Back in the summer of 2014, I spent an insightful evening at the London Evening Standard Business Connections summer event where the main speaker was Rob Forkan, who along with his brother Paul started their footwear brand Gandys after an incredible personal journey that involved the tragic loss of their parents in the 2004 sunami in Sri Lanka during a family holiday.
Having survived with their two other younger siblings and finding their way couragously back to London they rebuilt their life from scratch, and built their business part time whilst Rob was working at a day job with online recruitment website CV-Library.
Working long hours and door stepping into the offices of influencial companies they finally made a breakthrough when a fashion scout from Arcadia one of the UK’s biggest retail groups crossed their path whilst the brothers were pitching to a small boutique in London. Things took off from there but what sets the Forkan brothers story apart from the normal entrepreneurial path was that they chose to use their personal story as a way of building social and cause marketing into their business from the start.
What’s interesting about their business is that it all started from their story. Whilst many companies start with the product and then try to build a story to connect with consumers, the Forkans started the Gandys business with baked in content that would both inspire and engage.
They focused their brand around building a foundation alongside their company, and actively built into their business their tag line Orphans for Orphans, dedicating 10% of their profits to help build orphanages across the world, including in Sri Lanka where they too were orphaned. This wasn’t just a campaign tagline but an intrisic foundational principle that runs through the veins of the entire business.
They’re building a brand that stands for something that people can connect with, and can contribute and support for a greater good in a for profit environment. It’s a true social business that has content marketing built in right from the get go and the Gandys brand is transportable to other products because of it’s intrinsic community based values.
So what can businesses learn from their story? Firstly if you’re going to connect with your consumers, do it on a genuine level that helps them feel purposeful and gives them the opportunity to get involved and make a difference. Be bold and stand for something that your customers value.
Give your customers the opportunity to build a tribe that makes their buying choices go beyond self gratification. Give your customers the opportunity to feel good in giving whilst they’re buying. Cause marketing and social business is incredibly efficient.
Gandys has the support of high profile celebrities, politicians and entrepreneurs such as Jessica Alba, David Cameron, Boris Johnson and Richard Branson and the types of stories that the Gandy brand attracts are the kind of content marketing gold dust that most businesses struggle to create or budget for.
The takeaway from the Gandys story is to make your content marketing real and make it matter. Virality and social sharing is guaranteed to effortlessly follow.
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