143: Chris Steinkamp, Principal and founder, Baselayer Group

“…I think that creating this brand {Protect our Winters} that connected with people in an emotional way was the key to what our success was. You know, we really felt that something needed to be changed within the climate space. At the time, there were a lot of really amazing nonprofits doing a lot of really good work. But if we were going to connect with young millennials, snowboarders and skiers and winter sports enthusiasts, we really needed to do something different. And we modeled it really after a lot of the companies that were successful in the space already, by consumer brands and using athletes as our guides and using social media and using digital marketing.”

– Chris Steinkamp

EPISODE PREVIEW:

For the past five-plus months, through the COVID pandemic, recession and also, the social unrest that’s become part of our day-to-day lives as we shepherd our businesses, we’ve been talking around the importance of connecting your brand to a cause. 

Today, we start a series on Channel Mastery about how to take action on that super important goal. 

Connecting your specialty brand with social justice, social impact or a cause is not a nice-to-consider any longer – it’s a must do. No matter how you refer to it, it’s the action of having your brand stand for something and taking action toward supporting that cause every month going forward.

Consumers are demanding that their favorite brands align with them ethically and that those brands are taking action to make the change happen in the world they want to see. They no longer witness their government or other trusted institutions creating that change; so they’re now expecting their favorite brands to do just that. 

Our first expert resource on that topic, hand picked for you, Channel Masters, is Chris Steinkamp, my guest on the Channel Mastery podcast today. Chris is the Principal and Founder of Baselayer Group and one of the founding members of Protect Our Winters (POW). 

Chris is a fantastic resource for specialty brand leaders intent on aligning their ‘why’ with social and environmental impact. In this episode, you’ll learn how to give you fans and followers what they want: a cause to believe in and join, as well as a way to “roll up their sleeves and do something” with you to create change. Chris shares stories from the early days of POW and how other brands are leading by example to make real impact.

So many brands want to do the right thing right now, and consumers are tying their dollars to their values and supporting brands and businesses that align with them. We dive into creating movements and how brands can build deep loyalty from their fans and followers through corporate social responsibility.

GUEST PROFILES:

Chris Steinkamp

Chris Steinkamp is the principal of Baselayer, a marketing consultancy that helps values-driven businesses and organizations build their brands and drive change through impactful brand strategies and consumer engagement initiatives. In 2007, he started Protect Our Winters (POW) with Jeremy Jones and was the executive director of the organization for a decade. He wrote the mission and the strategic business plan, built the POW brand and launched numerous initiatives and partnerships that established POW as the pre-eminent climate organization representing the outdoor sports community around the world.

He spent most of his career in Los Angeles, at advertising and marketing agencies such as TBWA\Chiat\Day, Deutsch and Octagon, developing award-winning campaigns for Nissan and BMW, and was part of the core team that won the Grand Effie for Nissan.

TOPICS COVERED:

Corporate Social Responsibility, Protect Our Winters, Ethical Business, Specialty Business Mission and Values, Consumer Behavior in 2020

SELECT QUOTES:

…I think that creating this brand {Protect our Winters} that connected with people in an emotional way was the key to what our success was. You know, we really felt that something needed to be changed within the climate space. At the time, there were a lot of really amazing nonprofits doing a lot of really good work. But if we were going to connect with young millennials, snowboarders and skiers and winter sports enthusiasts, we really needed to do something different. And we modeled it really after a lot of the companies that were successful in the space already, by consumer brands and using athletes as our guides and using social media and using digital marketing.”

“And you can kind of see this blending of the right thing to do and consumers are asking for it. And it’s a really powerful mixture of, of impact especially on the sustainability side. So I think, you know, to really approach this, you know, correctly and create that emotional connection with consumers, brands need to really stand for a singular issue that fits their company’s ethos and their product mix, you know, and I would suggest that brands don’t get spread too thin because there’s so many opportunities that come to brands and sponsorships and this and that, but they really need to kind of sit there, like set their path forward and pick a lane and go for it and really dedicating all of their resources to really solving that problem.”

“And then they create that impact that platform that is focused on real impact. But I think that the next step that they need to take is they need to figure out how are we going to engage our consumers in this journey with us and our employees, and to really make it a brand ethos and a mantra almost throughout the company. So consumers needed to kind of buy into this belief system and sort of the employees, and it helps with retention employee retention. It helps with hiring, but you know, when consumers are engaged like I said earlier, they want to have a piece of this. And when you can really kind of give them the tools to kind of be advocates and activists, then I think that’s what really makes an incredibly powerful platform.”

“…Consumers now are very, very smart and they can understand when a company is trying to truly make an impact and when they’re not. And when they see a company approaching a problem in a very thoughtful and strategic way, when they’ve done their homework to find out what do we really stand for? And once we figure that out, let’s figure out how we’re going to communicate it. Is it going to be, you know, we’re going to engage all of our employees, our board, it’s going to reflect that our product mix is going to reflect this new ethos, our retail stores, when someone walks into a retail store, they’re going to understand, they’re going to see it. Patagonia obviously does a great job of that.”

“I think as scary as COVID has been, you know, it is made it more imperative for companies to show what they stand for because consumers are just, in the last five months, it seems they’re so much more hyper aware of their place in the world. And they are very aware of what drives brands, just beyond making stuff. …They understand that, life is fragile and if they’re going to spend their time doing something, then it better be worth it. If they’re going to spend their money on something, it better be worth it. And you know, they look at brands and they say, okay, before I buy this brand, how do they treat their employees? What are their products made of? What do they really stand for? And I, I honestly think that COVID has changed the mindset of consumers a little bit and will continue to do so, because we’re just more hyper aware of the fragility of this whole thing.”

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