By Harrison Malone
The belief which underpins Thankyou is remarkable.
“To end global poverty in this lifetime.”
A lot of people say these words. A lot of people also fail to follow through or deliver with action.
In 2008 Daniel Flynn was a university student. One day he sat at his computer and stumbled upon some statistics that would change the course of his life. It might have been this wikipedia page. I do know that he found out about water borne diseases and that 1.8 million people die every year from them.
He has said that tears welled up in his eyes after reading this awful data. The reality is that most of these deaths are preventable with the installation of clean drinking water access. We are lucky enough to have this in Australia. Yet, we still drink a lot of bottled water.
Daniel put two and two together. He came up with a social enterprise model that was backed by these altruistic beliefs. It was to be a business that would sell bottled water in Australia but all of the profits would be redistributed to project partners. In other words, to help fund charities who install safe water facilities in places like Kenya and Cambodia.
Explained like this it sounds impossible. Preposterous that this idea could actually work. Daniel and his team were young and inexperienced. They were up against giant conglomerates who had million dollar budgets.
However, they grew the business by working their asses off. They never took no as an answer. And they managed to disrupt the fast moving consumer goods industry.
Today I finished reading Chapter One which is a book written by Thankyou managing director Daniel Flynn. Much of the insight into this phenomenal brand can be found within. It details the Thankyou journey thus far and serves as motivation for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Like the brand it talks about, this book itself goes against the grain of everything that’s been done. Firstly, it’s printed in landscape which basically means the book is formatted the wrong way around. Secondly, the book is sold with a pay what you want pricing scheme. That means consumers can pay as little as 50 cents or as much as 100 dollars. And thirdly, by purchasing the book you become part of the Thankyou movement. Every cent of profit from sales is being donated to growth. Almost $1.5 million has been crowdfunded as of early June.
The big news out of Chapter One is that it’s been a resounding success. Thankyou will soon expand into New Zealand, and scale up its food and water ranges by introducing baby products.
Throughout Chapter One, Flynn often talks about this idea of why and attributes this why to the success of the Thankyou brand. Put simply, it’s why do I do this job?
It’s on the label of every product they sell. 750mL of life changing.
From a BE perspective the question of why is the very question answered within the BE process. Everything a BE business does starts and ends with answering why what you do matters.
But this alone isn’t enough. You need to understand your why and also have the ability to do things different to everyone else. You have to get your brand to stand out amongst the crowd. For Thankyou, this was key in a market everyone thought was “already covered” by Coca Cola Amatil and Evian.
In Chapter One, Flynn uses the perfect the perfect analogy to summarise his thoughts on differentiation. I’d like to share an excerpt with you here.
“You may have heard the expression ‘putting the cart before the horse’. It’s often used as a negative reference by suggesting someone is doing things the wrong way or in the wrong order. But I like the idea that by doing things the wrong way, you can sometimes have your cart pulling the horse. This is remarkable (people will literally remark about it). Why? Because no one notices horses that pull carts; they blend in. But people are intrigued by the cart that pulls the horse and might just want to get on board this phenomenon, which only adds to momentum.”
The Thankyou story has a sense of defiance about it. It has looked at the status quo and done it differently and really believed in the importance of their mission. As consumers, we love this sense of boldness. We want to follow a brand that has meaning and belief. One that this childlike sense of anything is possible about it. It shoots for the big stuff like building a consumer movement and pulling a horse with a cart.
From the outset, Thankyou faced huge problems. The first manufactured run of water bottles had to be recalled due to damaged labels. Then there were factory supply issues that pushed many stockists away.
They also struggled to get large retailers on board which for management was the most frustrating difficulty. Having only a few grassroots cafes as buyers wasn’t going to cut it if they were ever to achieve their dream.
This is when Sunrise, the most watched morning show in Australia, gave Thankyou “a lot of airtime” after Flynn sent the producer a letter explaining the brand. The feature story that aired was an inspiring call to action and really got the ball rolling.
This created brand momentum. This idea of momentum is summarised in Chapter One and in this article however I will attempt to explain it in less detail below.
Think of brand momentum as what all startups aspire to be like. They are exciting, they are a brand to be watched and tried. They might be the smallest organisation in the industry, but they are confident enough to assume a leadership role. It’s this buzz which creates a perception of strength, vision and popularity.
With momentum Thankyou was able to secure its first big contract with 7/11. A big retailer finally stocked them! And then with this momentum it was able to start negotiations with the supermarkets.
For those who are unfamiliar, Coles and Woolworths dominate the grocery sector in Australia accounting for around 75 per cent market share. To get ranged by both was the next Thankyou goal.
Enter the Coles and Woolworths campaign.
In 2013, the Thankyou team devised a marketing ploy that used social media as a weapon. Two weeks prior to the final pitch at the supermarkets, they posted a video on Youtube to circulate the plan. The intention was for it to go viral which it eventually did amassing over 100K views.
The clip initially announced an expansion into food and body care. More importantly, it then asked Thankyou loyalists to tell the supermarkets that, “If you stock Thankyou we will buy it.” This was done so by bombarding the Coles and Woolworths Facebook profiles with creative wall posts.
The campaign was also endorsed by famous Australian media personalities such as Chrissie Swan and Jules Lund. This only improved its virality and reach.
It wasn’t all that they did. Two helicopter companies donated their choppers and flew them over the head offices of the supermarkets with giant banners hanging below them.
This was risky because it really erred on the side of arrogance and smart ass. But they pulled it off. The supermarkets said “yes” to the range in a timeframe that broke all industry standards.
The Thankyou campaign is living proof that is had created its tribe and its belonging. The existing customers believed in the impact that Thankyou could potentially have on the world. Though this initiative they felt like a tribe, because collectively they could force a big company to stock a product that they liked.
Best of all, they behaved in a show of passionate brand allegiance by posting hundreds of messages on the supermarket Facebook profiles.
After finally being ranged by at the supermarket’s Thankyou started to have a huge influence on eradicating poverty. With larger margins meant more money could be given to its project partners. Here is a summary:
- They’ve helped fund safe water access for 192,367 people
- They’ve helped fund food access for 89,751 people
- They’ve helped fund disease-fighting services for 302,814 people
It also created an app that enables a customer to enter a code from a Thankyou product. This code logs detailed information on specific projects with photos and stories of the people you’ve helped by purchasing Thankyou.
It makes the money you’ve spent towards helping others intimate and real. You’re able to visualise the good work being done by the project partners.
This quote from the website captures the essence of the app,
“Have we gone to a bit much effort, maybe, but gone are the days of helping ‘someone, somewhere’, we think it’s important for you to see the results first hand.”
It’s also a perfect example of belong and behaviour because you can share your impact on Facebook. This has similar intentions to the Ice Bucket Challenge, where more and more word of mouth is spread virally about the good cause. People try to outdo each other, showing off their social responsibility, and in turn earning social capital.
Today I went to Coles and bought Thankyou water because I felt compelled to do so. I had no prior purchase history.
Here is evidence of its lower price point than its main rival Mount Franklin.
I found this interesting, as surely the market would be trying to kill Thankyou on price as they really have little else to offer. With Thankyou you are buying something that quenches your thirst as well as a vision. With Mount Franklin you are buying a trusted name brand, but without a vision. I wonder how this will play out in the ensuing years? Time will tell.