Empathy Over Ego: Kristen Knape, David&Goliath

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El Segundo, United States
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Kristen Knape
Executive Director of Brand Purpose & Strategy David & Goliath

What does a brand purpose look like in 2021? Is it going to be different in the post-Covid world?

Companies now must support communities’ societal needs as defined by the public – not by the brand. We have all sat with the seriousness of major issues that once were hidden by the distractions of “normal” day life, and from that we’ve witnessed a rise in effective collectivism to address those issues. So, it’s time to let go of over-controlling the narrative and actually listen to people’s needs – which can include everything from escapism to environmentalism. Brands and agencies can also uniquely provide contagious optimism amidst heavy issues by showcasing what’s possible when corporations get involved. As marketers, we’re entering into the most exciting time in our history in which brands can be celebrated for their co-existence with society versus being equated to something people tolerate. 


How and what should brands communicate in the time of a crisis?

What we’ve learned in the last year is that brands no longer dictate how the world should act or change, and instead we need to work directly with society to make the change. Since I’ve been in the industry, I’ve heard repeatedly “a good idea can come from anywhere” as a way for agency peers to collaborate with one another to come up with the best work. We need to take that stance outside our corporate walls and adapt that exact line of thinking alongside the public collective. The best creative work will now be defined as the best creative impact, which can’t be accomplished inside the confinements of a boardroom or conference call.


Can you give some examples of brands that have adopted a responsible approach? How have they used creativity to help spread their message?

Brands can participate in purpose in different ways. Brands such as P&G are masters at starting the conversation, while others such as Ben & Jerry's integrate it into product and PR communications through timely strategic pulses. At David&Goliath, we’ve really enjoyed our brand partnerships around purpose. The people behind Stacy’s Pita Chips are passionate about ensuring that female founders rise. They never stray from that societal goal because it’s inherent to the origin story of the brand. Instead of separating their efforts into a separate corporate social responsibility initiative, we are beginning to seamlessly bridge the purpose work Stacy’s has been doing for years into product work. Businesses are learning that there is immense value in sharing a sharply defined purpose publicly. It creates a swell of positive benefits beyond societal impact, including employee retention and yes, sales. 

When we work with purpose front and center, we see a rise in creativity as our clients and partners more passionately “lean in” with endless ideas -- because everyone is excited to do what’s right. That simply isn’t the case when the only goal is of financial concern. Humans helping humans is so much more empathetic and rewarding for all.


If you could give your clients navigating the current crisis only one piece of advice, what would it be?

At David&Goliath, we promote empathy over ego. For us, it means putting the industry’s infamous egos aside to ensure we address each other, our clients, and the public with understanding and heart. For our clients, we would recommend the same, especially during crises. Do your purpose work for the right reasons. Serve the community that serves your profits first and foremost, knowing your bottom line ambitions will be fulfilled accordingly.