Jamming brand with Thankyou.
SCOTT OXFORD: 00:03.462 [music] G'day. I'm Scott Oxford. Welcome to BrandJam, the podcast where we jam about brand because brand is our jam. You can probably tell I'm somewhat of a brand evangelist. My day job is head of strategy and creative for New Word Order, an Australian brand and creative agency, so I live and breathe brand every day, talking to people who own, manage or empower brands. Pretty much my happy place. And today, we're talking about a brand that is changing the world and has been doing so for a while. And I have to say, it excites me to meet people who have created brands that I have been a customer of for a long time, that I have loved and I've been able to get behind. I'm jamming today with Daniel Flynn.
DANIEL FLYNN: 00:49.392 Part of me thinks if we didn't have the mission of why we do what we do, we'd pack up.
SCOTT OXFORD: 00:55.043 He's the co-founder and managing director of one of Australia's most successful start-ups, Thankyou. He co-founded Thankyou at the age of 19, and today, 12 years later, Thankyou products are stocked by major retailers in Australia with every product contributing to helping end global poverty. To date, Thankyou has raised over 17 million bucks to impact the lives of people across 22 countries. Daniel's also the author of best-selling book, Chapter One, a story that generated $1.4 million in sales in its first month using an unorthodox pay-what-you-want model. He's knows for his disruptive marketing and has received widespread media coverage for some truly unconventional and highly successful campaigns that led to Thankyou products being stocked by some of Australia's biggest retailers. Daniel's achievements as an entrepreneur have also been widely celebrated. In 2014, he was named an honouree in JCI's 10 Outstanding Young People of the World, and in 2015, Daniel won EY Entrepreneur of the Year for the Southern Region, and in 2016, Daniel was named in the Forbes Asia 30 Under 30 for social entrepreneurship. He's known for his ability to tell stories, to engage and motivate audiences, to realise that they, too, can make their own ideas a reality, and I love this morning when I told my 17-year-old son who I was interviewing, and he knew all of what you're about. He just had a million questions, and I'm sure we're going to answer some of them today. So, Daniel, welcome to BrandJam.
DANIEL FLYNN: 02:22.932 Hey. Thank you so much. I'm looking forward to the chat.
SCOTT OXFORD: 02:25.614 So I've got to start with this name, this beautiful, generous, gracious and unique brand name you chose. And I know when it came out, it felt like actual fresh, new direction in brand naming. Can you tell me where it came from, and obviously, it's tied in with your founder story, so where did Thankyou come from?
SCOTT OXFORD: 02:48.239 Yeah. Look, it's a great question, and yeah, I feel all those feelings that you said about the brand. It is a word that-- well, it's a brand that we've been debating with the trade marks' office for 12 years now, not just Australia, but all around the world, right, so it comes with its challenges, but Thankyou, for us, is this idea of gratitude. And the whole premise behind the brand is we exist all for the end of extreme poverty. And at Thankyou, we make consumer product, and the idea is to empower you as a consumer. You choose that product and in choosing it, you're not just getting a remarkable product, which is our goal, something that you're going to love, but that product exists to help right a wrong in injustice that we think shouldn't exist anymore. And so the brand name specifically though, came from a moment where-- I mean, it sounds almost spiritual, but I was just wondering and pondering, what is this brand called that would kind of be a bridge between the two worlds of extreme poverty and extreme consumerism? What is this word that gives an idea so big it's grounding? And in my mind, I just-- when I closed my eyes, I saw this word. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And I'm not a designer, but I got my Microsoft Word out, I wrote thank you. Put a "tm" there just for-- make it look brandy. And then also this picture of thank you wasn't just the word, it was-- behind it was this thought of-- and I'd just seen a whole bunch of stuff around children having access to clean water. And this kid drinking water smiling and this word thank you was more of a message of hope and gratitude for a change. And so I made it on the computer. And honestly, it was one of those things where you're like, "Can you call a brand, Thank You? I don't know if you can, it's too common." It was sticky. We couldn't pick anything else other than this word. And it's a weird journey because now particularly in Australia, you say you're from Thank You, It's like, "Oh, that's cool." But there was a time-- and even internationally now. You tell someone you're from Thank You? [laughter] It's weird. It's almost like saying you're from banana.
SCOTT OXFORD: 05:15.376 Yep.
DANIEL FLYNN: 05:15.928 It sounds a little weird. But then if you're from Apple, that's cool.
SCOTT OXFORD: 05:19.836 Yeah.
DANIEL FLYNN: 05:20.391 So we're still in the banana phase, I would say, but one day we may crack the Apple level.
SCOTT OXFORD: 05:27.411 It's a bit like that classic line in Rain Man where he keeps quoting, "Who's on first, who's on second?" it's a word that makes you stop and makes you think and when-- I remember when I first saw it on a bottle, I was completely intrigued and wondering what this was, and it demanded that I have a look. And I'm a big fan of subliminals in branding and the power of them. And the power of just a name, to be able to say, this is different. This is something entirely different, you're going to have to shift your thinking here because I'm showing you a product that you're very familiar with, but I've actually named it something that is very, very unexpected. And I think that's-- I've got to say that that's must be part of the success of why it became, as you said, it's sticky. Of why it sort of took on. And just this utter, as I said-- I used the word gracious, and you use the word gratitude. These are intrinsically linked. And If ever a brand can make a promise in its name of an outcome, this is one that does and so that's I think why it's lasted. But yeah, look, I do naming for a living as-- well, my team and I do and yeah, this whole trademark thing I can imagine the fun that you're having with that one.
DANIEL FLYNN: 06:52.518 Yeah, yeah. And look, I think it's an interesting thing. I'm so glad you shared that experience that you had. That was the goal, the goal was that we would cut through in this noisy world of consumerism, that we'd stand out and almost that this product would speak to you and really, you don't have long to get someone's attention. You know the research better than me. But every time I hear it, I think, "Are we all that shallow?" but we kind of-- I mean, the world is cluttered in and is busy. But yeah, we've spent near 12 years with the word thank you and this brand, and we love it more today than we did back then. And one of my favourite moments is often when we're at-- like back in the old days when you could go to a market or you have a stall or the big conventions, and we'd be handing out sample product. And as people walk over, they would say, "Thank you." as we handed it to them, right. They don't know the brand yet and they're saying, "Thank you." And I'm just like, "Yes!" you're saying the brand. You don't know it yet. So yeah, there's some special little factors in there.
SCOTT OXFORD: 08:01.652 It's a little bit of magic. And as I said, it was the first one that I'd seen at the time that shifted my thinking. And you've really paved the way for I think a lot of strain organisations, that have begun in its wake. And I've had on the show Who Gives A Crap and Orange Sky. And these guys have got to have been inspired by seeing what you did, about building a business that has this sort of purpose. And previously, this was the realm of aid organisations and missionary organisations. I myself was on the board of an organisation that built wells in communities, where villages just-- it was AU$350 or something to build a well for a whole village. And just that sheer ridiculousness of how easy it was for me, myself, to fund a whole village's water supply, so. And again, I've told this story before in the program, that I heard first-hand that these women would have to walk up to 20 kilometres to get water and bring it back. And worse than that, it wasn't just the walking, it was that they would get raped on the way home. So when you actually-- the work you do by putting water in isn't just about hydrating people, which is absolutely essential to life, it is so much more involved. And that's where the complexity of poverty-- if we as consumers take the time to dig into it, it's not just about the water. It's about everything else that goes with it. And what a brilliant start. And water. Water in bottles. Bottled water is something that we have almost as a convenience and luxury product. And I love that connection of the brand story to that. So that was obviously what inspired the product? The first product, was it? That you were solving a water problem?
DANIEL FLYNN: 10:04.772 Yeah. So it's an interesting one; it was sort of two-fold. Because for me, water was the first issue I saw. And really when I say saw, I've seen extreme poverty through ads and videos. But there was just a day when I was 19 years old, where I saw it in a different way that moved me and compelled me to want to take action. And the water crisis was kind of the face of that. Literally watching stories of kids that didn't have access to clean water. And they talked about their brothers and sisters dying. And to me, that was just so unfathomable. So for me, there was a beginning there. But bigger than that, water issues, extreme poverty, lack of access to education and food, it's all kind of one big problem. And it's actually quite complex. And so we always thought Thankyou is big enough as an idea to solve the complexities of extreme poverty or be a contributor in that space. And it is also big enough to be in many categories. What should the first product be? And water was-- I think it was the perfect start. Because it was the mirror to society, and the reflection was very ugly. I mean bottled water is a silly product. We always thought it; we still think it. But as consumers, this is what we do. We value convenience. And we're all smart enough to know paying 4 or 5 dollars for a bottle, there is no way it costs that. But we do it. And so we wanted to, in 2008, say, "Hey, everybody. This is so ridiculous. This is how far consumerism has gone [laughter]. Let's turn that." And that was the beginning product. And we thought, "If you could do it with a product as simple water, one day you can build it into anything." And so that was our beginning. Those that have followed the story know we exited the water category a year or two ago.
SCOTT OXFORD: 12:04.534 A brand pivot. A major brand pivot to get rid of the product that defined you in the first place. But tell us about that.
DANIEL FLYNN: 12:13.314 Yeah. Well, I think you've got to be bold. And we were bold getting into the space. And people said, "Do you want to get in? It's too hard. And the big brands dominate." And they're right they do. We got in and made millions of dollars. We grew and grew and grew. And then we started to map out how big would the water category be for us if it wasn't just in Australia but if it was in the world? And so those numbers went from tens of millions into hundreds of millions. It was like wow, this is exciting. However when you look at the sustainability of the category, we all know there's major problems with it. Early on we thought, and I think maybe naively we thought it would be relatively easy to fix it. There's a whole bunch of talk about biodegradability, some really innovative solutions. The more time we spent digging deep in them, actually the more surprised we were to discover they sound greener, they looked greener, they're not. They're not more sustainable. The story's good.
SCOTT OXFORD: 13:22.731 Brainwashing, essentially.
DANIEL FLYNN: 13:25.537 Yeah. And that's a shocking-- yeah, I was probably pretty shocked by that reality and just how big that issue was because you had people running in and honestly some of the innovators they're not trying to be brainwashers, they are solving an issue be it waste or water usage or-- but then the issue that's created from solving that specific thing that they have honed in on, means that when you look at the entirety of it you actually have to ask yourself, "Is this better?" And in many cases, it's not. And so that got quite challenging because we are a brand that we hope and aspire to be led by our values to make these value-based decisions which means they're not marketing-based decisions. And so we got to the point where we're like well actually the only right call is to get out. Can you leave your genesis product and what built you? And we thought, "Well, is bold how we got in?" And if anything I think we got out too slow. We went to New Zealand and I remember a conversation with my co-founder and also now we're married for those who don't know that [crosstalk]--
SCOTT OXFORD: 14:44.198 Well done.
DANIEL FLYNN: 14:45.685 Yeah. yeah. So we had this flight to New Zealand right when we were looking to launch Thankyou New Zealand. And at that point we'd been having this big debate about the future of water for Australia. And she was very adamant we're not taking bottled water to New Zealand for all the right reasons. And I sort of agreed but then if you were listening to our conversation on the flight over you would have been fascinated because we debated I reckon for I don't know at least an hour or more around the we have to, it's the genesis, it's the simplicity of the idea, it's the profitability of the category. These are all important factors. Long story short water didn't launch in New Zealand. We led Thankyou with personal care and it worked so that gave us even more confidence to pull it off the shelf in Australia. I did find we were probably having conversations in our own board room and our own kind of management team I remember thinking, "Huh, this the stuff you read about that Kodak and some of these amazing innovators who completely lost the courage to innovate or let commercial and risk overtake what built the brand. And so, we identified this as an issue at Thankyou, and so, the leaving of the water category was both a public decision. But I think it was a good internal lighting of a fire that really founded this organization. So, that's some of the decision. I mean we will have a playback in water. This is a podcast. This isn't visual. But on my other screen here, not playing, but I have it open. We're looking, we're getting down to final designs. It is awesome. It is going to challenge the market, and it's a rethinking. And in a perfect world, you'd exit one, launch the other. But we weren't ready and so we made a call. Do we just keep stringing along or do we just have the courage to get out, and then we'll start again, and that's the decision we made.
SCOTT OXFORD: 16:59.343 Look, I think if we go back to that idea of gratitude and grace, these things are actually about-- I've read a lot about it, and you sort of said, "Well, by doing bottled water, we're kind of wrong." And we're happy to admit that and this is our way of righting it. And I think it's totally true to the brand story, I understand, and you mention in there, your team as well, it ignited a fire in them. And we know that brand is internal and it's external, and the people who stand for it, have just got to stand up to it. Was there anybody who said, "You guys, I'm mad. This is ridiculous. What are you doing? You're breaking it.", either internally or externally.
DANIEL FLYNN: 17:38.532 Yeah, both. And we left millions of dollars on the table when we pulled out. Commercially, if you were looking at this from a-- you'd just be like, no, stupid.
SCOTT OXFORD: 17:52.688 Because you're equated to Coca Cola, the difference with them, is they don't have personal care. They're putting liquid in bottles and they have to solve this problem. As you say, whether or not the technology is actually providing an authentic solution or not. They have a few problems, they've got the sugar problem too, which they have a big plan for. But for you guys to have that other opportunity. And for me, as a consumer, I look at-- I love the work that you do. By you getting out of bottled water, I'm encouraged to rethink my water usage and probably that was part of my decision to move to a permanent water bottle and to start filling it and to get used to tap water when that was all that was available. So, you're achieving some social change there at the same time, and it only encouraged me to more strongly lookout on the supermarket shelves for it. And whether I'm an example of the entire-- to me, it just sits well. It makes sense. And it's as unexpected as it was the first time I saw your name, do you know what I mean? It was unexpected that I could buy something that I'm in the habit of buying and make a difference. So, I'm not surprised it worked in New Zealand and that consumers went along with you and loved that story.
DANIEL FLYNN: 19:05.581 Yeah. And look, I think we've learnt a lot more about who we are at Thankyou. You talked about the Coca Cola company and yes, their brand, but they're-- and look, I want to be careful comparing to others, maybe I'll just talk about myself. We really are brand. And we really are not tied to a product. And so we have taken some steps to fight the tying of our brand to a product.
SCOTT OXFORD: 19:30.172 Yeah.
DANIEL FLYNN: 19:30.507 And it hasn't been easy. I mean, people have said, "Oh, I love your Thankyou water handwash." So that's nuts [laughter]. Justin loves that one. We got into muesli and granolas, and we had a really strong range in that space, and people were like, "Oh, your Thankyou water muesli's amazing." And we're thinking, gosh, this is a legacy issue. But Thankyou has been able to transcend into new categories, and we would say one of the trademarks of the Thankyou brand is unconventionality. So every time we turn up in big and small ways, it should be surprising. It should be a little, in certainly, the world it is, part of forging that new world that I think we all want to create moving forward. So we are very-- I mean, everything we're working on now, is taking a bit longer, but we are done with bringing out more of the same, same but cause. And look, we started phasing out of that years ago. We used to think, "Oh, if it's the same quality and it's a good cause, people will buy it." Not the case. You actually have to turn up with innovation. And you have to turn up with something that is better. And the cause, I mean, that helps drive trial, helps drive loyalty. But we are very-- becoming more disciplined in what we bring to market and how that feels. And so, yeah man, catch the space, hopefully, we continue to push the boundaries.
SCOTT OXFORD: 20:54.924 We've got a scoop right there by the sounds of it. I want to tap into what you're saying there about the challenges of putting something out and it being good quality and the like. There's an aspect to what you guys have done that has meant that you would put a target on your back. And you've had to, I guess, be a velvet glove. You're acting in sort of love and care, but you've actually got to be strong and fight as well. You've had to fight to get on supermarket shelves. You've had to fight for market share. And you've got to fight big competition who have the ability to buy a much bigger share of voice, probably, than you do, in terms of that. On the other side, you've got an emerging-- or emerging generations, who are caring more and more about where they spend their money, and what matters to them as well. So, how have you had to be really strong and fight? And I'm aware that you started this at 19. So, you didn't come out of corporate. You didn't come out of-- you didn't come out of Unilever and bring a whole lot of experience and then-- how did you go into battle and learn how to do that?
DANIEL FLYNN: 22:02.224 Yeah, great questions. Look, I think that if we did-- if I did come out of Unilever, if Justin-- if we'd come out of that space, it would have been very hard to do what we do. Now, that's not to say that that thinking's not valuable, it actually really is. But, I think so much of what the Thankyou journey has been. So two parts and one is-- and they're both-- in fact they're both really mindset driven. One is this idea that we'll find a way. And that sounds really simple, but sometimes I think when you know too much about an industry, or know too much about a category, you're kind of like, "Look, it can't be done." We had this mindset, and there's this great quote that says, "It's not the big that eat the small, but it's the fast that eat the slow." And so, we believe some ideas at Thankyou. That's one of the ideas we believe. So we do believe that we're not big, but that's okay. We can and we must be quicker. So the belief and the mindset of surely there's a way. Can we find a way? What if it does work? Obviously, there's a whole bunch of reasons why it may not, but what if it could? We talk about being solutions-focused at Thankyou and that is a relentless pursuit of the solution, and so we will look, look, look, look. And I think that is a mindset thing. Also naivety is a word some would have given it. We'd probably prefer the term childlike thinking. I love words like wonder. I wonder. I look at our son, Jed - he's six - and I think, man, the kid can dream. He's got imagination. He's got ideas. And society does such a good job at teaching them out of us, at sort of helping us all learn to play within the lines. And the Thankyou story has been pushing outside of those lines, and in part, maybe because we didn't truly understand how they worked and why they're there, and so we would push. But it isn't an easy game. I'd say to anyone getting into the space, we had a lot of warnings from people. It's hard. It'll crush you. They're all true [laughter].
SCOTT OXFORD: 24:22.968 Yet you're still here.
DANIEL FLYNN: 24:24.833 Yeah, we're still here. And that comes down to not actually the game's pretty easy. It comes down to some of this internal stuff around mindset. And it is mission-led. I mean, we've had our backs up against the wall many times, and part of me thinks if we didn't have the mission of why we do what we do, we'd pack up, because the back's against wall. There's no clear way out. The only way out is maybe nuclear, or maybe it's a very, very unconventional move, and that's a huge reputational risk, huge financial risk. Why would you take them? I think the driven-for-purpose and a better world than the one we're in has led us to take steps that people think, that is just insane. I would never fly helicopters around the head offices of the supermarkets. What a great way to kind of ruin your reputation in the industry. But we flew helicopters and they had giant 30,000 square foot signs--
SCOTT OXFORD: 25:30.628 Yeah, I've seen the video. It's amazing.
DANIEL FLYNN: 25:31.101 --and it demanded people's attention. And it was unconventional, but our backs were against the wall. We had tried, for five years, every single traditional channel. We met with buyers, we met with sustainability people, marketing people. We had mentors get us through to higher level and the CEO levels and we tried it all. And so in one sense, the system had won. We couldn't crack it into the market. And then we found a way. And it hadn't been done before and actually hasn't been done since, but it worked, and it saw 13 or 14 products range across three different categories outside of range review which, if you're in the industry, that's not even a real thing. You can't get product range outside of range review. It would mean they'd have to kick another product off, which they did. It would mean they'd have to-- it broke so many conventions, but we're here to right a wrong and bring, I think, a light into a pretty dark part of the world being extreme poverty, and probably a bit of darkness around extreme consumerism and just how much money we're all churning to make a bunch of companies richer. Thankyou is here to flip that on its head and so, yeah, it's not an easy space. Even now, we don't sit back. It's not getting progressively easier. One would argue it's getting progressively harder, but we're being stronger. And I think our resolve is helping us innovate and dream again.
SCOTT OXFORD: 27:03.512 Yeah. Oh, look, that's exactly it, I can tell that you're a little battle-worn, but you're not tarnished. And literally working out there in the big bad world and getting experience is conditioning you to believe things aren't possible. And I've heard enough great founder stories of where it was, we simply didn't know. We didn't know that we couldn't do this. We basically said we-- weren't limited by our own experiences, we were literally having our experience in this. And, and that is the actual magic to it. And what I'd love to know is if you can package that and teach our dog like me new tricks in that particular space where it's almost an unlearning kind of or it's that ability to believe, to sit down and write down everything that's against the idea that you've got, and actually reframe every single one of those things as in all they are is words on a page, let's pretend all of them don't exist and give it a go.
DANIEL FLYNN: 28:09.116 Yeah, and yeah, I think that's a great practice, I think a hack that I heard, especially the founder of Tom's talk about, the bigger they got, he always made sure he had a team of interns, or at least one or two interns report directly to him. And so these were literally fresh out of school, or maybe still in university. And so you'd have his leadership team, but then you'd have these interns and he'd make sure you get their perspective. And he said that they would say things to him that none of his leaders ever would. And he valued that. So I think that's another thing, right, as you kind of-- you referenced old dog, not me, but as you grow up and you sort of get surrounded with more and more experienced people - and these are all healthy parts of growth - but I mean, you if you can get the next generation or the next, next generation to come in unfiltered - and often they will - and the comments that they make-- I mean, I've seen this play out. There's sort of a bit of a giggle around the table like, "Oh, yeah, that's a bit [laughter] uneducated." But that's the illusion. I think if you can look through for that thread of gold in that an educated thought. I mean, that's-- I mean, why is it that it's often these younger organisations and founders that they keep innovating? It's like, surely. It's not saying it's the only way, but I think it's just another practice we can all put in. I overheard someone say once, "Do you have a mentor that's younger than you? And if not, why not? Do you think that they have nothing to bring?" It was an interesting challenge. And yeah, something to think about.
SCOTT OXFORD: 30:00.305 It's amazing. Yeah. Not too long ago, we were briefly allowed to fly. I went to Perth and I sat next to a founder who's 23. He's got a very-- he's got a $3 million business moment. And it's growing rapidly and going global. And we just talked for hours on this trip. I had a whole lot of work I'd planned to get done but Perth's a long way. And we had some incredible chats and we've become-- we've both realised that for me at 49 and for him at 23 - it's basically just under half my age - we have so much to teach each other and it's about focusing on the positive. So I love that idea. I'm going to tell him he's my mentor. Because it's yeah, it's just something rich about the-- not being limited by what the world has told you you can do and being inspired by seeing people like you and I-- look, I think it's something to do with your generation as well. I think I'm a Gen X, you're Gen Y. So Gen Y doesn't allow the same limitations in their thinking that Gen X's do. And I think that helps. But I don't want to sell short what it is that you guys have done and this incredible thing that isn't just any old Gen Y doing this, this is actually about sort of bravely stepping out. And I want to ask you, you were fully for-purpose from the beginning. There was never a thought in your mind that this would be a "we would make some profits and donate some of them to the" it was always integral to the brand for you?
DANIEL FLYNN: 31:37.262 Yeah, I mean, I had a probably personal journey on that where I definitely-- before you could say the official founding of Thank You. I was like, "50-50 is a pretty good deal." [laughter]. Sure, it means that there is a background where I was like, "Yeah, yeah, it wouldn't have to be all for it, could just be even, like 80-20. That's amazing, or 90-10." So there was in me, I think because I probably spent all my time being inspired by business and listen to people and following different mentors around. And this is what I would say, just a quick plug for Gen X and beyond. Yes, younger generations have got something to bring. So too do the older generations. And it's-- Thank You is actually a story of marrying of these two different worlds of thought, right, to create outcomes that are working. Otherwise, we would just be this antagonistic brand that doesn't really work. Like I think there's a lot of layers to this. And many of my mentors have many, many, many years of both age and experience on me. That's been super helpful. But look, I think early on, yeah, I was not-- the 100% concept was the most extreme. But it's funny because every time I sat with the idea of all for versus part, it was just so different. Even 90-10, 90% to the cause, 10% to founders or investors. Yeah, that was pretty special. But 100% just took it to a different stratosphere. And I think we couldn't walk away from that. And I felt very personally challenged. And for me, it was quite a, I don't know, a deep journey. In my own kind of personal faith walk, this wrestle on all for if I'm honest. It wasn't an easy step. And even since launching, I mean, yeah, it's a hard, funny little path to walk.
SCOTT OXFORD: 33:46.173 Well, particularly because of the size you are now. I mean, did you ever imagine it would be this big? I mean, you always hoped, I guess. But could you ever visualise it would be this big and now continuing to grow?
DANIEL FLYNN: 33:56.907 Yeah, that's a hard question to answer because-- well, my answer is, yes, we believe we were young enough, big enough, bold enough to think this is going to be probably even bigger than it is today. However, is it also mind-blowing? Yes. And to some days you go, "Wow, how did we get here?" I was looking for houses a while back and I was like, "Wow, Thank You how much is in every bathroom." not quite. But it's sort of felt that way. And it's like, "How did that happen?". That's cool. So you have these moments, right? But the 100% concept was-- yeah, I mean, to live a life that is all for others is a very-- people in history that I look at in that, I don't necessarily have a whole list in business but I would look at-- we would hear as a society, Mother Teresa you know maybe the Martin Luther Kings, Mandelas of the world, people that kind of went, "Hey, I'm putting aside a bunch of traditional things that you would aspire to in the pursuit of other people." And to me, I was like I think that's what Thankyou is. And I think that it's beautiful, and I think it's compelling and I think it will do it justice. So yeah, and there were days as we've built where you literally go, "Man, if we just had investors right now, this would really help."
SCOTT OXFORD: 35:34.619 Because that's a thing isn't it? People don't invest in a fully for-profit business because they're not going to get a return. Is that right?
DANIEL FLYNN: 35:42.619 Yeah. Yeah. Correct. So we've had some great philanthropic support and some super unconventional consumer support. And I do think because this is all for it's purpose I do think we can for things that we just couldn't ask for.
SCOTT OXFORD: 35:57.111 Yeah. That's trust, isn't it? Because trust is a massive part of brand and it takes many different forms, but you have permission to call in that trust because you've proven that you can be a good steward of anything that someone gives you.
DANIEL FLYNN: 36:16.208 Yeah. And I love what you said there, and I think it's true. Weirdly, help me unpack this, but there are some days where I think, and we've had in our history probably two media kind of hit pieces on Thankyou over 12 years. I kind of thought there'd be more but we've had two. And they're basically each time trying to hit you with integrity, and this whole idea of trust and spending and kind of a lot of the backpacks that I think the charity sector had lumped onto Thankyou. But one of the hard things is we're not a charity, no one gives us money for free, we earn it. It's a completely different model, and so there are days where I literally feel, if we were a full profit business we would-- it's like there's an element of scepticism that enters the moment you say it's all for. Then scepticism comes, is it really? Well how does that work? How much do you get? How does this really work? Where does the money really go? Where as if you're like, we're just a business and we donate some money as a society we think, "Yeah, okay, that's cool." In fact, even if you look at the founder space who make a $100 million and you give $1 million you're a philanthropist. And that's front page cover story kind of stuff, right? Successful business, philanthropist. I mean hypothetically if you gave $100 million and you were paid $1 million, spoiler alert I'm not, but if you were that would be front cover for all the wrong reasons. I mean, this is a travesty what has happened, look $1 million salary or earnings that is just-- so as a society we would tarnish that as front-page - what was I going to call it? - kind of with sensationalise it, and we cancel that person. But we hero the exact inverse of that and that is in part why I think as a society we don't have a lot of innovators and entrepreneurs running to this space because whether we know it or not as a society we have made it quite tricky to navigate, so.
SCOTT OXFORD: 38:40.105 I think it's that the average person is trying to attach meaning and trying to decode constantly all the brands and all the meanings, and they're bombarded with are your clothes ethically made? Is your recycling right? Is this that. And then you hear the charities, the World Visions of the world, you know, "How much actually gets spent on that? How much actually gets through?" There's a bigger conversation around, "You know what? It costs money to actually build brand and be known." Every other organisation in the world has to invest in brand building. And then they have to invest in activation. These things don't sell themselves. The message doesn't tell itself. And if we were in a media landscape where these topics were given the status they deserve, but we're not, we're in this highly sort of consumerist landscape and we almost give the big corporates permission to be bad guys. It's like, "Oh that's just them." But it's like the-- in families, where the reckless child is given all of the rope in the world. And the good child gets all of the focus put on them, and all the pressure on them for performing. And they put one foot out of line, and it's, "It's not good enough." It's that kind of thing. We've got to shift that. That's a big conversation in itself to shift. Because that's fundamentally-- your story's right, but it's the conversations having out there, are wrong, and they need to shift. And who's going to shift that? I mean obviously you guys are working to shift that. And conversation like this helps to shift it, but it's a tough one.
DANIEL FLYNN: 40:17.249 Yeah. It is. I mean, I've had thoughts, extreme ideas, that are not approved, and have not made it through the approval process at Thankyou. Specifically Justin’s for not doing-- [laughter] I was like, imagine if we bought a Lamborghini with Thankyou money, right? Actually, we bought it, we drove it around for a week, right? With the money, then we sold it. We did it at auction and maybe we get more than the cost price where you can make a bit of money, you're guaranteed to get a whole bunch of media. At the end of the week, it's a cost mutual thing. I mean we probably end up making money. In this whole piece of the puzzle, we get a whole bunch of media and then we just sort of flip the script to say, "Hey we've been trying for 10 years to talk about some of the biggest issues that face humanity. We got all of your attention over a car that actually-- "Now the idea has flaws all through it and the Thankyou Lamborghini has not come out. But there's a part of me that does think, as a society we are holding back so much social good by some of these big ideas that we all subscribe to. And I don't mean we shouldn't be sceptical. We should. Some people have done the wrong thing. But I think we have to-- it's like, to be honest, one of the greatest things in the non-profit sector at Thankyou, we're trying, but it's like we've squeezed out the ability to innovate. Because those of us who know brands that innovate, they fail. And so fail is-- so Jeff Bezos could get up and say, "Hey you know what? We put a couple 100 million into this phone or this project. It didn't work. But you know what? We learned some great lessons and we're moving forward." Everyone applauds. And as an investor, even though you put your money in, you're still applauding. Because as long as the fundamentals of that business are moving forward, you will excuse that failure as long as there's learning that leads to future innovation.
DANIEL FLYNN: 42:20.612 In non-profit, imagine a CEO gets up and goes, "We got 100 million bucks, and we kind of-- yeah, we lost it. But we've got some learnings." It would just be, "That's it. Write them off. Cancel them." And so, for that reason, you don't have big organisations, big charities, investing 100 million in blue-sky ideas that could change the world. But they could also risk the brand and risk the stability and so money is only going into the tried-and-proven models and the things that work. And that is bad news. And in fact, we've released a letter on our website, titled, "The system's broken, we helped break it." And one of the points it addresses is that Open Road Alliance, which is a really credible research body, they came out and said, "46% of the issues that charities face are donor-led problems." Now we'd all say, "Corruption must be the biggest issue." No, no. 46% of the issue is the donor-- I think 4% was attributed to corruption. Right? And so charities are facing it, why? Because the donor wants a specific thing. They want their money to go here and not there. They want to fund the safe bets, not the kind of scary stuff and at Thankyou, we've flipped this and so we've said, "Actually, we're going to provide unrestricted funding. We will back the big bets of organisations around the world who are innovating. Who are thinking different. And that's what we want to fund that because the sector needs it.
SCOTT OXFORD: 43:50.901 Yeah. I want to pick up two things there. One of them is, with what you said about being a business, not a charity. And there is clearly some-- in the supporter-eye, there is some confusion there because technically you've sold a product. Those profits are there for you to use. But your brand story and your brand connection with supporters, is that they see themselves, by choosing you, as being donors. And so they've taken on that donor persona. And so what that means is that, I think the Titanic is shifting. I think there is a maturing. It's going to take some time yet, but we're going to see more and more where people start to sort of understand, I guess, that you need to be trusted. You've built this business to this point. You need to be trusted and to release some of that. Because you see it in volunteerism, as well, volunteers give their time and what that means is that they feel a sense of ownership and they feel they have a right to say how things are done. And that was never part of the deal, necessarily. But they kind of take that on. And so it is, as you say, I understand that donor-led idea. Because it is about us feeling like we have a right to tell you, however many thousands or hundreds of thousands or millions of customers have a right to tell you how to run your business and what a--
DANIEL FLYNN: 45:26.526 Yeah. And look, without having a go at millions of people, we'll have a go at ourselves. Who are we having a right to speak to these-- we back some amazing charities, 19 at the moment around the world. We were holding them to account. The things that we thought were great. At the end of the day, it restricted them. It held them back. And I think a great analogy was this analogy that stuck with me. Imagine that you needed heart surgery and so you paid a top heart surgeon who had a really good track record and you paid them. But imagine if you started telling that surgeon how to do their job because it's your money. How you wanted it done because it's your money. It's your money that's going into it. That is absolutely ludicrous. We don't apply that to the medical field. We certainly don't apply that to the free market. So, just because you invested money in Facebook, that gives you no right to say where that money goes. You have absolutely no right, authority, to say, "Oh actually, I'm going to invest in this company but Tesla, I want my specific money, none of it to go to marketing. That's a waste. And I want none of it to go to executive salaries. I want it to go to the batteries. I'm really interested in the development of the battery." Now, as stupid as this surgeon analogy sounds, and the-- I mean, that little Tesla example, that's the exact thing we have globally applied to the charity sector. We've got to put our hand up as individuals, and we're putting our hand up at Thankyou to say, the system is broken, we helped break it. As a donor, we absolutely had all these requirements. And so now, if you look at our website, we've gone through what we're doing different, how we're giving different. We will back ideas that may fail, but they may work and if they work, it will advance our entire civilization forward. But we have to back that stuff. And yeah, that is-- that's new. But I think we do have to change our perspective and there are many people starting to talk about this issue. But, it is an issue.
SCOTT OXFORD: 47:37.965 Yeah. I love the Lamborghini example you mentioned as well. I think it's got a lot of strength to it. I totally understand the reservations and why it's a bit iffy. And it almost, in some ways, does smack a bit more of Peter, or one of those animal cruelty kind of approaches, where it's sort of extreme. And that doesn't feel as gracious. But I actually think you could pull it off in a gracious way. But, as you say, you're being really selective about where your-- about the way you use that journey. And, at the same time, I admire the educational aspect to what you do. And, like I said before, I think things are shifting. I think these emerging generations-- again, I've been so blessed to have had such a great range of guests from the commercial world, but certainly from the for-purpose and purpose-driven space as well. And I think there is this shifting consciousness where we're actually doing that. It's that idea of trusting you. You've brought the business to this point, we can trust you where to take it. And that's a good sort of segway into people, because we mentioned briefly, internal brand before, and your people. Clearly, there's some people on your team that care about what you're about. But, can you give us a bit of a window into your people?
DANIEL FLYNN: 49:03.486 Yeah. I think we have a lean team who I could describe as incredibly bold and ambitious, married with humble and no ego, which sometimes those ideas are at war with each other. But, I feel like it's a balance of the two. And I think that that's a really critical thing to hold, ambition and growth and-- but also humility and also the ability to listen, the ability to consider different perspectives. So, I would say that is a mark of many of our team. I'd also say they're very united, and we as a team, are really united on the things that matter. There's a whole bunch of stuff that we would have different views on, we come from different backgrounds, different perspectives on the world. But we're very united on our mission and on our vision. And so we would talk about, "Hey, we need to keep the main thing the main thing." And so I think I think a lot of teams-- and at times I think, yeah, we became divided on really interesting, unimportant topics. Or what seemed important, but-- yeah. The early days of Thankyou, the focus I think was on the right problems. Often, the market and the real challenges. And then we became bigger. And so we started to-- some of the bigger issues became these internal focuses and conversations. And that I think is a bit of a slow death. It really is. I look at some of the decisions that are being made in the last 18 months, and they are bold. But they're all external. Changing the way we give. Looking at changing the way we actually make product and who we partner with. And how we bring ideas to market.
DANIEL FLYNN: 50:57.491 And so yeah. We have a team that, I would say, focus on the right things. And they each, I would say, embody our values. And that's been hard over time to aid define them, redefine them. And then hire people who will live by them. But that has been-- I mean you look at that decision on water. We talk about this idea of integrity and doing the right thing. And yeah, every organisation does. But yeah. I think there's been some great decisions not to tick a box that the market would applaud you for, but actually just isn't the right step. And so we will go deep on that stuff, that maybe the world will never, ever know about. But that's okay. It matters. And so this is a group that are values-led and values-driven. And also willing to call out when they've got it wrong. Or call me out. So an open culture for that.
SCOTT OXFORD: 51:57.361 Yeah. That's a great picture of a really healthy internal brand. I think just the importance of, as you say, fostering different thinking. And I love the fact that you and Justine think differently. It's one of the first pieces of advice I got in business. Was long before I was in business. Was in a company where the two guys who ran the business, one was very much from an accounting background, the other guy was very sales oriented. Where they called it the "Sizzle and the sensible". And there's a pendulum that swings between the sizzle and the sensible. And without one or the other, you're going to sit in the wrong space and be in trouble. But just the idea that it can flip between, and move that way. And that you've extended that to your whole team, and given them an opportunity. Because living out a purpose that's sort of bold, I know for us as an agency-- we're a creative agency. We strategy and the like. And brand and all of that. But our purpose above all things is to make a meaningful difference to people's lives. So we're not changing the world like you guys are, but it does mean that we, as a team, allow everyone to contribute to that idea of the work that we take on and the work that we choose not to do as well. And it stands you in unique stead. It's a growing space. But I want to duck back to that whole idea of the boldness of going out of water. And simply, I think that in itself permissions you, as a brand, to say, "We put our money where our mouth is." "You come looking [laughter]," you know? "You won't find it, but do your best. Come digging."
DANIEL FLYNN: 53:43.656 Yeah. And that actually reminds me of something that my dad said years ago. I mean I think this is true for every great brand, about every great leader. He said, "A person of integrity expects to be believed. And when they're not, they let time prove them, right. And so I would say at Thank You, we have a secret weapon that is stronger than the critique of any critic. And it is stronger than even the brute force of some of the competition, and it's time. And so we would see that as one of our secret weapons, we're not going anywhere. You can knock us down, you can pick it apart. And you know what? If you pick it apart, and we can learn from that and be better? Great, because we'll still be there. And I think that is a mindset that is very much grounded in a mission and a vision and not in just building a nice little company.
SCOTT OXFORD: 54:43.315 Yeah. And it's vital too, that metaphor you used before about sort of turning a cruise ship. You don't turn it quickly, it takes time. It is a long game. And it's about using your time along that long game really, really well. Hey, before we run out of time, I have a couple of my own brand questions because we can talk Thank You all day and there are many other things. I definitely will put the website in the show notes. I think it's pretty easy to find you on Google. But I would encourage everyone to jump on and watch the video and learn about no small plan, which was this incredible campaign to P&G and Unilever, the two biggest competitors in the world. We haven't got time to unpack that one but the website does it beautifully. So jump on and do that. I just want to ask you, is there a brand from your childhood where you first became aware of brands? Because you named this business. You had an awareness of brands at the age of 19. Is there something you connected with as a kid or as a younger person that's really stayed with you?
DANIEL FLYNN: 55:56.425 Yeah, that's a great question. Look, I think Charity Water are a charity, but they've really innovated in messaging and marketing, how charity was approached years ago. I would say at 18 or 19 if you said who were the brands, they were one of them. And that's obviously in the cause space. Another brand actually was Invisible Children. They were a charity focused on the end of the LRA and Joseph Kony, they were running that famous infamous make Kony famous Kony 2012 campaign that was-- I mean, that video they launched that got, I think, 100 million views in the first week. And it was more than any other clip on YouTube ever. Incredible. I mean, it got picked apart by media, the world and there's a huge story behind it. But for all that's been said about them, I have great respect. They were campaigners. They were against a kind of solving a pretty impossible problem. But they found creative ways to communicate it. So I would take inspiration from them. As cliche as it sounds, I mean, the iPod was just a defining product for me in my teenage years.
SCOTT OXFORD: 57:16.346 Oh, you're a baby, aren't you?
DANIEL FLYNN: 57:18.325 Yeah, yeah.
SCOTT OXFORD: 57:18.881 Love it.
DANIEL FLYNN: 57:20.068 The iPod, like the oldest songs and just such a minimal experience. And I loved it. And so the more I learned about the backstory of Apple, that was really interesting. And so yeah, I think there is a-- the quality of product and design and thinking, I loved that. But then I also loved the rawness of these people movements and campaigning. And yeah, I think then, any other brands, I think Nike had a sort of this in its product, but it's a grunginess maybe in some of the campaigning that I liked too, this feeling of underground even though it was totally not that underground, but just the way they executed that. I was no brand expert or researcher and I probably picked some of the most generic brand examples out there, but they were formative for me in my teenage years. Also, I had size 14 feet so I couldn't fit pretty much any shoe that's good other than, I mean, some of the bigger basketball shoes or sports shoes, Nike Air as an example, just, yeah. Maybe there was a few reasons why I was in that space.
SCOTT OXFORD: 58:46.712 These are all part of it. I have size 13 feet, so I was always at the peak. I could always get 13s, but yes, I felt for anyone that was 14 and above, so.
DANIEL FLYNN: 58:54.871 Honestly, the difference. The amount of times that someone at the shop has said, "Why don't you try the 13?" I'm like, "Don't. Don't." It's such an emotional journey. It doesn't work. So, yeah. And I bought so many 13s because I'm like, "I'll just put up with it."
SCOTT OXFORD: 59:12.803 Because I love the shoes. Yeah.
DANIEL FLYNN: 59:14.372 Yeah. And two days later, three days later, I'm in just agony.
SCOTT OXFORD: 59:17.284 Yeah. Ah, look. Yeah. It's part of being big. That's our problem, isn't it? Look, I want to ask today, is there a brand that you either trust or love, that really means a lot to you today?
DANIEL FLYNN: 59:32.808 Oh, man. These are great questions. I feel like I should have great answers just to pull out. I've definitely been following the journey of Elon Musk, Tesla, Spacex, the boring company for those who are following it. And I think for me, it's an interesting example because it's not necessarily a brand as much as it is an idea and a disruptive I suppose brand that sits under each of those companies, and Elon Musk has a bit of a play in all of them. Yeah, and I have seen the critiques of the projects as well. But yeah, I would say one of the things I really like is there is an element of pushing the world forward, right? Certainly not in a space I'm completely focused on like intergalactic travel. It's not really my-- but I think there is something really interesting for me about the combination of those companies. The way a Tesla is marketed is not all in on the cause of how the planet will be better, and this is how many trees so that it's beautiful product design, functionality, but also there is a benefit to the world. And so I think that there's actually genius in that, and I think a lot of people, particularly in the social business, if it was their car driving down the street, it would just be screaming all of these callouts over the car about how good it is for the planet and the world, and yet Tesla drives around just minimalist and, yeah. So there's something in that. But then there's this boldness of the same, particularly couple of people that are delivering a car, that you can actually see drive around the street, are also kind of chasing a bit of a crazy idea about Mars or something. But I think there's some genius in the moon shot, Mars shot, concept driving because it somehow makes you feel like that car is-- well, the car's there and I saw one of the rockets go up on a video, so maybe they'll get to Mars. But they're not using Mars to sell the story of why you should buy the car. It's sort of all in the background, but it's building quite a rich story.
SCOTT OXFORD: 01:01:57.270 I think we've all been waiting for something to fail for him. And even when he hit that window with a hammer and it broke, it's like no credibility lost. It was just a-- he just modelled for us, that he's willing to fail. And everybody who's researched success knows that failure is an essential ingredient to it. And he's publicly willing to do that. He's publicly willing-- and we just go, is there anything he can't do? I'm starting to wonder what's next. Nothing will surprise me with him.
DANIEL FLYNN: 01:02:33.618 Yeah, yeah. Correct. And so, I would say that is a story that I'm definitely tracking and I find really interesting there. I think too, there are some other stories which, in the brand space, yeah, are fascinating. One example is Yeezy and the shoe-- I'll just put it out there, I actually don't have any. So, I'm not totally into the brand to the point that I'm queueing up trying to get pairs of them. But I look at that brand, and I look at-- and interestingly, I look at the way they're partnered with Adidas. And so you've got Adidas who's really making-- who's really running the complexities of a global shoe company, right? They're carrying that weight. And then you've got Yeezy, the design and brand team, which are thinking about ideation and pushing boundaries, and it's that partnership that's delivering disruption in that category at scale. So, I think there's something really interesting about that. And then, just on a side note, Off-White, and the work that Virgil's doing, I love it. It's so off that it's on. It's genius and it is-- yeah, I recently saw one of their campaigns they just did for, I think Nike, and I was like, again, is there anything you could do that's not wrong. But anyway, that's just a bit of some mutterings of where I'm at.
SCOTT OXFORD: 01:04:03.059 No, I love it. That's brilliant. Of course, the Apples of the world, and the Nikes, they're a huge part of discovering, growing up in a massively integral part. But I love some of those other brands. And I can see how they influence you, and I can see from what you've told me about your story and what you're doing as an organisation and pushing into the partnerships and that idea of not competing, but joining forces. Joining forces like no small plan is looking to do. I'm excited. In the same way I watch eLine, I'm excited to just continue to watch where you guys go, and what you do. My last question is one I ask everyone, and you're obviously pretty busy with Thankyou, and probably not planning to go anywhere soon, but I wondered if you weren't doing this, is there a dream brand that you would love to work for and maybe that's something that comes next? I don't know. What would you dream of doing?
DANIEL FLYNN: 01:05:02.806 Oh, that's a cool question. I mean, I haven't gone there ever, and certainly not for the last 12 years, so. And I think I'm so embedded and engrained in where we're going, and the gap is so big between where we are and where I think this should be, that if I can get us even a bit closer to closing that gap in our lifetime, it's a good effort. So that's where I'm at. But, yeah. I mean, some of the companies we've just talked about are interesting. I have a friend and he-- well friends, him and his wife, Adelaine and Jahang, they run a really interesting development company building skyscrapers actually. But thinking about just redefining cities and development. I grew up studying project management in construction. I wanted to build buildings. That was in the past there. So sometimes I look at their latest projects, I'm like, "That is awesome. I'd love to be part of that." Yeah, I think for Thankyou, we've got a runway that-- if I'm honest, that I feel like the plane hasn't taken off. And then in some measures it has, but I feel like for what its real potential is in the coming months and years, we'll start to see it really take flight. So, yeah, lots of work to be done.
SCOTT OXFORD: 01:06:25.580 But looking in from the outside-- yeah, we on the outside love what you do. We love what you stand for. And we can see that needle is shifting. Just hang in there. That cruise ship is turning. You guys are a part of that change. And I just see more and more people are going to come on board. I think it's going to be a snowball. I think it's going to get-- it might not get easier, but it's going to get more pace. And it's going to be bigger and more and more-- the more people that enter this space. I'm not giving any details away, but I have a different but purpose-driven project that I've got as a side piece if I can ever find the time to do it outside of podcasting and running an agency. But more and more of us are just seeing this is not just a neato thing, this is actually where things are moving to, and you guys are part of it. So congratulations on everything so far. Thanks for an amazing conversation today. Gosh, we could talk for hours and maybe I will just book you in for something off the mics. But yeah, thanks so much, Daniel. It's been amazing.
DANIEL FLYNN: 01:07:44.653 Hey, thank you so much. Great to be part of it and I look forward to hearing or seeing what that idea is. So, all the best with it. [music]
SCOTT OXFORD: 01:07:55.396 So, to finish, as I always do with a quote, or in this case two quotes. The first one is really applicable, it's Richard Branson, says that, "The brands that will thrive in the coming years are the ones that have a purpose beyond profit." Amen brother. And also a quote from the Thankyou website itself, no known author for this one, but it says, "A small group of determined and like-minded people can change the course of history." And I think that's what those guys are definitely part of. My studio producer and editor is Zane C Weber. Music is by Phil Slade. And brand and art direction by Andrew McGuckin and my team at New Word Order. Don't forget to subscribe to this podcast if you haven't already. And drop me a line, I love hearing feedback. I'd love to hear what you think of it. I'm Scott Oxford. Thanks for joining Daniel and I today on BrandJam. [music]