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Re:think report: Blue Bottle Coffee, Saatchi & Saatchi S leaders discuss building a strong and ethical brand

New Resource Bank - Speakers
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New Resource Bank

Purpose, people, pleasure and profit are trumping the traditional product, price, place and promotion as the new “4 P’s of marketing,” Annie Longsworth told attendees at New Resource Bank’s re:think event on Oct. 3.

As CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi S North America, a sustainability consulting and communications firm whose mission is to “make sustainability irresistible,” Longsworth works with both fledgling companies starting with a sustainability mindset and large corporations trying to redirect their operations onto a more sustainable path. In both cases, the new 4 P’s are central to building a sustainable brand.


Purpose: Longsworth cited London Business School research showing that a strategically coherent and well-communicated purpose accounts for an increase in financial gains of almost 20 percent, and that purpose represents 40 percent of an organization’s reputation.

People: “What do Intel and Seventh Generation have in common?” she asked. The answer: “They both incentivize employees based on environmental goals” by integrating sustainability targets into their employee bonus structures. If the people in your business don’t buy into your purpose and your sustainability vision, failure is practically assured. If they do buy in, employees can drive success and become the core carrier of your brand values, Longsworth said, noting that Tony Hsieh built Zappos into a store worth $800 million based on company culture. “HR is the heart of the brand.”

Pleasure: Fear of dire consequences may get people’s attention, but pleasure motivates them, she said. For example, companies like Method and Patagonia produce products that appeal to customers’ desires first. Sustainability is an intrinsic quality to both businesses’ products—it’s not a separate value.

Profit: It’s OK to talk about doing good and making a profit, said Longsworth, noting that “consumers see it as enabling companies to do more good work.” She cited Edelman’s 2012 Good Purpose survey, which found that people increasingly think it’s OK for brands to support good causes and make money at the same time (76 percent of respondents said so).

Blue Bottle’s Organic Approach

New Resource client Blue Bottle Coffee illustrates all those principles, probably none more vividly than pleasure.

Founder and CEO James Freeman started Blue Bottle in 2002, roasting coffee in a converted potting shed in Oakland and selling it at farmers markets. “I was basically just trying to make the kind of coffee I wanted to drink,” Freeman said. “It baffled some people and delighted others.”

It delighted enough of them that Blue Bottle now has four cafés and a kiosk in San Francisco; a production facility and café in Oakland, Calif.; four locations in New York; and new cafés under development in Los Angeles, Oakland and New York. 

“It’s nice to have a plan, but I didn’t,” said Freeman, adding, “I meet people who are so into their plan they lose their product. We just grew every year. We do a lot of things that spring out of my desire to have them.”

People organized around a clear purpose is one thing that allows spontaneous ideas to take off successfully. Challenged by his managers a few years ago to come up with a mission statement, Freeman boiled it down to three words: deliciousness, hospitality and sustainability.

“It’s simple,” he said. “Any question that comes up we can basically answer by appealing to those words.”

Another key factor: “The investors and bankers I’ve chosen to work with haven’t said, ‘Well, James, you have to open 6.2 stores in the next year,’ and put me in a position where I had to do something that didn’t feel right.”

Blue Bottle is using its success to drive greater sustainability as well as expand to new markets. The company is working on a bean container with a recyclable vapor barrier that will give its product a shelf life without resorting to packaging that inevitably ends up in a landfill.

“As we grow, we’re able to afford more things like that, and it’s exciting,” Freeman said.

Read more about Blue Bottle’s sustainability approach and how New Resource has supported the company’s growth.

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