The era of the big brand is on the decline with big names like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Macy’s, and The Gap consistently losing revenue in recent years.
That’s because a new wave of conscious consumers has been born, and they’re voting with their dollars in favor of products that contribute to a greater good.
If you want to stay relevant in this day and age, you’ll need to adapt to consumers’ new preferences. Simply selling a product is no longer an option; instead, you’ll need to give people something to stand behind.
“Rallying people around a cause they care about allows them to create personal meaning and connection to your brand, becoming loyal followers who are compelled to share your mission with others,” says Elizabeth Kanna, a brand impact strategist.
Meet Ash Kumra, a two-time White House award winner, speaker, author, and former talk show host. After launching a handful of businesses that lacked real substance and purpose, Kumra has reversed his approach to entrepreneurship to lead with the consumer first—and it’s rewarding him more than ever.
I caught up with Kumra about his new approach to business on the latest episode of Unconventional Life, “Set Your Brand on Fire: How to Start a Powerful & Profitable Movement.”
Kumra’s journey to entrepreneurship began when he spontaneously gave a speech to his entire college fraternity for the chance to speak at a nation-wide Greek conference—and won. While the other contenders spoke for minutes on end, Kumra kept it short and sweet, with the unforgettable words, “I eat, drink, and sleep greek life,” before dropping the mic and exiting stage.
As the audience roared, Kumra realized he had a knack for communication and could effortlessly enroll others in his mission. “In that moment I realized gosh, I can communicate,” he says.
Now, Kumra is using his gift of communication to enlist others in a force for public good, with his latest venture Youngry.
What makes Youngry unique is its community-funded operations model. To date, Youngry has sourced tens of thousands of dollars from nearly one hundred investors—everyday, nonaccredited contributors like you and me.
Kumra chose to fund Youngry this way to create a strong bond between brand and community. “It’s the best way to get connected to your core audience,” he explains. “We said let’s ask our community—the people who are gonna get help from Youngry, the early-stage entrepreneurs, those who want to contribute, the mentors, the partners, let’s ask them all to back us from day one. Let’s let them be a part of our journey so that as we rise they rise.”
To Kumra, Youngry is less a company for individual profit than it is a movement that benefits thousands. It is a place for young entrepreneurs to come together and learn how to build businesses that serve the planet.
“When you unite people on common ground with a shared objective, people will mobilize together and make the brand a success,” says Kumra. Below, Kumra shares how you can position your own brand as a movement.
1. Consider using equity crowdfunding. This is effective for two reasons: you can attain funding without having to worry about finding an Angel investor, and you create a bridge between your brand and your target audience. Nothing says movement like a bootstrappy “by the people, for the people.” If you go with equity crowdfunding, you’ll need to file legal documentation with the U.S.Securities and Exchange Commission to document each of your investors. Kumra recommends hiring an advisor to ensure a smooth and simple process.
2. Start your business for purpose, not trend. When you’re in an industry for the trend, it’s because you’ve noticed there is profit to be made and you’re looking to make a quick buck. When money isn’t flowing, you’re likely to leave. If this describes you, you’ll want to reconsider a different industry that you’re truly passionate about—in other words, the motivation for your work must be purpose. Any movement that is to stand the test of time cannot waver when profits suffer; it must be rooted in the mission it seeks to accomplish. “When you’re doing something you’re so passionate about and you feel others have that same passion or commonality, that’s your genesis for a movement,” Kumra says.
3. Tell a story. It’s not enough to simply sell a product or service anymore—you’ll find yourself drowning in a sea of competition. Instead, elevate yourself from the rest by aligning with a story that connects to consumers’ pain and provides a solution. A movement brand that has done this exceptionally well is Flint and Tinder, who famously won $1M in a kickstarter campaign that offered sweatshirts with a lifetime warranty as a way to take a stand against mainstream clothing that falls apart in months. Whatever your brand offering may be, position it as the unique solution to end a struggle that has had your audience feeling fed up for too long. Do this effectively, and your movement is bound to catch fire with a momentum of its own.
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This article originally appeared on Forbes.com