I believe that business can be an active force for good. And as I’m gearing up for the 2011 Outdoor Retailer Summer Market I’m excited about several emerging initiatives that blend commerce and philanthropy to achieve positive social change. By adding benevolent acts of good to their bottom line companies large and small can effectively contribute to the preservation of wilderness and the betterment of human lives.
A grand ideal to be sure but since 2004 a marketing firm from my home base in Madison Wisconsin has contributed more $1.8 million in goods and services to support the work of over 100 non-profits. Knupp, Watson and Wallman (KW2) created a unique promotion vehicle to quickly build high quality advertising materials to help these charitable organizations tell their stories. Called Goodstock the annual event conjures up frantic storm of enthusiasm that is inspiring to behold. And I’m thrilled to announce that in 2012 the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market will host Goodstock as a four-day marketing experience live on the show floor.
“When I heard about what Goodstock does, my ears instantly perked up,” said OR show director Kenji Haroutunian. “The vision of a concentrated effort of a core group of advertising, marketing and PR folks substantially contributing to a non-profit is like teaching a hungry person to fish, rather than offering up some sushi.”
I had the pleasure of introducing KW2 to OR back in the spring. As journalist in 2004 I wrote the first story on Goodstock for the daily newspaper in Madison and I have watched with rapt attention ever since as the program has continued to grow. I recently reported on the expansion of Goodstock to other markets in the U.S. and Canada. With so many companies in the outdoor industry whose culture and ethos include philanthropic giving I figured bringing Goodstock to OR was a no-brainer.
“We’ve seen the awesome power of Goodstock at work in Madison for seven years now, so naturally we’re quite pumped to do more good on the national stage at OR,” said KW2 president Andy Wallman. “I love how participating in Goodstock will pay the outdoor recreation businesses back. It’ll increase the power of every marketing dollar, while having that dollar go directly towards improving what the category needs with each passing day: better air, water and land.”
The non-profits that Goodstock aims to help during OR could include any of the many organizations that not only protect wildlife, but those that serve humanitarian causes as well. To date the program has provided marketing assistance to the Aldo Leopold Nature Center, Earthsave Canada, Friends of Wisconsin State Parks, The Prairie Enthusiasts, Natural Heritage Land Trust, Alliance for Animals and the River Food Pantry. With the financial support of industry companies during the Winter Market Goodstock will share professional marketing expertise to create high impact collateral for each organization chosen to participate. And in the process KW2 will also help to lead a serious conversation on the vital importance of connecting companies and customers with the charities and causes that support their active lifestyles.
Over the past week I’ve received dozens of invitations to see the latest in adventure gear soon to be on display during the summer market. But eager as I am to see all the cool new tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, hiking boots and paddling gear I have yet to book a single appointment. Crazy as it might sound I’m far less interested in the new crop of gadgets and garments than I am in learning about how this gear and the companies who make them will get more people outside to use them. For me Outdoor Retailer has become far less about products and more about purpose.
After almost 20 years attending OR I’ve come to the conclusion that the business of outdoor recreation is not the sale and purchase of consumer products. Instead I believe that our business, our purpose is to facilitate people’s access to nature. And while the creation of exquisitely designed equipment, apparel and footwear can certainly make the outdoors infinitely more comfortable I’m curious to learn how each company is using its products or marketing prowess to more fully engage people in experiencing nature and encourage them to preserve it. As a journalist those are the kinds of stories I’m looking for. If you’ve got a story to share along those lines I’m eager to hear it. Let’s set up a meeting. email@example.com
The purpose of Goodstock is to be that corner of OR where during the show we become directly involved in supporting those organizations whose work protects the resources that make our business possible. By creating shared value, connecting the interests of business and good works in the community, I believe that we can do an even better job of selling products and inspiring customers to spend time outside.
“Businesses must reconnect company success with social progress,” wrote Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer in the Harvard Business Review. “Shared value is not social responsibility, philanthropy, or even sustainability, but a new way to achieve economic success. It is not on the margin of what companies do but at the center. We believe that it can give rise to the next major transformation of business thinking.”
Combining business and social activism is the wave of the future. In the outdoor industry we have long linked environmental protection with the production and use of quality recreation equipment and clothing. But with the devastating impact to our planet and our people we are quickly moving past a consumption-based business model charged by flashy sales events and celebrity endorsements. Instead we can now embrace a cause-based model where we link brand recognition to the good works of activists and institutions that are leading the way toward a more secure and sustainable future.
More details on Goodstock will be rolling out in the days and weeks to come. Drop us a note if you have immediate questions. But for now give some thought to how your business or way of life is working to make the world a better place. ~ JEM
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