9 min read
Summer days are for recharging batteries. We know that. And we want to give you a dose of inspiration every week. A new story, new powerful insights. Let’s see the 22nd episode of People of Marketing Podcast!
Our guest today is Leland Maschmeyer, the Chief Creative Officer of Chobani. His re-imagination of the Chobani brand was honored as best of the year and is considered one of the best of the last decade, being described as “literally and absolutely perfect.” His global re-imaginations of Spotify and Instagram were each recognized as “Best of the Year”. For these accomplishments, he won recognition as “Global 30 under 30”, “Young Influencer”, and the “Design Thinking Leader”. His work has earned honors from every major global creative award show.
Investing in the communities we exist in
Marketing is not just about promoting your product or service. It’s about giving back, too. It’s about helping the community you talk to. Offering what they need. Improving their experiences.
“We’ve always been an organization that has emphasized actions more than words. We invest in the communities in which we exist. We want to use food as a force of good in the world and whatever good can come off the food or the profit we made from it.
One of the quiet systemic problems in the United States is childhood hunger. One in four children in this country at some point in the week can’t afford or don’t have access to a meal. There are lots of systemic reasons for this. One was lunch shaming. Public schools are underfunded terribly, and they charge students for meals. That’s how they recoup a lot of the costs.
When a child can’t pay, a lot of these schools allow the child to run up a tab. But at some point, they have to recover that money. And many of these schools have adopted a policy of lunch shaming. That’s not what they call it, but that’s what it has been interpreted as in the public eye. It is known as aggressive, public shaming tactics to guilt and shame children and families into paying off their lunch debt.
This was a national problem, but it played out at the local level. So we wanted to do something about it, and also bring national attention to it. Within three hours, we put together $70,000 to donate and give to the Warwick, Rhode Island school district to pay off the debt for all the low-income children who can’t.
We put together a very fast and quick lobbying effort at the state and federal levels. We had an incredible response to that. There were companies that jumped on board. There were individuals and local organizations in the community raising their own money. It became a topic that reached the national media. It was triplicate increases in mentions online and reach because of the national media. And it became integrated in the presidential candidates platforms.
So it was something that had a powerful, creative message behind it. It also had a wide and deep impact in communities and really surfaced something that needed to change. But without creativity and the right strategic timing, it was never going to get the attention. And we were able to do that. I’m very proud of that and the team who worked on it.”
It’s incredibly what Leland did with his team from Chobani. They had a platform and used it to raise a serious social problem. This is a very powerful movement. And it helped grow the image of the brand more than any basic creative campaign.
Creatives should never stop extending their knowledge
Creativity is an infinite space. There’s no limit or end to it. You can always chase new directions.
“I passionately and firmly believe in the power and importance of creativity in business. I have encountered a lot of resistance along the way to that idea. Most businesses think creativity is an ornament that they hang on the more profitable parts of the business to make it look a little prettier.
But I think the machinery is what you hang on creativity. My passion is evolving. But not because I want to do something differently, but because I feel like I’m expanding to the next larger sphere that creativity exists within.
Dan Barber, the world-famous chef of Blue Hill Farms in New York City, said something that profoundly resonated with me. He said all he cared about was great taste. The only thing he ever wanted to do was make things that tasted really good. But every time he’s asked how he makes things taste good, it gets to another question. And that question was attached to not the sphere of cooking, but the sphere of food science, and then agriculture or archeology of historic agricultural practices. And then you just keep chasing these questions because you’re trying to find more answers to your original answer of taste.
And all of a sudden you look up one day and you’re in this world that’s completely different than where you started. A world that you never, ever thought you would be in. But you kept an open and curious mind and you chased those questions like bread crumbs. So you not only expanded your understanding of taste and what tastes good. Now you see these connections and these cascading effects interlinked that affect taste.
And if you want to affect the taste, you don’t go to the recipe. You don’t go to ingredients. You go to questions that are fears of experience and knowledge that are far further out than you ever would have thought. And I’ve been having that exact same experience with creativity. All I’ve ever wanted to do was make beautiful things.”
I love the excitement with which Leland explains just how deep the world is. There’s always a larger sphere you can explore. It’s not about making a change to evolve. Sometimes it’s about digging deeper into what you’re already doing.
Struggling to exceed your own condition
It is part of the human condition to always be unsatisfied with our achievements. We always want more. We try to get to higher levels of our personal and professional lives. But we should enjoy the road more and be grateful for what we’ve achieved so far.
“Along the way, I’ve learned and discovered so much about that I didn’t know. There are so many things that excite me, that I know I’ll never get to do. I simply can’t do them. On one hand you interpret that as a failure. On the other hand, one can humble themselves in front of the vastness of possibility and wrestle with that tension to self reflect and learn. And that’s where I am. That’s what I struggle with. The ancient Aztecs had a philosophy. They called it the slippery slips. It said that one walks along the apex of the mountain of life and the slopes on the left side of you and the slopes on the right side of you are extremely slippery. It is your task to walk down the middle of them and not fall off and slip off the left side or the right side.
You’ll walk and you’ll slip the left a little bit and you’ll walk and slip to the right a little bit. But you always have to avoid the slippery slopes and maintain that walk along the middle. I think that’s what it feels like for me. And as you’re slipping, as you’re walking forward, unfortunately, it just translates into lack of achievement.
And so lack of achievement then quickly gets translated into failure. So it is a constant struggle for me to tamp down that feeling and then to invert it into a positive right.”
It is surprising how such a successful marketer as Leland is still struggling with thoughts like these. But it’s also empowering how he never stops working with himself. Striving to get better.
Such an inspiring episode! It was fantastic going into the profound levels of marketing and finding new sides of it. I feel like I’ve learned a lot!
You already know. What you have here is just a little spoiler. More stories from Leland’s career are one click away!