Teddy’s Tips for Humanizing Marketing, A Lesson from Von Dutch

by | December 8, 2021 | Blog, Homepage, Tools & Tips

“Classic never dies, ever.”

“What you stand for is more important than what you sell.”

“Authenticity speaks for and sells itself.”

Does anyone know whose branding mantra this is? If it’s not coming to you, think: fashion, controversy, and a brand that has surpassed expectations.

During my high school years, there were a few streetwear brands that reigned supreme: Baby Phat, Rocawear, Lacoste, True Religion, Juicy Couture, and the brand that I alluded to above: Von Dutch.

These brands were a major part of my early, MTV-era teenage years. If you paired your Juicy Couture velour tracksuit with a Von Dutch trucker hat (don’t forget the matching Air Force 1s), you were THAT girl! This is why I was so intrigued to watch the The Curse of Von Dutch: A Brand to Die For documentary on Hulu. No longer a teenager, I found myself re-enthralled with Von Dutch, this time not for the fashion, but for the three branding principles presented by one of the founders, Mike Cassel:

  • “Classic never dies, ever.”
  • “What you stand for is more important than what you sell.”
  • “Authenticity speaks for and sells itself.”

Marketing is a social science, so emotional connection is KING. Mike knew this, and it’s one of the reasons he built such a successful brand. Even when your brand is a nonprofit organization, success relies on understanding that humanity is key for connecting with an audience. Here are three simple and easy ways you can approach marketing strategy to build a long-lasting connection with your audience:

1. Authenticity

Authenticity speaks for and sells itself.

Authenticity in marketing manifests itself as being honest, consistent, and transparent in messaging and initiatives. Consistency in your brand leads you to make decisions that keep you aligned to your mission, no matter how hard. Authentic brands never compromise on their beliefs and mission. In fact, they double down on them when challenged or when necessary. 

One brand known for being clear in its beliefs and identity is Ben & Jerry’s. (Yes! Even when you’re in the business of ice cream, your brand should have an identity.) Ben & Jerry’s was one of the pioneer companies that prioritized their social responsibility alongside their profits. From ethical and sustainable dairy sourcing to speaking out against white supremacy, Ben & Jerry’s has a firm grasp on what is important to them as an organization and does not waver.  (And…Have you tried the flavor Change the Whirled? Highly recommend!)

As leaders of organizations and brand identities, we have to keep in mind that not everyone will resonate with our beliefs. Not everyone will be a fan or supporter of our life’s work — and that’s okay! We all have the right to work with and champion the organizations and causes we choose. Those who don’t align with who we are, simply make room for those that do — which, in turn, increases brand loyalty.

2. Simplicity

Classic never dies, ever.

Simplicity is a key element of a classic band. Simplicity may be the most powerful principle for marketing. It tells those that come across your brand that you know who you are. There is no need to complicate things. Your stakeholders and supporters, no matter their age or level of education, should be able to understand who your organization is and easily interpret what you do. Simplicity helps to eliminate the communication gaps between you and your audiences. The ultimate goal is to have key audiences effortlessly internalize your organization’s purpose — what you do and why you do it.

Inherently we know there is an art to keeping things simple, and it is not easy to achieve. However, seeking simplicity (a Matterlab core value!) — and an internal commitment to it — is an integral part of your marketing strategy. It takes discipline, and it’s well worth it. 

3. Dedication

What you stand for is more important than what you sell.

I have the privilege of working with organizations that are all mission-driven. They stand to make a change for the youth they serve – shaking the table on the status quo. Be that as it may, it’s all too easy to drift. Mission-driven and mission-focused are not the same thing. Sometimes, we may need a reminder that there are causes we have committed to that are bigger than ourselves — and our bottom line.

Your organization’s mission should drive all of the decisions you make. If your mission is to provide the nation’s school-aged children with equitable access to high-quality education, ANYTHING that would derail that mission would be considered bad for business — the organization’s overall vision. 

Think about it this way, if you never made another dollar because you stood firm in your mission (although we definitely want you to and that’s what we do!), would you still remain dedicated to your mission?

When people think of marketing, it is often forgotten that it is, in fact, an area of the humanities. Marketing is not strictly facts and figures like many other areas of business. No matter your industry, these tips will help you connect with your target audiences. 

If you’ve read this far…you’re amazing. But if you remember nothing else from this post remember this…

When you brand from the heart, communicate with transparency, and operate in realness…people will want to be a part of whatever your mission is because they can relate and will believe wholeheartedly in your purpose.

Want to know more about how to humanize marketing strategy?


Connect your work to your why.

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