…A movement to educate and empower girls around the world. Educate a girl, you educate a family, decrease overpopulation, disease, environmental impact, terrorism, poverty and a whole host of other issues. The greatest impact you can make apart from solving climate change is educating girls in most countries around the world.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Scott Goodson.
Scott Goodson is the founder, CEO of StrawberryFrog, which focuses on helping companies transform, merge, employee engagement as well as external marketing through Movement Thinking™. #ActivateBrandPurpose is his new book: How to Harness the Power of Movement Thinking to Transform Your Company.” (2021) written with Chip Walker. For 25 years Scott has helped business leaders galvanize people and organizations around shared purpose via ‘Movement Thinking’ to achieve competitive advantage.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series Scott! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Iam proud of our new book #ActivateBrandPurpose, which I wrote with Chip Walker. In essence it reflects what I have always been about. When I was a university student in Canada, I was an activist against South African apartheid. I wanted to be a lawyer and go into government to drive change. I wanted to do something constructive, good, positive with my life.
I attended Western University in Canada, home to the young men and women of the Canadian establishment. There, I met a brilliant woman from Barbados. She wanted to be the president of the university I attended in Canada. Her father was a carpenter and she didn’t think she had much chance of realizing her dream. We agreed to work together — her as candidate and me as campaign manager. The student newspaper did not include her in the candidates running as they didn’t think she had a chance — this is back in the early 80s. Joke was on them. We won 68% of the vote and she became the university student president.
At that moment, I realized the power that marketing had and the positive impact I could make with this as a career. This journey led me to write my best selling book “Uprising: How to Build a Brand and Change the World by Sparking Cultural Movements” in 2012. And in 2021, “Activate Brand Purpose,” how movement thinking can drive growth, transformation and positive change.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
Afew years ago I met a father whose son died of an opioid overdose. I learned that he was the victim of something he called accidental opioid addiction. In other words the son had hurt his leg in a sports game, went to the doctor and was prescribed opioid painkillers. And in the blink of an eye, he became addicted. Like many Americans he immediately became addicted to opinion painkillers. Things went from bad to the unimaginable. He and his family were ostracized by the community in which they lived, while a family on the street whose son had cancer was cared for. As I dug into the issue the more I understood that there was a lack of understanding on this issue. LIke me, most people thought this drug use was a choice rather than doctor prescribed. At the time no one wanted to speak about this issue. We ignited a movement called OUT THE MONSTER which became a galvanizing force, provoking a national discussion in the media, among journalists, government, and the medical community helping bring this epidemic into the open. Eventually millions of people joined the conversation. This movement was sponsored by a MAT pharmaceutical company called Orexo. This was fulfilling in that we helped the client achieve their business goals but moreover brought this issue front and center focusing tough discussions, and helping to drive positive change across the USA.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
In 1999 when Karin Drakenberg and I founded StrawberryFrog, we decided to bring together a non-executive board of directors. Some big names who could guide us in our journey. The StrawberryFrog Board sat on an original and smart company, whose basic idea worked very profitably. Our work started to be respected not just in Europe, but also in America and Asia. We conducted business with decency. The Board’s role was to encourage the partners to stick to the company strategy we set out for ourselves. (Even we are sometimes not immune to overstaffing and underpaying. To encourage us not to be afraid of our own courage, because it is enormous. To console us when things are tough. (One board member has been usually in a similar bind before.) To help us be as generous with our people as our business allows us to be when things are good. To encourage us to be firm with the occasional difficult client. (Rarely ever needed. Karin is pretty firm without coaching.) To bring in the perspective from other types of experience (or other generations). The StrawberryFrog management team actually listens to the board. And we always say thank you. The Board always has a lot of fun. That’s it in a nutshell. We wanted one of the world’s most admired strategic and creative minds as the chairman, Uli Weisendanger, the founder of global advertising agency TBWA. Convincing him to join our startup seemed at the time unachievable. We managed to have a phone call, and even convinced him to come to Amsterdam (where we founded StrawberryFrog in 1999) for a meeting. We had arranged for Uli to stay at the Hilton hotel in Amsterdam, and met us for breakfast the next morning. We had a car pick him up and bring him to the hotel. Upon arrival he was told by the reception desk that there was no booking and, moreover, the entire city was full for a large convention. No rooms! Our office manager had omitted to book a room. Yikes. The next morning we picked him up bright and early. As soon as he sat in the car we asked “so how was your evening.” To which he replied with a story about having no room, but having a hotel manager arrange for him to stay at a hotel an hour away from Amsterdam. Upon hearing this I immediately realized that we had zero to no chance of having Uli on our board. But then he said something that startled us. He said “You know I have never slept in a water bed, and that is what this hotel offered. I loved it. That and the fact that all the staff wore leopard skin outfits, it was so cute.” I quickly realized that he was exactly the perfect person to be our chairman. He was kind, he was thoughtful, and he turned a negative situation into one that he and Karin and I enjoyed talking about for many years.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
StrawberryFrog is a purpose driven company: We use creativity for good. To create good results for our clients, good impacts for our team mates, and good for society and the world at large. We use our magic power to drive positive change and business results for Fortune 500 companies. Our focus at StrawberryFrog is activating brand purpose, about helping business leaders (CEOs, CMOs, CHROs, CSOs, and CFOs) and companies transform their companies, change employee habits and grow among consumers while driving positive change in the world. We wrote the book #ActivateBrandPurpose to get to the heart of what’s wrong with modern purpose and lay out a pragmatic roadmap for how business leaders can activate brand purpose and drive positive change. We have heard a lot of talk from CEOs, now it is time for action on the big problems out there. The enormity of the actual challenges is head spinning. Just think about the SEC announcement that they’re setting up an Enforcement Task Force Focused on Climate and ESG Issues. And the Business Roundtable about-face declaring the Purpose of a Corporation to Promote ‘An Economy That Serves All Americans’ Government can only do so much. It’s in the interest of companies to galvanize their employees and their consumers…and help them live better lives. We need less WOKE CEOs and more Warrior CEOs who turn toothless purpose into action.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
Anand Mahindra the Chairman of Mahindra, one of the most powerful companies in India was one of the first major leaders to fully embrace the idea of defining and activating brand purpose with what I call Movement Thinking™. He immediately understood the potential of applying the principles of societal movements to activating purpose to the people who matter both inside and outside the company. Others who have been incredibly influential include Susan Somersille Johson formerly of SunTrust/Truist, now at Prudential, Lucas Watson who led digital at P&G and hired us for the global Pampers brand, and Tim Clark CEO of Emirates Airline. I have been incredibly fortunate to work with visionary leaders.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Work together with business leaders to solve the big challenges out there.
The essence of our new book is that companies can tackle some of the big problems out there whilst making a profit. In fact this approach is a growth and innovations driver. Government and communities can only do so much to solve the vast array of issues we face as a society. It’s time for CEOs and business leaders to stop talking about purpose and start delivering tangible actions.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
In the context of our new book #ActivateBrandPurpose it means the CEO, CHRO, CSO, CMO, CEO, and CFO of Fortune 500 companies. People who can galvanize thousands and millions of people around ideas on the rise in culture that drive positive change.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Focus on solving the big challenges we face, don’t just start a business for wealth and fame. The world is full of problems to be solved as my friend Dion Hughes the founder of Hibar soaps told me. Each one of those represents immense opportunity for startups. Why focus on ideas the world does not need, when there’s good business in solving problems.
- Be kind ( I have been incredibly fortunate to work with and have connected to StrawberryFrog very kind and thoughtful individuals. I emphasize kindness because when it comes down to it those are the ones who make the kind of impact that truly matters. )
- Find your voice (When you start out you tend to emulate others and learn from them, and as you grow you find your own voice, what you care about, what moves you. I was owner of an ad agency in Stockholm, Sweden in the 90s and then after it was sold I founded StrawberryFrog with Karin Drakenberg, a Swede who runs the operations of the company. I found my voice when we started StrawberryFrog, and put ideas out there that initially were ridiculed but eventually became admired and copied.)
- I am a born entrepreneur. I suppose if someone told me this early in my career I would have started a whole host of different companies instead of giving birth to thousands of ideas which have helped some of the most admired companies grow.
- There is always a solution to every problem. I suppose when I was younger I didn’t necessarily believe this. And moreover I learned over time the importance of building a tight management team where ideas can come from anyone. Most often it is not from the CEO.
- Learn to say “Ok, next.” There will be times when you will fail. Instead of taking it personally say “ok, next” and move on. There is only so much energy you have and if you spend it trying to understand why some things happen you’ll kick yourself and your greatest magic power as a CEO and founder is optimism. They say it can’t be done. They say it’s impossible, They say it’ll next work, etc… they are wrong. But on the oft chance that they are right, ok, next.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
A movement to educate and empower girls around the world. Educate a girl, you educate a family, decrease overpopulation, disease, environmental impact, terrorism, poverty and a whole host of other issues. The greatest impact you can make apart from solving climate change is educating girls in most countries around the world.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My father once told me “if you’re going to sell a fish, you might as well sell a big fish.” The life lesson I took from this was THINK BIGGER. Or asking myself, am I thinking big enough. When StrawberryFrog was one of the most admired creative companies on the planet, my co-founder and I asked this question. Six months later we moved to NYC and opened our offices inside the Empire State Building.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
The most provocative idea is that businesses can and should drive positive change. That it is in their best interest to do so. To help people live long, healthy lives in environmentally sound communities. Because when they live longer they buy more. Getting this word out has been our life’s work. Bringing creativity for good. Now it is time. Our new book #ActivateBrandPurpose by Chip Walker and me is a call to arms by leaders in the business community. I would like to have a private breakfast with Oprah (or other culturally powerful and influential people) to ask her advice and to help me spread the word. So that CEOs aspire to activate purpose and not simply talk about it.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Linkedin > https://www.linkedin.com/in/scottgoodson/
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!