When it comes to purpose-led brands, Chipotle and The North Face are leading the charge. Chipotle is dedicated to providing fresh, real, and responsibly sourced food, while The North Face is obsessed with equipping and inspiring people to live extraordinary lives.
We invited Chris Brandt, Chief Brand Officer at Chipotle, and Sophie Bambuck, CMO at The North Face, to join us on Visionaries to discuss their personal, professional, and corporate purposes and how they approach their greater responsibility in the world through meaningful campaigns. In this recap, they expand on four marketing tips for putting purpose in the driver’s seat:
- Find Your Personal Power First, Then Your Place.
- Remain True to Your Company’s Core Purpose
- Fuel Sustainable Causes through Brand
- Create Avenues for Customers to Get Involved
1. Find Your Personal Power First, Then Your Place.
Sophie Bambuck’s Purpose-led Career
I believe that we all have our own power; my goal has always been to figure out how to use my power best. Taking on my current role at The North Face was really about two things. First, figuring out how to apply and leverage my power in an environment where I feel comfortable and confident. And second, I needed to decide if marketing was the right avenue to do that.
To answer the first, The North Face aligns with my values and has an amazing mission and purpose. We’re athlete-led and provide product benefits for our athletes. That just made sense to me.
Regarding the latter, the industry has evolved tremendously, and some could say the pendulum has swung far from being brand-led to being data and performance-led. Because I’m more of a brand marketer, I felt it was essential for me to work for a brand that had higher ambitions and goals that could change people’s lives. So, it was a natural evolution for me to go to The North Face after working at Nike for 15 years. I get to work with amazing people every day; it was really hard to pass that up.
Chris Brandt Shares How He Ended Up at Chipotle
I started my career in finance, and when I went back to business school, I wanted to explore marketing and ended up at General Mills for eight years, where I learned a lot about brand marketing. After more than a decade in CPG, I received a call to join Taco Bell. I spent five years there as the VP of Marketing and then became CMO.
Next, I worked at Bloomin Brands, which owns Outback and Carrabba’s restaurants. When the CEO I worked with at Taco Bell moved to Chipotle, he asked me to join him. I admired Chipotle and its brand mission, which is founder-inspired and aspirational. It’s a luxury to work at a place with such a strong brand purpose, and I’ve never been at a place with a stronger one than Chipotle.
At Taco Bell, we didn’t have an aspirational brand purpose, just a tagline. Here, we’ve been blessed with one, and we’ve been able to build upon it. It’s been a really great journey.
2. Remain True to Your Company’s Core Purpose
We have around 115,000 employees at Chipotle, and we own every restaurant. We don’t have any franchisees in the U.S., Canada, or Western Europe; it’s just us. Our brand purpose is to cultivate a better world, and we believe food has that power.
At its core, Chipotle is about unprocessed, real food that is prepared fresh every day using classic culinary techniques. We don’t use any freezers or can openers, and we don’t add any artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. We believe that real food is better for you as a person and for the planet. Our focus on unprocessed food has really resonated with people.
Chipotle has been doing this long before it was fashionable, and we believe it’s caught up with us. With a clear brand purpose, we know that we’ll never waver from these principles. We’ll never adulterate our food or change our core principles. This guiding light has helped us through tough times like the pandemic and the ups and downs of the retail business, and it’s a great North Star for us to have.
The North Face’s Purpose
Our purpose is to equip and inspire people to live extraordinary lives. It sounds ambitious, but it’s really about creating the world’s most iconic performance gear and enabling people to find themselves in nature and from within. Our purpose allows us to speak to all types of consumers in a way that is relevant and resonates with them. It’s not just a mission statement on a piece of paper; it’s the culmination of what our teams believe in. All the decisions we make, internally and externally, are about this mission and purpose.
Being authentic and staying true to your roots is how you build your purpose over time. Your purpose may evolve, and your culture may change, but as long as you remain true to your core, you’ll grow and create a resilient brand.
“Your purpose may evolve, and your culture may change, but as long as you remain true to your core, you’ll grow and create a resilient brand.”—Sophie Bambuck, CMO at The North Face
3. Fuel Sustainable Causes through Brand
The North Face’s Environmental Responsibility
At our company, we are athlete-tested and expedition-proven. This means that we not only deliver benefits through our products, but we also listen to our athletes when they come back to us with their experiences. Our athletes see firsthand things like glaciers melting or trash accumulating in areas where it shouldn’t be.
Our company has three main components: sustainable garments, circularity, and climate change. We work closely with organizations like Protect Our Winters or Action for the Climate Emergency to make an impact. Climate change is very important to our athletes, and we have a responsibility to provide access to the outdoors in a reasonable and thoughtful way.
From a conservation standpoint, we have been making efforts to protect Alaskan wildlife, and the Biden-Harris administration recently passed some good news that we have been fighting for. We also support public lands and are a founding partner of the Conservation Alliance. We work behind the scenes, talking to public figures and leaders to raise awareness and make a difference. Our athletes are in the environment every day, and we have to make sure that there will always be an environment for them to perform in.
Chipotle’s Commitment to Responsibly Raised Ingredients
During my second week at Chipotle, I was blown away by how the restaurant operations work. Every morning, it looks more like a farmer’s market than any other restaurant. We bring in whole avocados, onions, and fresh produce. We even cook the chicken fresh every single day.
This difference inspired our ad campaign “Behind the Foil,” which is a collection of employees’ insights on what they wish everyone knew about Chipotle. One of the key takeaways is the importance of responsibly raised standards. We spend about $400 million more annually on responsibly raised ingredients than conventionally raised ones. As a marketer, we put our money where our mouth is.
Additionally, the farming industry is struggling. We need to make sure that the next generation is inspired to farm the way we do things. We have the highest animal welfare standards in the industry and are the only ones with an A+ rating from the Humane Society. This means that only 5% of the beef in America qualifies from an animal welfare standpoint for Chipotle.
We’ve entered into three-year contracts with farmers to convert from conventional to organic fields. We pledge $5 million over five years to help young farmers because they share our principles of raising food. You can check out all the things we do with farmers at chipotle.com/farmers.
4. Create Avenues for Customers to Get Involved
The North Face Explorer Pass Membership Program
We have various opportunities available, including our membership program called the XPLR Pass. This program provides a loyalty benefit, and through it, we offer a ton of options. We provide access to the outdoors and have an Explore Fund.
The Explore Fund is managed by a council, and we go to the community to understand what is most important to them. When we have vocal audiences, consumers, or communities, we take their feedback into account while investing and planning for the future. This is one of the ways we operate.
Apart from this, we have numerous opportunities available through our membership program. It allows us to provide more access and opportunities for people to engage in the outdoors and have an impact. We are still developing, and we’re on the cusp of something great. We try to find ways to listen to the community and engage in things that matter the most to them.
Chipotle’s Foodprint and Rewards Program
One of the cool features of our Chipotle app is the ability to calculate your ‘foodprint,’ which compares estimated values for a variety of sustainability-related metrics for each of Chipotle’s 53 ingredients to their conventional counterparts.
Another feature that we launched in 2019 is a loyalty program, Chipotle Rewards. Currently, 36 million people are engaged with Chipotle in multiple ways, providing us with a great opportunity to engage with our consumers and inform them about our initiatives. We make it easy for our customers to support us; for example, if you purchase a Tractor Beverage, we donate 5% of the profits back to them. When you visit Chipotle, your support helps farmers.
“We make it easy for our customers to support us… When you visit Chipotle, your support helps farmers.”— Chris Brandt, Chief Brand Officer at Chipotle
Q&A From the Audience
Q: What is your best piece of career advice, and how did that resonate with picking the role that you’re in?
Chris Brandt: Volunteer for tasks that others don’t want to do, and don’t shy away from tough jobs. Additionally, it’s crucial to perform well in any job you are given, even if it is not the most glamorous. At General Mills, for instance, there were many different job rotations throughout the company. When I first started, my second assignment may not have seemed like the best assignment, but I was quick to get promoted because I did a great job with it.
It’s also important not to shy away from working for people with a tough reputation. These have been some of the best people I have ever worked for in my career. You cannot shrink away from these jobs and opportunities. You must work hard on the little things and demonstrate that you are fully invested and capable. And sometimes, demonstrating your abilities on smaller tasks is necessary before you can take on bigger ones.
Sophie Bambuck: When deciding on a job or role, it’s better to focus on the people you’ll be working with rather than the title itself. Even if the role may seem less significant, learning from experienced and supportive colleagues can provide valuable mentorship and help you hone your skills. On the other hand, getting a prestigious job without proper support or guidance can hinder your success. Therefore, prioritize the people and the environment that will provide you with the right support and mentorship to succeed.
Meet the Visionaries
Chris Brandt, Chief Brand Officer at Chipotle: Since joining the company in 2018, Chris has focused on transforming Chipotle into a purpose-driven lifestyle brand, making it more visible and culturally relevant with consumers. He is responsible for all aspects of Marketing—including creative, media, culinary innovation, social, loyalty, and analytics—as well as new restaurant development, as Chipotle builds more than 200 new restaurants each year. Building brand engagement and affinity, Mr. Brandt has created award-winning marketing campaigns for Chipotle and was named Ad Age A-List Awards’ Best Brand CMO (2023); Campaign US’s CMO 50 (2022); Adweek’s Top CMO (2021); ‘The 25 Most Innovative CMOs In The World’ by Business Insider (2023, 2021, 2020); Adweek’s CMO Vanguard Award winner (2020); Executive of the Year by Mobile Marketer (2019); and the American Business Award’s ‘Marketing Executive of the Year’ Silver Stevie Winner (2020, 2019)
Sophie Bambuck, CMO at The North Face: Sophie joined The North Face in Fall 2022 following a dynamic and powerful background in Global and integrated marketing strategy stemming from her more than 20 years of experience across several brands, including Everlane, Nike, Converse, and more. She is passionate about shaping brand strategy, youth culture, and digital experiences by combining art and science to build brands, inspire teams and consumers, and drive organizational growth.
Visionaries, hosted by Nadine Dietz, airs every week and is brought to you in partnership with The Wall Street Journal. Each week, two new visionaries share their game plan and how that impacts today’s teams, talent, and hybrid work environment.
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