Then there’s Mark Brand, CEO of Mark Brand, Inc. Brand, who was once homeless, is a social entrepreneur and activist dedicated to a food-focused approach to fighting poverty and homelessness.
In fact, he wants to solve homelessness by using data. According to Brand, over 92% of homeless people have a device they can connect to — and using that data can help tell the story to in fact change the world. As Brand says, “the best source for reliable data is the people experiencing it.”
In his talk, Brand also said something that stuck with me. While it’s not germane to the topic of using data to change the world, it’s important enough to share here. He said
“Data needs story — without the story, it doesn’t connect with people. Data needs story to build empathy. Story needs the data to build trust.”
That’s a lesson for ANY brand.
I realize this post started off oddly via my use of the word “then” but I did that for a reason; for effect. The above is a direct excerpt from a larger piece I wrote last year for MediaPost. The title of that post was Using Data To Change The World and that’s what Brand is doing… and then some.
To say Mark Brand is a unique guy is like saying yours truly kinda likes coffee (HINT: he likes it a lot). Through his and his team’s tireless efforts, over 2.2 million free meals have been served to the homeless since 2012.
I met Mark last year at *Domopalooza, an annual event hosted by Domo in Salt Lake City. Well I first heard and saw him speak and then KNEW I had to meet him. Here’s his talk that inspired me to want to meet him:
Brand is, as Forbes put it “on a mission to help secure upward mobility for individuals living on the margins, with food at the center of his work.” He’s doing this by working closely with other brands, no pun intended.
He told me that while he’s not above “just taking a check” from ANY brand, he’d much rather they be involved, personally.
“Brands are comprised of the humans that operate them and WE ALL NEED to be IN the work to close these gaps of disparity, to SEE each other,” he says. “We have execs from Edelman, Unilever, and Knorr, for example, on farms cooking with women from Brownsville with products they’re also donating and leveraging others to do the same. It’s not simply a financial transaction, the value lies in the alignment on all levels.”
I asked him if he thought we’re close to a tipping point when it comes to brands being socially active and if not do these same brands run the risk of losing market share. He actually thinks we were close to that tipping point way back in 2009 and have been espousing it nearly every day since.
“Many brands are already irrelevant and are wholly unaware because the youth are also rebelling against measurable social platforms,” he declared. “They’re living in real life and have vetted you heavily. We work with youth weekly, cooking, convening, educating each other. If you’re not about the healing of this planet and the people on it, they already know.”
Invest in the Future
Right on the home page of his site, markbrandinc.com, is his and his team’s mission and when it comes to brand missions, this one is as straightforward as they come:
“Our mission is to support local community, enabling upward mobility through employment, training and investing in the future.”
Anyone who knows me knows, yes, I am a voracious embiber of Joe — bet you don’t know why Joe is slang for coffee — but I am also a major proponent of the concept of keeping it simple, AKA The Single Most Complicated Skill For Marketers (and humans).
I bring this up because the above mission statement is the living embodiment of keeping things simple. What they do and how they do it. Period.
There’s a whole lot of brands AND people who could benefit greatly by adopting this approach.
But I digress.
*This year, out of an abundance of caution over the risk of spreading illness in light of COVID-19 concerns, Domo made the decision to make this year’s Domopalooza 100% online/virtual. You can read more about this decision via a post from Domo CEO Josh James.
Below is something I am sharing on behalf my ‘brother’ Brian DeMarco, one of the most genuine people I have ever met. Those of you old enough may remember Brian from his playing days with Jacksonville Jaguars and Cincinnati Bengals of the NFL.
Brian’s son Enzo is in the fight of his life and needs our help and prayers. Please take a minute to click on the Go Fund Me page set up to help Enzo and if you’re moved to donate, thank you. If not, that’s fine as well. Either way, please send prayers.
Featured mage by Alexandr Ivanov from Pixabay