Share Passions To Make Organisations Greater

Last week we looked at how small gestures ensures passion within your organization is amplified. This week we look at the how sharing your passions can make your organization greater. No matter your religious beliefs, the dawning of the Easter break is a reminder to the power of connections and that the metaphor of the ‘rising’ illustrates how we transform when we respond. So if your workplace is disrupted, sharing passions ensures we have the collective strength to overcome.

For all their maverick innovations, Cranium’s game designers (refer to create a vocabulary) and David Rockwell’s building designers (refer to big signals) are in some sense devising exciting new twists on a familiar challenge—developing products, services, even physical spaces that tug on the heart as well as challenge the mind. The next frontier for making products more emotional is to turn them into something social—to create a sense of shared ownership and participation among customers themselves. The more people you invite to shape your company’s personality, the more you enable them to share their ideas with one another, the greater their stake in what your company does—and the more invested they become in its success. In the new world of competition, generating a whole lotta love means unleashing a whole lotta participation. 

Moments later, the seemingly deranged Taco Bell employee reappeared—clutching bottles of Jones Soda as if they were a prized treasure. The labels on the bottle, it turns out, feature photographs of her children. This woman, like hundreds of thousands of other Jones customers, had submitted photos to van Stolk’s company in the hope that they might be selected to appear on labels for one of the 20-plus flavors that Jones sells. Her photos attracted enough votes from her fellow customers, and won enough plaudits from Jones’s panel of judges, that they made the cut—and had just arrived on store shelves. “She had spent that whole morning driving around Mesa buying bottles with her kids on them,” van Stolk remembers. “She was so fired up.” 

It’s not every day that the CEO of a consumer products company gets physically (if lovingly) assaulted by a rabid fan. But that’s a cost of doing business when a company works to transform everyday products into emblems of self-expression and social interaction. Jones Soda customers aren’t just encouraged to drink the product; they’re invited, individually and collectively, to define the product, to shape its identity, to exercise their voice in the brand’s personality and message to the marketplace. Jones doesn’t preach to its customers about the virtues of its brand; it unleashes the energy and creativity of its customers to give the brand its virtues. Jones turns soda into a platform for social interaction. 

For years, Jones Soda has attracted outsized media attention for its exuberant style and rebellious attitude. The company, which targets the prized (and notoriously hard-to-reach) 12- to 24-year-old demographic, sells an array of exotic flavors, including carbonated beverages like Blue Bubblegum, Fufu Berry, and Green Apple; natural juices like Berry White, D’Peach Mode, and Bohemian Raspberry; and WhoopAss, a citrus energy drink. Its underground endorsers—including a skate- board prodigy who was just four years old when he signed with Jones— appeal to the snowboarding, file-swapping, body-piercing set. 

But the “killer app” for Jones—what separates it from the uptight giants like Coke and Pepsi and what keeps the buzz going in its target audience—is its packaging and personality, its presence on store shelves. Jones Soda labels are as striking as its flavors are exotic. Utterly distinctive, the labels—works of art, really—are designed around mainly black- and-white photography. They change on a regular basis, and customers notice the debut of the new photographs. Why? Because the photos come from the customers. 

What does any of this have to do with selling soft drink? Nothing—and everything. Scott Bedbury is a world-renowned authority on creating lifestyle brands. He was senior vice president of marketing at Starbucks during the company’s growth boom; prior to that, he spent seven years as head of advertising at Nike, where he launched the legendary “Just Do It” campaigns. Bedbury joined the Jones Soda board of directors at it’s inception after his son, appropriately enough, introduced him to the brand and his passion for it. 

So if the Nike brand is about competition and performance, and the Starbucks brand stands for a “third place” in American life, what is Jones Soda about? “It’s about self-expression,” Bedbury says. “That’s what’s happening on those labels. It’s kids being themselves, sharing with the world what they think is cool, whether it’s a picture of them, or their dog, or a sunset.” 

Peter van Stolk isn’t content to connect customers to the brand or to each other—he also wants to connect them to the wider world. He is sketching a plan to harness the “force” to work on bigger issues than soda pop. One likely project: encouraging and equipping customers to agitate for change on water conservation and management. 

“So what is Jones?” “Are they a soda company? Are they an Internet company? Are they a social-networking company? It’s irrelevant. They’re good at figuring out what gets people fired up. Everything they try may not work, but the important point is, they’re playing a different game than their ‘competitors.’ My fundamental belief is that great brands create an emotional connection. In Jones Soda’s case, that means individual ownership: my photos, my bottle cap, my music. Everything they create has to enhance that connection.

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