Image Source Booby Shoes

Earlier this year we explored Havas Media’s future of Meaningful Brands. The conclusion was that 75% of brands could disappear off the earth tomorrow unless they provide meaningful content and impact. Interestingly, 75% of consumers expect brands to make a contribution to wider social causes.

To be a meaningful brand, our conclusion was resolved to predict a future of successful brand and retail engagement rooted in empathy. As such, nurturing social currency and community driven concepts would drive this. We have been exploring how brands can foster tolerance, inclusivity, unity and community in design, whilst as the same time nurturing socially aware and conscious brands.

So why exactly are conscious brands important? Last year, a study called ‘The Future of the Corporate Brand’ interviewed 10,000 adults in 28 markets including the US, UK, Canada, Brazil, Indian and France. Interesting insights from the survey include the fact that 73% of consumers believe companies have a responsibility to do more than just generate a profit. 53% avoid buying from companies that have a negative social or environmental impact. Additionally, 75% believe companies have an ethical obligation to operate in a way that doesn’t harm the environment.

With this in mind, our Retail Strategist, Alice sat down with Plum Turner, Co-Founder of Booby Shoes; a socially conscious footwear brand that empowers consumers to make purchases that improve the environment. We discuss how to build a kick ass brand, what goes into nurturing a start-up, socially conscious messaging, the environment and most importantly, having fun along the way.

Alice: So Plum, before we get started on how your brand is going to protect endangered habitats and improve the world in the process, I love the name. Have you raised eyebrows? I hope so. Can you elaborate?

Plum: We haven’t totally lost the plot… but people definitely raise an eyebrow when we tell them we’re called BOOBY! The story behind the brand name is actually pretty cool and is inspired by the Booby bird who, when they are healthy, have bright blue feet. However, climate change, over-fishing and pollution have all impacted on the overall health of their environment and consequently the vibrant colour of their feet has become paler and paler. We are using the Booby bird as a barometer for the fight we face to protect endangered habitats around the world. It is something that myself and my Co-Founder, Luke feel absolutely passionate about.

Image Source Booby Shoes

Alice: That is a really impressive story. It’s great as the name is attention grabbing and the message behind the brand is equally inspiring and mission driven. As a retail design agency, we have been exploring a shift in luxury, whereby consumers are moving away from materialism. Instead they are pursuing opportunities to display knowledge and make decisions that reflect a green and ethical status. It’s really exciting. Can you tell me more about how your consumer will be helping to protect endangered habitats?

Plum: Absolutely! We are so excited to be launching a business in a time when so many people are being proactive about wider social causes and thinking twice about the kind of purchases they make. Our business is driven by a ‘Feet for Feet’ model. For every pair of boat shoes purchased, we will protect 1,000 square feet of endangered habitat. We are able to do this by joining forces with the World Land Trust. Additionally, simply by joining the BOOBY community through our website, you can protect 10 square feet of endangered habitat right now. It literally takes one click!

Alice: Ok. I’m signing up right now. It’s so interesting because we live in a time whereby we as consumers turn to brands to champion the change we want in the world. Earlier this year, there was a lot of discussion about trust being in crisis. Consumers no longer look to governments and institutions and place much greater faith in brands to be vehicles for change. It is such an interesting time for brands. However, what excites me the most is the idea that brands are fostering communities. Can you tell me more about what you envision the BOOBY community to look like?

Plum: We couldn’t agree more. As a brand, we are governed by and have a strong responsibility to our community. That is why, next year, we have chosen to launch with a crowdfunding campaign. Everything between now and then will be focused on building and listening to our community to ensure the campaign is a success and we deliver a product they love and (hopefully!) want to rave about. We actually already turn to our community on a regular basis. During the design process for example, we asked members for their direct (and brutal) feedback on drawings, features and colourways. This helps us really understand the improvements they actually want rather than what we think they want.

Alice: Yes! Of course. We look forward to all the surprises in the run up until then. At Sheridan&Co, we believe it is so important for brands to commit to wider social causes in order to remain relevant regardless of what industry they are in. For instance, H&M has disclosed that by 2030 the company will use 100% recycled and sustainably sourced materials for all products. However, as a start-up you are starting from scratch right?

Plum: Start-ups are in a really unique position. We have the opportunity to shape the future and create a socially conscious blueprint that is at the heart of our brand. Larger companies who have been running for a long time are now having to go back to their processes and reconsider and redefine internal structures. That is a lengthy process. We are incredibly fortunate to have a socially driven mission ingrained from the get go.
Internally we also live and breathe by our company values. One of the very first things Luke and I did when we first started was to sit down and write our company values. These values govern every business decision we make and we always turn back to these when faced with a difficult decision.

Alice: Being value driven is so important. This brings me to ask you about start-up culture and your personal journey. How did you get to where you are now and what advice would you give anyone looking to launch a brand or start-up?

Plum: I come from a start-up background having worked at Oppo ice cream for the last three years. The founders, Harry and Charlie, taught me a lot about the work that goes into creating a successful business. I have witnessed first-hand the difficulties and challenges start-ups are tasked with on a daily basis. It is crucial to really believe and live by your mission as you have to be able to keep going regardless of whether or not things are going your way. Which often they might not be! But most importantly, have fun, laugh at your mistakes and don’t take yourself too seriously.