Crafting a meaningful why
These brands constantly ask ‘Why?’, tying every decision back to their people, products, profit and, ultimately, their purpose.
The art of restraint
Heading to an interview in the Flatiron District in Manhattan, NY, we passed by a woman sporting a T-shirt that said “Save Me From What I Want.” For Siggi Hilmarsson, the success of his yogurt brand, Siggi’s, is rooted in an equally Buddhist-like mantra of tempering business ambition with brand authenticity. In 2004, Hilmarsson was homesick for the thick skyr yogurt of his country, Iceland. So he asked his mom for the recipe and began experimenting in the kitchen of his Tribeca loft. Within months, Hilmarsson left his job to make yogurt full-time. Soon, Siggi’s gained cult loyalty and today, 12 years later, is sold in nearly 9,000 stores across the US. While the Siggi’s story is one of explosive growth, it’s also a tale of holding back to preserve quality. This is known as “slow selling.”
In 2007, Hilmarsson turned down Whole Foods’ offer to stock Siggi’s nationwide, forgoing a branding opportunity marketers dream of. Instead, he opted to rollout slowly on the East Coast, building a community of followers around his core values for natural goodness, health, and mindfulness. At one point in the early years, Hilmarsson even halted production for three months, when production problems imperiled quality control. Siggi’s would not allow short-term concerns about sales create the risk of letting down loyal consumers.
We’re doing things to grow aggressively, but we don't chase every opportunity that could add another 5% or 10% to our growth if it would come at the long-term expense of the company and its values.
- Bart Adlam, President, Siggi’s Dairy
This unwavering commitment to the brand’s original purpose—bringing to life a true taste of Iceland—has been a hallmark of the company. It’s the reason why the company has been able to sustain a competitive marketplace. According to Nielsen, in 2015, Siggi’s Dairy had 120% year over year growth in sales, making it the fastest-growing national yogurt brand.ii
Adjusting the sails, not the mission
Throughout our research, we found Y-Prophets in particular were able to expand with authority based on an unwavering dedication to their mission.
Take Water-Gen, a technology startup based in Tel Aviv that has a mission to “help solve the world's water crisis by turning air into clean water.” They started to accomplish this mission by designing a battlefield device that could produce water for soldiers in the field instead of waiting for army convoy deliveries. The system, which can produce 5 to 20 gallons a day of clean drinking water, has been rapidly adopted by armed forces in countries across the globe, including the US, Mexico, India, and France.
Yet, given the brand’s bigger purpose to solve the world’s water crisis, the company was able to find new paths to activate its mission, expanding beyond the battlefield to citizens and villages. Water-Gen evolved its technology to include battery-operated units that provide water for villages without access to drinkable water or electricity in North Africa and Southeast Asia, as well as home appliances for civilians that require clean water.
“It’s a huge path from drinking water for soldiers to home appliances for India,” says Arye Kohavi, Water-Gen’s CEO. “Yet I believe in the path. I don’t believe that you think about something and then do exactly that. Most successful companies are not saying, ‘Okay, here’s what I’m doing, this is what I should do.’ If something doesn’t work, you go to other things. Things change during the path.”