TASH KEYNOTES PHD MEDIA'S BRAINSCAPE EVENT IN DUBAI
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Here is the transcript for the talk:
When I was a little girl, I wanted to be the first female black belt under 13 in New Zealand. It’s fair to say challenging social constructs, challenging people’s expectations, challenging my parents has always been in my DNA. So it’s no surprise that as an adult and through my career, I have gravitated towards brands that push boundaries, that go against the grain and challenge what it is to do business, brands that have a deep purpose and understand why they exist outside of just profit.
It’s not about being a challenger for the sake of it, or for a marketing tactic, in fact people will see through this. It’s about finding a deep and core passion that a brand is built around. Something that unites a tribe of people to create a ground swell, a movement. It’s about telling a story that binds people, challenges social constructs slowly breaking down barriers and creating the new.
Let me ask you something, what is your purpose? What ignites a fire in your belly? My purpose is to create a world where people feel heard, where I feel heard. My purpose is to create a world where people feel like they belong, where I belong. Belonging is a fundamental human need and creating a sense of belonging in the world of branding is what I gravitate towards. It’s why I love working for and building challenger brands.
So why am I telling you all of this? Because this is what drives a challenger brand to real growth. It is the ability to know yourself, and to share stories that connect with others, creating moments of emotional impact that build a movement, it is the ability to stick to your core and your values unapologetically, even when people or your environment tell you you’re wrong. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about being genuine and human. It’s about allowing yourself to make mistakes but learning, growing and ultimately coming back to your purpose. It’s about building consistency and being connected and genuine about who you are because
You’re not for everybody but you are for somebody.
LUSH - The People’s Champion
So, let’s talk about LUSH, founded by a group of animal and environmental activists who didn’t want to leave their ethics at home when they came to work. The 3 founding principles are all animal welfare, human rights and environmental sustainability. All business decisions are based around these pillars and the business is governed with this compass. A brand for the people, a brand created to be the voice of those unheard. LUSH was created with the idea that our world is a big ecosystem and one part of it doesn’t thrive if another is barely surviving.
LUSH offers an alternative business model to regular business. It offers, global ethical sourcing, hand making products, running campaigns that drive social change within the 3 key pillars and a powerful ability to question social norms, challenge and change them. Today, LUSH is still family owned out of a small and humble town in England called Poole. Now, with over 930 stores globally, 15,000 staff and millions of global customers from 51 countries… it’s fair to say, this agent for change, this people’s champion, has seen success with not just a sustainable business model but one that regenerates communities, one that attracts thousands of like-minded staff and customers. It’s the staff who really drive the passion and core values forward, keeping the brand genuine and grassroots.
While I was at LUSH we supported amazing causes from stopping deforestation, stopping the displacement of indigenous people and animal welfare in Sumatra, right through to - plastic free initiatives, creating a whole line of ‘naked’ products without packaging to support the reduction of plastic use in cosmetics. We challenged social constructs of masculinity, femininity and what it means to feel like yourself, to be yourself.
I want to share with you a journey I went on with LUSH alongside our creative director Brooke Austin. She had this idea about what it meant to be a strong and powerful woman, what it felt like to be naked, what it felt like to love yourself and your own skin, what it felt like to see thousands of images in fashion and beauty that were edited, photoshopped, changed to fit into the social norm of what ‘beauty’ is.
Together, we decided to pull a group of staff from stores, manufacturing and head office. We setup a room in our Sydney kitchens and had 11 women from all walks of life, join us for what was a very Naked day in the office. Together, we all talked about the personal shame that comes with being naked, the beauty that dimples and cellulite and tattoos and, and hair dos, all shapes and sizes of women looked like. That day, we broke down some real barriers, we took some absolutely stunning photos of these women, they smiled, cried, laughed, it was a day that had healing in it, a day that I will never forget. Brooke and I stood arm in arm, not believing our eyes when we finally got the shot.
The shot, that would eventually go viral, reaching 10 million people, sparking global conversation about what it was to be beautiful, about weight, about hair, photoshopping, editing skin and more, it’s fair to say this campaign wasn’t for everyone. There was a strong 50/50 split in sentiment and how people felt. Some people felt it was too revealing, some people felt it wasn’t the right message to be sending, some people felt it was the best most truthful representation of themselves and it was finally something they could resonate with. We knew, we weren’t for everybody but we were for somebody. We were championing and challenging the social norms of what beauty is for women supported by the backing and strength of a business who’s key pillar encompasses human rights.
We chose our staff, always, to be our models, we didn’t edit their bodies, their skin or their hair, we showed them in the raw, real, authentic and beautiful genuineness that was just them. That month we had a 45% increase in sales BUT to be honest, it wasn’t what we set out to do. We set out to share a story, a message we felt strongly about and something that stuck to our core pillars of who LUSH is as a brand. To question social norms and not just accept the status quo but instead, recreate it. We pushed the brand into an honest dialogue about beauty in a way that we’d never done before. Following this campaign we saw many brands begin sharing images unedited, raw and real and we like to think that maybe, just maybe we had a part in changing this social normal, in changing the narrative of beauty.
For brands like LUSH it’s intrinsic to make business decisions based on the core, founding values. It’s what drives the business forward and it’s part of the model, and there’s such a freedom in.
So, even when it’s scary, even when it’s different, just take action that’s in your purpose! Be for the people who connect with your message and stick to that message no matter what. Stick to your key pillars and founding values, it’s not always about the profit, sometimes just telling an amazing story can be just the bi-product of awesome sales results. Be the champion for the people who need it most.
Parcelpoint - The Feisty Underdog
I left LUSH in the middle of 2018 and began a new journey in September that year that would see a whole new set of learnings for me. I took on a role at Parcelpoint, a small tech and logistics start up, supporting retailers to get their parcels to Australian people in the easiest way, within their communities. Parcelpoint is an underdog in logistics in Australia, a David compared to the beast that is Australia Post which is a government body and dominates the market share. I was excited about the opportunity presented by Parcelpoint to rebrand and create lasting messages differing from anyone else in logistics. It’s fair to say this career leap has been a gigantic learning curve, a new industry, moving from a large retail business to a start up, rebranding in what is a traditional and rigid industry… I thought, if I can make logistics sexy, I can do anything.
Coming on board, I was excited to work alongside one of the founders, Julian Leach, to understand the core, the purpose and the ‘why’ of Parcelpoint. In listening more to the founding story, what we felt was that we needed to go back to our roots, back to simply creating better experiences for people and communities all across the continent. I need to go back to our fighting underdog spirit to challenge the big guns in the industry. Julian founded the business on a simple notion that it had to be easier to order your online shopping and get it delivered, after a negative and common experience at the post office, lining up in a long queue, during working hours, to pick up his parcel which he had received a ‘sorry we missed you’ calling card for. When he finally got to the front of the line he was told his parcel had gone all the way back to the USA.
Not only was he frustrated that he couldn’t take his parcel home, he was frustrated that he’d stood in line, during working hours, that his book had been flown to Australia and then flown all the way back to the USA, the carbon emissions for that one tiny book were ever-mounting.
So Julian did what any challenger would do, he took the fight to Australia Post (the Goliath) and printed out a very similar branded, ‘sorry we missed you’ calling cards with a new message, a new way of receiving your online orders. He stood outside that very post office he’d lined up in and handed them out to keen shoppers who he’d chat to about sending their parcels to his home. And that’s how it all started, locally in Bondi with a little bit of geurilla marketing off the back of a very frustrating experience. He knew he was onto something when Auspost wanted to shut him down, and the fighter inside unleashed.
Between 2011 and 2019, Parcelpoint had grown significantly, now with 30 staff, 1400 Parcelpoint pickup and drop off locations across Australia, open longer hours and on weekends and partnering with over 200 retailers including giants, eBay and Amazon. Now, a real challenger in the market. We had grown through sheer sales muscle in the B2B space, marketing went dormant and the message of who we were had dwindled into the background.
And so, when I joined in September of last year, the beginnings of the rebrand work had been done but I felt just wasn’t quite deep enough, we hadn’t gone to the core, we hadn’t asked the deeper questions to get to the heart and to create real, lasting foundations. I had to go with my gut and find other people to work with, even though money and time had been invested. I felt we had one chance to get this right and to reset the scene for Parcelpoint, in a timeless way that brought our underdog story and spirit back to life. So we began work with another agency partner called the Good Empire.
We placed our focus on ‘why’ we existed, why we started in the first place and we came back to those founding moments, starting from the beginning. We came back to creating a better experience for people in their communities, giving people back their time and their power. We came back to the warm spirited and warm hearted customer experience we want to share, the experience of opening a parcel or receiving a gift and in doing so, we found our feisty feet again. We knew that by going back to our roots we might lose some people along that journey but we also knew we’d gain new people too.
Here’s where we are today at the beginning of our rebranded journey with an awesome bright and long road ahead. We are excited to be different, to stand out, to be bold and brave, and we aren’t afraid of trying something new in the industry, something that people don’t expect or don’t even know they want or need yet! It’s like Uber, we didn’t know we needed it, until we did.
I’m excited to share that Parcelpoint has been growing aggressively and smashing some pretty amazing goals, we’ve seen hugh growth over the last few years, we’ve just launched our first electric vehicle in Sydney and we are open 21 more hours per week on average than the old post office.
Being a feisty underdog is an interesting Challenger to be, the question begs, when are you large enough to no longer be the underdog and what do you then become? For Parcelpoint, I think we are a few years off our challenger transition and we could fall into the styles of Next Generation, The Local Hero or Real & Human. As the new branding and story begins to mature it will become clearer which path we take but for now we are boldly and fiercely an underdog!
So we lost our way a little bit and the lesson is really about coming back to your core and your why, even when it seems hard, even when it seems out of reach. Asking ourselves, why do we exist? Helps bring us back to our reality. Looking inwardly about who you are for the people you serve is how you can get back to you… Being genuine is not about perfection, it’s about being human. It’s okay to be afraid and take a bold risk, because standing out and being different is what creates real change.
In true feisty underdog style here’s a little dig at our friends over at Australia Post.
ARNA - The Missionary
In April this year, my sister and I launched our own side hustle while both working full time in our roles, me at Parcelpoint and Arianne at LinkedIn. We are both passionate about what we do and discovered a common passion for women’s rights. In 2018, Arianne started a marketing course and discovered a little niche in the market. She realised that it was really difficult to find awesome quality women’s laptop and work bags. We got talking about this gap, how we could test it and what our bags could look like, who were they for. And of course, my challenger brain began ticking.
We knew the niche was important but the story and who we were and who we were going to be, was even more important. I knew from experience that starting with a strong, bold core and foundation could only lead to powerful changes in major social issues. So being 2 women in leadership roles in tech and logistics, it was obvious that women’s rights, women’s leadership, opportunities, pay, sexuality, sexualisation, strength, power, empathy, emotion and equality, these were all things we could speak about from lived experience, these were all areas that we could make some real change.
Just to put women’s rights into perspective, there is officially 208 years before we can expect to see gender parity, 208 years. AND, there are more Andrew’s as CEOs than female CEOs in the top 100 companies in Australia. It’s fair to say we have our work cut out for us and we are on a mission!
So our brand ARNA was born, born out of our names, Arianne and Natasha, and created through our designer Becky Hughes who brought to life our vision in her art. Our vision is to change the stories women see and tell about themselves in society and our mission is to empower women to make bold decisions, to step forward and to take action.
In our first few months we have sold just under 30 units of our beautiful laptop and work bags, we have donated 1% of profits to a local women’s charity who support women experiencing homelessness and we are about to launch our very own designs and our first campaign. Our campaign will embody everything you could expect from this movement of women’s empowerment, a bold statement of who we are as women and an ask for us to look inwardly at ourselves, to reflect, to be accountable and to understand how fierce we really are. We are asking women all over the world to own their fierceness with pride and the power that comes from within. We are asking men to join us on this journey to support us and to help us grow.
Our mission is about bringing the world to a higher place and bringing us all along for the journey that is empowering women in the world, in our careers and in our lives. We challenge you to look at yourself and ask yourself the question… how can I be a part of creating equality for people on this planet? How can I reduce that 208 years to equality right now?
When you launch a brand with a challenger mindset and one clear mission you don’t just launch a business, you create a movement. We look to women gone before us and women who lead us now and hope that we too can make this kind of impact.
You too can adopt a challenger mindset in any business no matter the size or style, it doesn’t matter how big your business is, it’s your mindset that can change the game.
My journey through challenger brands has been an exciting one, it’s been a wild ride of ups and downs, of committing to a higher purpose than profit, it’s been a commitment to the people I serve, the change I want to see made in the world.
My lessons have been to feel fear but take action anyway, to push through boundaries and take the harder or unexpected route because it pays off.
My lesson has been that we don’t have to be for everybody just for somebody.
My lesson has been to go with my gut, ask questions and go back to the core, the purpose and the ‘why’ a brand exists. Looking to your roots when you feel a bit lost or you’ve made a mistake.
My lesson has been that being genuine is not about perfection but about being human.
My lesson has been to launch a brand with something that means everything to you, to stand strong on your beliefs and to take risks to build a movement not just sell a product.
So I’ll leave you with this, launch with passion everyday, even when you’re scared, take action anyway, take action towards your purpose, go back to your purpose when you feel lost and always challenge.
Don't just accept the status quo, recreate it.
Book us in to speak at your next event. We can tailor talks for your organisation.