💥 #3 - Impact Initiative: Why Good Hemp think communication is key when you’re trying to “Unf**k the Planet”
Featuring Ben Cooper, Head of Brand
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Good Hemp are on a mission. As the leading hemp consumer brand and hemp ingredient producer in the UK, their state-of-the-art processing plant in North Devon fuels the food and sports nutrition industry with the planet friendly super seed. Did you know Hemp plants absorb FOUR times more CO2 than trees, and gives back 70-80% of nutrients it takes? Good Hemp think that’s pretty cool, and we agree.
They picture a world where all food and drink is sustainable, so we spoke to Ben Cooper, Head of Brand for Good Hemp since January 2019, about how they’re both working towards this goal and communicating it to their audience.
‘If you don't have all the facts, then don't communicate quantitatively about sustainability’
Critique, question and challenge EVERYTHING in your supply chain. If you can’t afford a third party to help you, there’s a lot you can do in-house and from the start.
Be careful who you align your brand with. Advocates > Influencers.
Don’t say something you can’t back up. Avoid the dreaded greenwash.
👉 What’s your role at Good Hemp?
I am the Head of Brand for Good Hemp. My work focuses on looking after marketing, communications, new product development, commercial and all our digital activity. I’ve been working for the business for approximately 2 years now.
Good Hemp went through a rebranding a couple of years ago - were you there for that?
It kicked-off just before I joined. The team rebranded and repositioned our business to focus on all the incredible sustainability benefits of hemp. This helped us enhance the message of just the health implications of hemp and develop the hero message of the crop we’re using: more protein, zero-waste processing, good for the soil...etc.
👉 How did you choose your impact pillars?
I’m a big believer that what makes a brand is the people within it. So we sat down as a team to define our impact pillars. We asked ourselves:
What is our mission?
Who is the enemy?
What are we up against?
What are we fighting for?
Sometimes our enemy is simply the misunderstanding of hemp, ingrained in you through social media (the UK is an especially hard market to hit for hemp). We aimed to counter that a little bit through our pillar “Grow More Hemp”.
Now, our impact pillars are:
Grow More Hemp - we want to inspire the world to grow more hemp!
Aim for Zero Waste - ensure we have a zero wastage factory.
Leave No Trace - use packaging that leaves no trace whilst still preventing food waste.
For the People - only make honest food and drink products that benefit our community.
👉 What’s so “Good” about Hemp?
Hemp is often widely misunderstood. It appears differently to plants in the consumer’s eyes - hemp at Good Hemp is our hero. We aim to make information around hemp digestible for people and to celebrate its amazing impact.
What are the challenges of using this crop as a food brand?
We have to revisit all the same subjects in our communications. There is still taboo around using this type of plant. We still need to educate around the basics:
What is the difference between THC vs. CBD?
What part of the hemp crop (seed, leaf, flower..etc) is used to make your milk?
Will I get high whilst drinking your milk? (yes, you read correctly)
To make sure we answer the right questions, we use Google analytics and trends to find out what are the most common questions asked on the web. A lot of the stuff we find is pretty basic but it’s important to create content around what people are asking and needing as information.
To answer these questions as best as possible, we collected as much data as necessary from the supply chains, processing and the making of hemp-milk and hemp-based products. We’re soon launching a campaign called “What The Hemp?” as a kick-off to answering loads of questions on hemp as a plant.
👉 How did you find collecting this kind of data from suppliers when you’re a small brand?
Always question what your suppliers are doing, regardless of the challenge this is. Unfortunately, as a small business, you’re right at the bottom of the pile for larger suppliers. You want to make sure suppliers see you as part of their mission, towards the top of their pile - if not, then search for smaller, more interesting, suppliers. Perhaps innovators just like you want to change the food space you're in too.
👉 Have you experienced any trade-offs between product taste vs product sustainability?
That’s a really tough question. I think every brand has to do the research and speak to consumers. For example - there are a great number of loyal hemp fans out there in the UK, however, it’s important to understand how to reach wider audiences such as oat milk fans who want something a little bit different and better for the planet (but that still tastes good).
In general, the reality with food & drink is this: you are fighting the shelf-life requirements of big retailers. Unfortunately, you have to compromise as you need to weigh making the best hemp milk there is versus making sure your product doesn’t go off on the shelves. You have to be aware of the constraints of retail.
👉 How do Good Hemp approach Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?
Many businesses think CSR is just a thing they have to do. A tick box. “Which charity should we work with and what are we going to do in terms of CSR…”. CSR shouldn’t be a checklist, Good Hemp just ARE socially responsible. Being sustainable is not just a tick box exercise for us, it’s ingrained in the day to day workings of our business - can we reduce and reuse within our supply chain? Where are we having a negative impact? What can we do to improve? Our brand is always having an impact, so we need to make sure that impact is measured and we put the planet first, always.
If you’re not socially responsible what’s the point of being a hemp brand?
ENSIGHT’S INSIGHT: You can read more about CSR here.
👉 What’s your strategy when communicating about sustainability as a brand?
Advertising through social media is an absolute pain in our ass as there’s loads of legislation around advertising hemp! So, unfortunately, you can't push further than your own means. Everything we do needs to be organically created. We have to find ways to live beyond our means and this does make raising awareness about our sustainability hard. But we’ve got lots of different stories to tell as a small business so we’re powering on.
You shouldn't have to remind people why being sustainable matters, but we do.
One way we’ve been showcasing our products to more people is through having ambassadors. Don’t get this confused though with “influencers”. We’re not looking for someone working with every brand under the sun. We try to find personalities that fit our mission and brand. People like UK mountain bikers, surfers down in Cornwall and yogis too!
👉 What are some top tips when communicating about impact?
You should collate as much data as possible! As well as figure out who your target audience is. You may have originally thought your brand lover was Felicity the teenage flexitarian whilst it’s actually Felicity’s busy mum with four kids. Searching for your target audience is a forever shifting journey - don’t be afraid to change who you initially thought you were branding too. Be flexible and stay true to your routes.
Stay clear of the temptation of going down the influencer route. “Advocate > Influencer", every time.
The key element here as a small brand is going with your gut. Innovation should be at the heart of what you do.
We don’t need more founders making something else people don’t need. Is your product doing good for the people buying it and doing good to our planet? You’ll have both commercial and corporate opportunities along your journey and it is up to you to stay true to your mission. Remember to grow with the people you partner with, and remain agile in the process. Keep trying to find your tribe: the group of people who benefit from what you make. This means constantly seeking product-market fit.
👉 What are some impact communication “don'ts”?
Don’t greenwash. Don’t say something you can't back up. Data and insight are at the core of everything we do here at Good Hemp. If you don't have all the facts, then don't communicate quantitatively about sustainability. We need data-backed information before preaching.
I think what saves brands from greenwashing is transparency: if you're doing something good then communicate about it. That’s ok. If you have long term goals, some great ambition but no information, then be clear about your mission and clearer about the fact you have no data (YET).
You don’t need to be all percentages and numbers, you can also state your qualitative goal (rather than quantitative).
👉 Do you have any other advice for other small brands or startups?
Sometimes it’s not realistic to work with third parties on your sustainability journey when starting your own business. So, my advice to you is to start with preventing unnecessary harm to the planet. Critique, question and challenge EVERYTHING in your supply chain. You should get numbers and statistics on waste, electricity from your suppliers and get that conversation going from an early stage.
Ultimately, however, consumers want hard stats and numbers. So be prepared to eventually show them.
💥 Impact Resources 💥
Check out Good Hemp’s blogs
Use Google Analytics to search for trends in your sector.