In episode four of the TBE Podcast, we were joined by Michael Baretta of DotGood, South Africa’s leading cause marketing agency, specialising in socially responsible strategies that bridge the gap between the greater good and the bottom line. They work with brands that want to make a difference and large, non-profit organisations to create solutions that do more than simply meet objectives.
Uniquely geared towards finding big-picture solutions, they see opportunities where others cannot and care about the positive impact that good business can have on the bottom line and, more importantly, on society.
Michael started DotGood roughly a decade ago, with his marketing career spanning nearly 20 years, working for the largest brand activation agency in Africa. During this time, he realised how self-serving marketing could be and wanted more purpose in his career. After being headhunted, he moved from Cape Town to Johannesburg, where he immediately noticed how much litter was lying in the streets, and actively decided to do something about it.
Through his job position at the time, he met David Grier, who was running a marathon a day across the coastline of South Africa to raise money for his NGO ‘Miles For Smiles’. Over an agency lunch, David shared the incredible work he was doing, leaving Michael feeling truly emotive and realising the power of harnessing emotive communication in marketing.
He then decided to combine an emotive way to change behaviour with a desire to clean up the country, thus helping to resolve the litter issue. This endeavour led to Trekking for Trash, an objective centred around a 3600 km walk collecting litter every day over seven months and, along the way, engaging with schools and community groups to teach them the importance of a clean environment and recycling.
He realised that it is possible to build brands that drive sales and do good simultaneously through this journey. This realisation led to the pillars upon which DotGood has been created.
Purpose-led marketing explained
When asked what purpose-led marketing means, Michael highlighted that this form of marketing has become very topical, especially since Covid, as marketing and brand directors have felt greater empathy for what it feels like to be in need, hence creating a groundswell for purpose-led marketing. As a result, purpose-led marketing has moved away from the traditional way of marketing and graduated towards a mutually beneficial form of marketing that fosters longer-lasting and deeper relationships with all stakeholders.
Advice for setting up marketing campaigns
When asked for advice in setting up marketing campaigns, DotGood has a set process when working with clients. Their first step, and very importantly, is to help a company define their brand purpose and why they exist. Once the brand purpose has been determined, they can develop campaigns that deliver the plan in action. Campaigns generally roll out across various marketing channels, such as face-to-face, digital, outdoor media, and the like, to deliver that plan in action.
DotGood almost always help brands shape their purpose without charging for this. They feel it is their social responsibility to create a network of organisations that want to change the world. It needs to come from the organisation. However, they will assist them with cues to shape it and partner with other organisations to create projects that help them communicate it more impactfully. These projects include feeding, health, HIV/AIDS, recycling, nutrition, education, and more.
When asked about DotGood’s involvement in doing good related to the world we live in due to the pandemic, Michael firstly touched on their task to work with Higher Health, the organisation looking after students’ health in higher education. They concentration on digital engagement and PR messaging to communicate the misconceptions around Covid and how it is transmitted. As face-to-face interaction was limited due to social distancing, digital was the way they used to reach the consumer directly and safely. Secondly, he elaborated on the increased need for feeding programmes, resulting in them running big feeding projects across the country. This has a double purpose for brands because not only are they helping take care of and improve people’s lives, but consumers also remember the brands that are there for them in their time of need and will most likely develop brand loyalty.
When asked if DotGood is doing purpose-led work independently, Michael responded, “Our purpose has always been recycling, as this is how the agency was born through Trekking for Trash. However, we give back by giving so much more to our projects – staying up late, waking up early, making sure everything is running smoothly to ensure valuable projects are created that benefit all stakeholders”.
Michael highlighted DotGood’s role in often advising clients against their preferred way of marketing and proposing a more purpose-led way of marketing. For this reason, they are quite selective with their clients to ensure they share the same sentiment for wanting to make a difference. Of course, helping clients deliver their objectives is important. However, DotGood will always provide suggestions to make projects more sustainable, e.g. employ a minority group to work an activation, use wood instead of plastic, make a container long-lasting instead of a disposable container, create an infrastructure that will last years rather than build one for a single event.
Shared Office Space in Rosebank
Over the 10 years that DotGood has been in operation for, 6 of those years have been spent in TBE’s fully serviced flexible offices in Rosebank. Michael shared that TBE staff members have become like family and team members. He loves the flexibility that allows them to upscale and downscale according to the number of people they need at any given time, depending on the number of projects they have running at a time. The team also love the coffee made by the professional onsite barista. Furthermore, he commended the office location in a very central part of Rosebank, close to his home and other attractions.