Posted by: kwbrand | May 4, 2010

Keeping it Real: Brand Authenticity

I met Kathryn Higgins in Vegas. I was there as a marketing consultant for a client attending  a “Mom to Be” tradeshow where, typical tradeshow fashion, we began each day by winding our way through lines of people checking in or out of the hotel, through the casinos, and into the giant room with booths of exhibitors showing their wares and hoping for buyers. Kathryn was there with her daughter Silencia, who she’s hired as her colleague, representing Motherlove Herbal Company

We connected right away. Like us, Kathryn and Silencia are from Colorado. Their laid back presence was a nice change from the overly smiley, perky types selling stuff like nail polish for new moms and pregnancy approved makeup. (Whatever).

Kathryn told us her story. Back in the day, she was a real Colorado hippy. She lived off the grid in a tee-pee. She loved the earth and trusted its resources. By the 1970s, she was a full-fledged herbalist making herbal concoctions for skin care and teaching classes.  When she became a mother, she developed several organic herbal products to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

The rest is an American dream success story (which means she was given an opportunity and Kathryn and a handful of loyal employees spent the next 20 years working their tails off to make the business successful).  Motherlove products are now available in major chains like Whole Foods, in 100 hospitals around the nation, across Europe, and recently, in Southeast Asia. They’ve received press in over 50 national magazines such as Fit Pregnancy and Mothering. But the values of the company have not changed. When we first met Kathryn, she laughingly confessed that the outfit she was wearing was a gift from her mom since she (Kathryn) still couldn’t muster up much interest in shopping and fashion.

On Saturday, I was privileged to attend Motherlove’s 20th birthday celebration. The event was held in a cool old converted warehouse with hardwood floors and exposed beams. The food was amazing and the live music was great. But what really struck me was the way the Kathryn’s—and now Motherlove’s— values were so seamlessly woven into the execution of every detail.

Kathryn’s short speech highlighted the value they place on the love and care of both the mothers they serve and the love for mother earth. She thanked Silencia for making all the arrangements for the party in a way that would minimize waste. And sure enough, Silencia had seen to it.

  • The cups were biodegradable plastic made from corn.
  • The forks were made of carved bamboo.
  • The plates were made from husks that had been steamed together to form square-shaped, fully compostable plates.
  • The centerpieces were simple, elegant floral arrangements tucked into the trademark blue Motherlove bottles.
  • Recycling stations were set up around various corners.

This is a great example where marketing is just the public way of communicating the essence of a brand already at work in the values of the organization and its clientele.

The band, Edgewater Juke, struck up a dance-worthy tune and Kathryn, understated and practical as ever, hit the dance floor.

Where have you encountered examples of such great brand alignment?

Kyndra Wilson, KW Brand Translation



  1. Great points! The example of great brand alignment I thought of is Starbucks; they grew into a global powerhouse without hardly doing ANY traditional advertising (until the last few years). Their growth was fueled by being entirely focused on the in-store experience; Lighting, furniture, paint…they even had a full time person making six figures just selecting the music!

    • Good example Kurt! Am I mistaken or has the Starbucks music thing become its own industry? I think that infamous Starbucks memo referred to a lot of the experience they had built their brand on and then subsequently diluted with the mass expansion. A cautionary tale and a great example.

  2. I thought of the company that makes my son’s cloth diapers–Lollidoo ( They don’t just make cloth diapers to reduce waste but re-purpose their manufacturing waste into packaging, donate 10% of their profits to the Water Keepers Alliance, and hire seamstresses from domestic violence shelters. They talk about those things and more in their core values explanation here:

    Your idea of brand alignment reminds me a lot of a TED talk I watched this morning about why vs. how vs. what:

    Great post–thank you!

    • Great example Cathy! Thanks so much for sharing. This is perfect.

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