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Adapt or die: Why good people and frogs finish first

By Scott Goodson, Chief executive officer



The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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August 27, 2019 | 7 min read

Twenty years ago my partners and I were inspired enough by the plucky strawberry frog to name our then upstart marketing firm after learning of its true nature of agility and adaptability. Even though it's a small frog - about the size of a thumb drive - it is mighty as it boxes above its weight in terms of packing a poison punch. Except for the poisonous bit, we related to those core traits as well. At the time, the advertising landscape was dominated by lumbering dinosaurs who were anything but agile and adaptable. We aspired to be different, to be like the strawberry frog.

StrawberryFrog (the company) compare their characteristics to their namesake mascot, the stealthy Strawberry Frog amphibian.

StrawberryFrog (the company) compare their characteristics to their namesake mascot, the stealthy Strawberry Frog amphibian.

So naturally when we read that our namesake mascot was in the news again - Strawberry frogs can take the heat - I started reflecting on some lessons from 20 years of being in the advertising and marketing industries. And that indeed, we can still relate to this fascinating amphibian in new and interesting ways. Their path is still our path.

Basically the news is that due to climate change and human activities, some strawberry frogs have been forced from their comfort zone of the shady forests of Costa Rica to the sunnier, hotter and drier fields and pastures created by humans hungry for more farmland. Just as we in NYC are adapting to increasingly hot and humid summers (by seeking the air conditioning of a building here or a coffee shop there), some frogs have had to adjust their habits (by seeking the shade of a log here, or some dead leaves there). And recent research has shown that they have been quite successful in adapting to this new terrain.

In other words, our friends are surviving to breed another day! Similarly, StrawberryFrog (the company) also began in a single natural habitat: sparking movements to engage consumers rather than traditional advertising, also using movements to transform organizations and change company culture. Traditional advertising is reliant on targeting, movements are open to all; traditional advertising is reliant on big media spends, movements are sustainable; traditional advertising is inefficient, movements are highly effective.

Recently we pushed our way into a new environment: adapting our honed movement marketing techniques to help leaders and CEOs transform their organizations and to help them adapt to change – by instigating a movement from the inside. And today, we live quite happily in both environments. Inside and outside, movement passions to move people. As a company, we provide those shady pockets needed to survive the perils of a rapidly changing business environment. Using the rule of threes (and in the interest of brevity), here are some quick takeaways about what companies need to do in order to survive in today’s climate:

1) Build a great company, not just a great brand

We all know the rules have changed dramatically. When we started StrawberryFrog, companies weren’t held to the same scrutiny as they are in 2019. It used to be that business functions were pretty separate, kind of like a Chinese wall between brand and reputation or HR and finance - those functions operated in their silos except for when they needed to come together to prepare for the quarterly reports. Similarly, advertising and marketing used to get away with building a brand with clever or inspiring creative (plus about $100 million in paid advertising) and were pretty much left to their own devices. Now not only do you need to have a 360 degree integrated campaign, you need to factor in all aspects of the company in order to build a brand that resonates in this age of fleeting attention spans, “Trump tweets” and #boycott. And a big part of that scrutiny and integration needs to be building out your PURPOSE. When we started StrawberryFrog, purpose marketing was a glimmer in our collective eyes but we knew that combining our knowledge of cultural movements with a company’s purpose could yield results. But you can’t stop with announcing that you have a purpose, that purpose needs to be activated and that activation is what builds movements which then helps you build a great company.

2) Ideas + execution = timeless need

This one is pretty simple. Amidst all of the fluctuating stock prices of advertising and marketing holding companies, CEOs, COOs, CMOs want the big ideas that help them grow their companies and deliver on their vision, regardless of how the advertising and marketing sectors change and evolve. This need will not wane. Like our little froggy friend, you have to find a way to stay nimble because big used to eat small but now small eats big when it comes to the ability to execute those big ideas.

3) Adapt or die

What inspired those first intrepid frogs to make the, um, leap to leave the cool forest for the sweaty unknown? Most likely answer: a drive for survival. It was adapt or die – like the dinosaurs before them.

There was no frog CEO with a mandate. A few agile and adventurous frogs led the way through example and soon more followed when they saw what was possible. And a movement was born.

We, too, as a society are facing down crazy scary obstacles. Of course, there’s the climate crisis which poses it’s own kind of risk management. But there’s also the accelerating march of technological changes. And some companies are quite smartly making big investments to adapt to those changes like AI and automation. According to a 2017 McKinsey study, 375 million workers worldwide, or 14% of the global workforce, will need to switch their occupations because of obsolescence or an even bigger number of 800 million due to automation. So I applaud companies who are making adaptation a part of their culture and their activating their purpose. Take Amazon’s recent announcement of a $700 million program to reskill 100,000 of its US based employees. Or Accenture who spent four years retraining 300,000 of their employees. Or AT&T spending $1billion to reskill their workers. Big systemic changes don’t have to be scary if you have adaption and agility built into your culture. And a big part of that can be attained through building a movement with your employees and your customers.

4) Good and kind people always finish first

This is a core value at StrawberryFrog and something that we instill into all of our work with movements. It’s inherent into the whole idea of purpose and necessary for our trying times. We hope this will be the enduring legacy of our company, our work and how we use our influence.

So yes, in terms of long-term climate change, our fluorescent friends may be adjusting to a new reality– just like us on the sweaty sidewalks of NYC. But these are realities that help us to keep it real – and focused for another 20 years to keep on building movements.

Scott Goodson, Founder and chairman at StrawberryFrog.


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StrawberryFrog is the world’s first Movement Marketing firm. We are a marketing, advertising, design and digital company based in New York City. Brand-fueled marketing...

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