deal in discovering my purpose, and at some point, we all need help.

Bobby Jones is sharing his expertise on marketing to youth audiences at our PSFK 2017 conference on May 19. Get your tickets today before they sell out!

Good is the New Cool | Peace First

Bobby Jones is one of the nation’s most respected experts in marketing to teen and millennial audiences. As an entrepreneur, strategist and active participant in their world, Bobby has traveled the globe engaging young people and helping brands understand what shapes modern cultural youth identity. Bobby is helping leaders understand today’s young people see themselves as part of a New Era with New Expressions and New Expectations.

Bobby Jones is sharing his expertise on marketing to youth audiences at our PSFK 2017 conference on May 19. Get your tickets today before they sell out!

Everyone wants to do good, and if the reaction to the most recent U.S. presidential election is any indication, people are more motivated now than ever before to become involved in causes that matter to them. And this is just as true for brands as it is for individuals. As social good becomes something more and more (especially younger) consumers care about, brands are trying in their own ways to keep up. The question then becomes how brands can do good and reach audiences while staying true to their values.

+advertising
+Brand Development
+charity
+Interview
+Marketing
+Millennials
+philanthropy
+psfk 2017
+Public
+social good
+social justice

Learn About Our Membership Services

Need Research Help?
As a member you can ask us any research questions and get complimentary research assistance with a 4-day turnaround. Reports inclde stats, quotes, and best-inclass examples on research topics.
Remain Informed & Strategic
We publish several trends reports each month. By becoming a member you will have access to over 100 existing reports, plus a growing catalog of deep topical analysis and debrief-style reports so you always remain in the know.
See Trends Come To Life
Meet your peers and immerse yourself in monthly trend and innovation webinars and discounted conferences.
No search results found.