(The brain trust of Christie & Co — from l. to r., Alissa Sears, vice president of strategy & navigation; Gillian Christie, founder/CEO)
When people think of the pioneers in the natural products industry, the founders of iconic CPG brands often come to mind.
However, what cannot be forgotten is that a select number of very savvy people were working behind the scenes to popularize these companies, in the media and with consumers, through storytelling. And without them, the success of the organic food sector would not be where it is today.
One such individual is Gillian Christie, the founder/CEO of Christie & Co., a marketing and communications firm based in Santa Barbara, CA. Along with her daughter Alissa Sears, vice president of strategy & navigation, Gillian leads this full-service agency, which has just celebrated its 30th anniversary.
The firm is dedicated to helping ethical brands take their Dream to Mainstream, through conversion market research, brand architecture, PR strategy and award-winning designs. Over the past three decades, it has been responsible for spotting and helping to introduce key trends, impactful companies and memorable campaigns.
I recently caught up with Gillian Christie, as she reflected on her time in the industry, witnessing its growth from very niche to mainstream success.
What prompted you to start working with organic and ethically-minded companies in 1992? This was very ahead of its time.
The simple answer is: why would I, or any agency, want to support and grow an unethical brand whose success could hurt any life, human or botanical?
In the 1960s, I was greatly influenced by my father, Peter Christie, one of America’s pioneering Bauhaus architects, from whom I learned that you can build eco-functional structures, from homes to hospitals, that utilize natural resources. I applied this philosophy to marketing, building ethical concepts and innovations using the least amount of resources; however, not just material resources. Thought and consumers’ attention are resources to respect.
What were some of your big “wins” over the past 30 years?
So many, from introducing wellness ingredients such as stevia, yerba mate, rooibos, guayusa, moringa, aronia and baobab to launching branded products from food and beverage companies to green building, alternative energy and agriculture.
All are important. All have made life better in their respective category.
What do brands not fully appreciate or understand when it comes to marketing and PR?
What is most overlooked is understanding human emotion and reaction, and observing what truly motivates a human decision, a technology we have deeply researched and mastered.
Most marketing is based on purchase decisions, SEO or marketing force, through tracking and assumed purchasing motivation. However, one must dive deeply into consumers’ current choices and the real reason behind these.
We did a research project for a vegetarian baby formula with American moms who were health food shoppers. There was this brand assumption that because they shopped at a natural store, they would automatically buy a healthy, plant-based baby formula. Yet, this was not the case.
As it turned out, moms purchased a chemical formula provided at the hospital because it was cheaper, not because it was good for their babies. Lesson learned — never assume.
When it comes to your business, what are you most excited about looking ahead?
The opportunity to continue supporting ethical brands, innovation and evolving global heritage companies whose current and future success will better the world.
Also, that our business model, Making Peace Profitable, will become the leading business model with a majority of companies, aligning with our Peace Forward code, and our civilization will evolve to respect all life. Additionally, I am very excited about the evolving business growth and strategies with our AdVentures Academy.
Stay tuned, too, for our radio show, podcast and Peace Museum, all of which is in development.
Your personal motto for success is……
Communication is the universal solution. Use it wisely and respectfully.
Thank you, Gillian! Congratulations on an amazing three decades and for making such a positive impact on our community and our planet. It is a privilege to know you.