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046 | Creating Change Through Sustainability with Katie Klencheski, Founder of SMAKK Studios

046 | Creating Change Through Sustainability with Katie Klencheski, Founder of SMAKK Studios
Published on
September 14, 2020
046 | Creating Change Through Sustainability with Katie Klencheski, Founder of SMAKK Studios
Juhll Online Marketing Agency
Juhll Online Marketing Agency
A boutique digital marketing consultancy with over 20 years of experience. Transparent, data-driven, committed to your goals.


Katie Klencheski
Company Name

SMAKK Studios



Katie Klencheski is the Founder and CEO of SMAKK Studios - a Brooklyn-based branding agency on a mission to help purpose-led brands drive changes that are better for both people and the planet.  Katie sits down with Chris Snyder to share how brands can contribute to a greater good by using their platform to add commentary to bigger issues impacting the world today, such as race + gender differences, the environment, and public health.


  • Katie shares what inspired her to start a career in branding  
  • Using branding to create commentary on social issues
  • The strategic process behind brand position and identifying a unique selling point
  • Understanding how stakeholders engage with a brand on a granular level through conversations with customer support teams
  • How COVID-19 is impacting the creative process for branding agencies
  • Creating an emotional connection between brands and consumers
  • What it means to be a restorative versus sustainable brand

Katie Klencheski

CEO and Founder

Katie Klencheski is the Founder and CEO of SMAKK Studios - a Brooklyn-based branding agency on a mission to help purpose-led brands drive changes that are better for both people and the planet.

Video Section


This episode is sponsored by Juhll. They are a full service digital marketing consultancy that has over 20 years of experience helping your business grow sales online. They've helped most of their clients grow more than 50% year over year by helping them meet their digital marketing goals.

Juhll Digital Agency works with companies who are doing $50 million in top line revenue that have a marketing budget of $2 million. They build your company from the ground up and they also help you in creating a strategy that will work best for your team.

You can email Chris Snyder, President of Juhll Digital Agency, at, or contact their team today and find out which of their services will work best for your success story.

Tweetable Quotes

"I realized very quickly that a very small number of people go into New York City art galleries, but everybody sees what's on the shelf of a grocery store or Target." - Katie Klencheski, SMAKK Studios


“It's a marketing advantage to be doing good and to be able to tell that story to consumers.” - Katie Klencheski, SMAKK Studios


"You're never done building your brand. And if you think you are, that's exactly when you're going to start to lose." - Katie Klencheski, SMAKK Studios


"What does this situation have to teach me, what can I learn from it, and how will I let myself be changed from it?" - Katie Klencheski, SMAKK Studios


Mentioned Resources

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Katie Klencheski

CEO and Founder

Katie Klencheski is the Founder and CEO of SMAKK Studios - a Brooklyn-based branding agency on a mission to help purpose-led brands drive changes that are better for both people and the planet.

Episode Transcript

Chris Snyder [00:00:44] Hi everyone, Chris Snyder here - host of the Snyders Showdown, president at, and founder of On this show, we talk with industry leaders and entrepreneurs about what's working and what's not with their growth programs. In addition, we want to hear how industry leaders are guiding their teams through this tough time of COVID-19. Just a quick message from our sponsor. Juhll is a full-service digital consultancy, and we focus on helping executives solve their toughest digital growth problems. Working as an extension of the executive team, we quickly identify the biggest problems impeding growth. We propose solutions that give you the best opportunity for success. Finally, we know the work has to get done, so we bring a private marketplace of vetted World-Class talent to execute your plan. Of course, we manage that whole process to learn more. You can go to or you can email me directly. It's OK, without further ado, we have Katie Klencheski, she's the founder and CEO of Brooklyn based branding agency SMAKK Studios. She's a creative industry veteran. Katie's mission is to help purpose-led brands drive changes that are better for people and the planet. Katie works with consumer goods brand The Honey Pot, and has worked with New York City Mayor's Office for Sustainability, and Harry's Razors, among other high profile brands. Katie is here to share with us how consumer brands are driving social good and sustainability to drive growth. Welcome, Katie. 

Katie Klencheski [00:02:24] Hi. Glad to be here. 

Chris Snyder [00:02:26] It's great to have you here. You're dialing in from Brooklyn, I understand. 

Katie Klencheski [00:02:31] Yes. From lockdown down. 

Chris Snyder [00:02:33] All right. Well, we're gonna get into that. But before we get started, could you please tell us a little bit about where you grew up? Tell us a little bit about your upbringing and how did you get to where you are today? 

Katie Klencheski [00:02:44] Yeah, sure. I grew up in the Boston area. And I actually had a background, went to school for a fine art and studio art. So I moved to New York kind of thinking that I would be an artist and did that for a little bit, showing my work. But I had to pay the bills and ended up becoming a designer. I found a real love for creating brands. And, you know, as my career was starting out, you know, really, the digital world was starting to open up as this new kind of way that brands had to communicate and really fell in love with with the technology side of creativity and also on building campaigns and all of that. So I ended up working at a number of ad agencies in New York and then out of the last recession, ended up starting my own shop with a friend. And that was about 10 years ago when there was a lot of innovation, a lot of startups, a lot of new things kind of coming out of New York and particularly Brooklyn. And we grew up as an agency really alongside all of that. 

Chris Snyder [00:03:50] Yeah. Now, that's super interesting. Did you know from a very young age? Were you always artistically inclined? Singing, dancing, writing, music. Like, what was it exactly? 

Katie Klencheski [00:04:02] Oh, I won a lot of coloring contests when I was a kid. I was always going to do something visual that was clear. But I think the thing for me, as I was when I was in art school, I was, you know, always making very light conceptually based art that was talking about big global problems or social inequity and things like that. And I realized very quickly that a very small number of people go into New York City art galleries, but everybody sees what's on the shelf of a grocery store or Target. And so something that really attracted me about brand-building is that, you know, companies are actually able to make comments on these big issues. And it was a way to kind of marry my desire to kind of be a part of changing what the world looks like through something that's actually very tangible for people through advertising. 

Chris Snyder [00:04:55] Right. So you to school wanting to become an artist. What triggered you to figuring out that an advertising agency is, why you wanted to work there? And then how did you figure out how to take this, this, ah, point of view and blend it with advertising or marketing principles? Can you tell us about that? 

Katie Klencheski [00:05:17] Yeah. I mean, I think my first job that I got in New York was - I was trying to apply for jobs and waitressing because I figured I could, like, pay the bills that way. But as it turned out, I had the same skills that you need as a studio assistant or graphic designer. And when I was working this kind of big architecture studio, they realized like, oh, hey, she can do Photoshop. And they started asking me to do more projects like that. I there's like, you know, I actually really like this. So then I went back to school at NYU to get some more education and the graphic design and kind of digital space. And from there, I was actually able to work in-house a couple of places where we're developing new brands from scratch. And I was really, really interested in that, how you kind of like take a story and turn that into something that's both a visual world and a world around messaging and how you kind of create that consistency at all these touchpoints that you have with people. And really fell in love with that. Not that kind of soft at all of my creative juices. And I ended up finding that the place that you do that consistently is in the agency world. So from there, I ended up jumping into a couple of different agencies where I got to focus on brand building and building brand campaigns, which was really where I started to find a love for that. 

Chris Snyder [00:06:36] You know, that's interesting. And, you know, I guess before I got into advertising, you know, if someone were to walk up to me and say, oh, hey, you know, who's your creative or whatever you're like, what would you talk? What are you talking about? Or, hey, we need to build our brand. I guess if you think about iconic brands like Coca-Cola or Mercedes or like the list goes on and on. I think everyone knows who the iconic brands are. But what does that really mean? If you could describe for our audience, like you're walking into companies both, I think, startup in midsize. Yeah. What does that mean when you walk in there and you're like, hey, we need to build your brand or owner says we need a brand. Like what are some of the key points? What does that mean to you? What does that mean to you? 

Katie Klencheski [00:07:25] Yeah, and I think a lot of a lot of people kind of think that one piece of vocabulary in this space means something else. So a lot of people here are branding and they just think logo, which is, you know, the logo is a part of a brand, certainly. But when we go into working with the brand, we're really starting strategically with how is the brand positioned? And on to kind of help develop a brand, we really look at how do we create something that's a brand concept that's gonna express what's in the DNA of this brand meaningfully connects its products to its mission. And does that in a way where it's clear when it interacts. So when we go into work with a brand, we really look at how we can develop the strategy and positioning for the brand. Really looking at four big factors. What's the core of the brand's DNA? So what makes them unique? What did they have that nobody else can ever have? What is their unique superpower? And then how does that inform the products that they or services that they offer? We look at, you know, who's the target audience for this and what are their tastes and values and what do we need to consider in kind of building out this brand? We also look at what the competitive space looks like. We want to understand where the white spaces in the market. So what are their competitors doing? How are they expressing themselves? What are the stories that they're telling? How does that manifest in a tone of voice messaging and visuals? And then we also look at the cultural moment that we're a part of because, you know, whatever is happening in your competitive space is one thing. But every consumer, everybody who's going to interact with your brand is part of the world at large. And there's larger conversations happening that if your brand is a part of that, you can really develop concepts and ideas and campaigns that are going to make you bigger and have more emotional resonance with the consumer, which is really that's what we're after we want for it. We want people to feel emotionally about a brand. And that's a really scientific reason because our brains will recall things that we have emotional ties to faster than things that we don't. So when we're building brand strategy, know, those are the big factors that we look at. And then we use that to build out creative concepts that, you know, that's the thing that people kind of think is our special sauce. But it's really setting up the framework that allows us to make creative in the right direction. That's going to be right for that brand and for that particular moment that we're a part of. 

Chris Snyder [00:09:44] Yeah. So if you don't do this right, you pretty much if you're a business owner and you don't do this right, frankly, you just look like everybody else, right? Yeah. Yeah, you're right. And so when you go into these engagements, you probably have to work with the top, like the CEO, the founders, because when you talk about their mission and we talk about their passion, when you talk about their DNA or their culture, all of this is part of the brand. 

Katie Klencheski [00:10:14] Right? Yeah, absolutely. So, yeah, agood kick-off meeting for us. You know, we want the key decision-makers in the room, but I want the person with the founding story, too. 

Katie Klencheski [00:10:23] So, you know, whether their founder and somebody else's CEO, I want to get to know, you know, what's the story behind this brand. And certainly, you know, we want the marketing directors not operating off like anybody who really has a hand in kind of steering where the ship is going to go and can give us good information. But some of the other people we like to get in the room or do interviews with are people who are doing customer service or, you know, the person who's running the social channels and they're seeing, you know, if it's an existing brand, the conversations that consumers are starting to have with the brands because it's, you know, from the top-down, but it's also from the bottom up. And what we're really looking at are those moments of connection between the brand and the target audience. 

Chris Snyder [00:11:02] Got it. Yeah, that's great. That's great background for folks who might not know. For people listening to the show that might be thinking about, OK, what do I do next? I've just went down and incorporated my LLC or whatever it might be. The logo is great. Got it. But that's not really what we're looking for here right now. So how long does it take to build somebody's brand? I mean, obviously, the initial stages is what we're talking about. We're not talking about the years and years of work determination it takes to actually build a company and a brand. How long does this stuff take for you guys to you guys are really good to go. 

Katie Klencheski [00:11:42] You're never you never done building your brand. And if you think you are. That's exactly when you're going to start to lose. But the, you know, the work that we do, that's typically kind of prelaunch or right before there's like a relaunch of some sort of evolution of a brand that usually happens across the, you know, three months to one-year timeline, kind of depending on the type of brand that we're working with. We work with a lot of CPG consumer packaged goods. So, you know, we talk about we have production timelines that the work that we do on the side needs to fit into. And you can't do a photoshoot in the packaging until you've actually produced the product. Yes, very often we're part of a set of pretty complex dominos that all need to fall in order so that we can get to a launch date or relaunch date. 

Chris Snyder [00:12:31] I want to take a quick step back. So you have worked at some pretty large and notable agencies. What was it about that life and working at those places? And what is it now that you decided to do that's different? Better. More unique. What are, maybe, tell me some of the good things about that, about the larger agencies holding companies. And then tell me, you know, some of the things that you actually figured you. I'm going to make a change here. I'm going to do it myself. And this is why. 

Katie Klencheski [00:13:03] Yeah. I mean, when I worked at large agencies, I think the thing that was always tough for me was creatives were often very siloed away from strategy. So you'd get these creative briefs and, you know, you'd have some like hard and fast rules of what you'd need to adhere to in the creative process. And, you know, I was functioning as an art director as part of a team when I was this was a while ago. But I remember always thinking, like, do they. Do they not think that we might be able to add something to the strategy process? Or maybe we can see it differently when in fact, I like my title includes creative, you know, wouldn't you want to bring that thought process into the strategy process? So the styling was one thing that I found. You know, it just seemed to hinder the ideas that we could have because we'd kind of been given, you know, this is the thing to execute on, but not necessarily a part of the why behind it. And I've always been very attracted to really understanding the why and letting you know. I think my idea of like what a brand is, is it's a holistic kind of conversation that a company has. It's not just something that lives in the creative. It's something that it should inform every part of who you are. So if you are saying that our values are there, as it should inform your customer service. If you're saying that, you know, we want to bring joy and delight to people's lives, that should inform the creative. But it should also inform what's happening internally in the company. So I think, you know, when I was working at agencies, it seemed very much like the work that we would do would be kind of like just away from what was really happening. The companies and the strategic brief would be, you know, this layer of kind of bureaucracy between the creative and what could be the good idea. And so, you know, my agency, it's a very flat structure. We're all very involved. You know, I don't care if you're an intern, you're involved in strategy discussions. You know, you learn about everything that we're doing, soup to nuts so that you can have a holistic kind of part in what we're doing. And it's a bigger conversation than just. Okay. Did you finish the illustrator file? How does this really act to larger goals and how does this really support that the business needs of the companies that we're working with? 

Chris Snyder [00:15:22] Yeah, that's a good overview. And then the other thing is to I think you started SMAKK Studios in 2008, if I'm not mistaken, or thereabouts. 

Katie Klencheski [00:15:32] Yeah, 2011. We're going on our tenth year. So, yeah. 

Chris Snyder [00:15:37] So not too far along after the last recession, I guess. But what are some of the things you feel like, the way I look at a lot of companies nowadays, not just agencies but a lot of companies. Before we had more of an open market, more of a global market. You know, if you're an agency and you had creatives or you had to count people or you had, you know, whatever talent you had, it was basically locked inside of those walls. Right. There was really no way to get at it. So you had to access talent through the centralized means, which would be named your holding company. Right. And those holding companies would own other shops and things of that nature. From your perspective, since you've seen both sides, how has the opening, I guess, and decentralization in globalization, how that helped you guys be able to source talent? What about the unit economics around sourcing talent, the speed and the agility in which you can move? Tell me a little bit about how maybe that's impacted unit economics or being able to provide a high-quality product to your clients, a potentially lower cost? 

Katie Klencheski [00:16:55] Yeah, I mean, I never would say we're at lower costs. 

Chris Snyder [00:17:00] Well, relative to the holding companies. 

Katie Klencheski [00:17:04] So, you know, I, I think - we're in Brooklyn. There's thousands of agencies in Brooklyn. Pretty sure we're not even the only branding agency that focuses on beauty on the floor of our office building. So now that we're kind of, you know, we're in a place where, you know, pretty much everybody you meet is tangentially connected to the industry and, you know, as somebody who knows somebody. So I think where we are finding talent and doing that, that's never been a challenge. But what I found to be the bigger challenge is there is so much of this kind of like nebulous digital agencies out there that that are just pulling in freelancers for projects. And they're not building kind of an internal point of view on things. And they don't have kind of a history of culture and projects that they've worked on where they're actually building on their expertise over time. And we do, you know, up until right now when we're all working digitally, culture has been one of the most important things that we've built in processes. And I'm really looking at, you know, we're a small agency, but we how do we make sure that, you know, we run as efficiently as we possibly can? And how can we make sure that, you know, we have a consistent process that, you know, is our special sauce that we bring to what we're doing. So, you know, certainly I think the digital nature of the workplace has helped us there. But I'm definitely somebody who when you can be in the same room as people like me in the same room, like have conversations be face to face, you know, like if you can't be face to face, pick up the phone and do a video call like, you know, I think that it's really important to maintain personal connections. And a lot of what we do is so subjective that, you know, an email doesn't cut it. You really need to have bigger conversations and allow people to communicate in ways that are going to be as personal as possible. 

Chris Snyder [00:19:08] So it feels like what I'm hearing from you is like, look, even though things have been decentralized and even though there's potentially more talent available now more than ever, what you're really saying, those like, OK, that's not the issue. The issue is, you know, what is your leadership? What is your culture? What kind of relationships are you building? Yeah, that's you, right? 

Katie Klencheski [00:19:32] Yeah, for sure. That's interesting. We'll see how COVID changes that. You know, I think like we are finding that, like, wow. Like we can work digitally and, you know, we definitely like I had to pull in, you know, some freelance help for some projects that we have right now. And, you know, it was like, well, you know, I have a lot of contacts in L.A. that are amazing and a great fit for this. And it's really not going to be any different than, you know, working with my creative director who's down the street and still stuck in her apartment that I haven't seen face to face for weeks.  

Chris Snyder [00:20:02] Now, let's talk about the work from home, I know you touched on it briefly. You know, dueled had an agency for many years and we decided to go completely away from office space. We are a different kind of agency. Right? We're a little bit more spreadsheets and in quant. And you guys are obviously a lot more on the brand side. But ah, what are you thinking right now about getting rid of office or how are you going to do you are you thinking we work so you have space when you need it. Do you need a studio still? Like how are you interpreting, what are you seeing that's going to make you make a decision or change your mind or not change your mind? 

Katie Klencheski [00:20:46] Yeah, I mean, it's it's interesting for us. Like, we, um, we don't like our office right now because we were ready to move going into this. And so just I think it was kind of like a happy accident that we're like, oh, we can work digitally. We're ready to let go of this lease. Let's go. Let's just do that. So we're doing that across the summer. And, you know, I don't think we'll ever give up a physical space. I think we're probably going to try something that's a bit more temporary while we're looking for something new. But I do think that there is, you know, a lot of the assumptions that we had about, you know, how can we collaborate when we work from home or how do we create culture where we we're not face-to-face have definitely been turned on their head. Like one of the first things that we did when we knew we're gonna have to start working from home is we just we said we have a work from home, 9:30 meeting every morning. And that there's two items on the agenda. One is let's just shoot the shit and talk to each other or we drink our first coffee of the day and ask people how they're feeling. And, you know, talk about the stuff that we would talk about as a company, as people who are coworkers and enjoy each other's company. And naturally led any sort of like little things come up that need to be addressed from a business standpoint. And then we each go through our To-Do list for the day. So everybody's on the same page. Nobody's accidentally working on the same thing. And if we do see that, hey, this person seems like they're gonna have steam coming out of their ears today, like, how can we, you know, help take pressure off that person and reallocate tasks and do things like that? And that's been great for us. I mean, in lieu of actually being in the same space, you know, just making sure that we're maintaining those connections has been something that's really kept us working together well as a team. 

Chris Snyder [00:22:27] Yeah. So process and people are are really important when you're working from home. Can you talk a little bit about how you manage? Because doing this stuff that we do, there's a lot of communication, right? There's a lot of tasks that need to be done, both strategic and tactical. Do you guys use project management systems like how to keep track of all this stuff, especially when you're not in the office? 

Katie Klencheski [00:22:57] Yeah. We're big systems people. So I think I think, you know, people here are creative and they think like scattered or like it because it's like kind of like trying to tame this thing that's like running around. But for us, process is the thing that really holds everything together. So I actually you know, I had we were interviewing with a client a couple of weeks ago and they were like, well, we're just not you know, we just want to make sure we understand your process. And I was like, do you want to see spreadsheets and spreadsheets? Like nobody ever wants to see that when they're interviewing us. But like that, you know, really is something that we spent a lot of time on. So, you know, we have, you know, from beginning to end of any kind of projects we run. We have week by week, task by task timelines on those live in Asana. You know, we use Google Docs for everything, like we've got shared Google doc templates for kind of every kind of agenda that we could need for any project questionnaire. We use Google slides like crazy, like the whole Google suite. I was thinking the other day, if that ever went down, we'd be in trouble. Yeah, it's definitely something that, you know, the fact that you can even be working on, like we can have a copywriter working on a copy dock and in real-time, be giving notes while that's happening. Absolutely. You know, there is an amazing level of collaboration that now that you can have people kind of working in the same systems at the same time. And then beyond that, you know, we've got the typical agency like time tracking stuff like Harvest to see where we are with project budgets. And then, you know, we used slack like crazy thoughts. We've been like a great tool that we've added into our suite. 

Chris Snyder [00:24:32] Yeah, us too - Confluence Jira Slack and a few of those other things have been invaluable. We're less cool, though. We're on Office 365. We got on that crack a long time ago. We just cannot get off that crack. I really wanted to try Superhuman - the email service. 

Katie Klencheski [00:24:55] Yeah, I have that.

Chris Snyder [00:24:56] You have it?!

Katie Klencheski [00:24:57] Yeah, it's good. 

Chris Snyder [00:25:00] You've got to give me a demo. You've got to show me because I just get crushed by email and I hate email, and I - the massive content that comes in, especially as a founder and as an owner like you are like you, you have to figure that out. But I've talked with those guys that tried to get on their waiting lists, like, sorry, we don't support dorks until my Office 365. Is that really what you're saying right now? 

Katie Klencheski [00:25:27] So I don't know if you're like me, but like because we work on like the brand storytelling side and like a big part of what we work on when we're doing growth is going to be, you know, marketing. I'm the person who signs up for every single e-mail newsletter because right now what messages are going out. Campaign look like. So that's one thing that is really tough for me, because every time I get it, like Superhuman wants me to unsubscribe from things that I'm like, no, I need these. They're my reference. 

Chris Snyder [00:25:54] Yeah. No, there's so much content out there. You always think. When you do what we do, the competitive landscape and the number of tactics that people use and the number of brands in one space crunched into a space. We were talking a little bit earlier today about Harry's and Gillette and Shave Club and Jesus Christ - how many different brands of razors can you have? 

Katie Klencheski [00:26:19] Right. Yeah. And that's just one teeny category. 

Chris Snyder [00:26:22] That's. Yeah. Exactly. So think about, you know, somebody like yourself managing multiple CPG brands. Right. That's you know, it's a tough one to follow. 

Katie Klencheski [00:26:32] We, um. I mean, there is a stat that Forbes put out recently. We see over five thousand brand ads and images a day now. So we've really reached peak brands. And that's you know, I think that's the thing - that's why when we talk about building brands, we don't just focus on what's the look and feel and personality, because to really, really connect with consumers and create that emotional connection, having like a cute personality or some decent design anymore is not enough. You really need to connect what you're doing with a higher purpose. And this idea of being purpose-driven and kind of having a larger story to tell that can inform what you're doing right now, but also what you're doing for the future. And I think like even right now in Coalbed, we see there are so many consumer brands that, you know, in this moment of crisis kind of looked at, you know, their production facilities and they're like, yeah, we could make hand sanitizer. And how they went about that is informed by the values that they have. And I think, you know, we're going to see a lot of brands kind of pivoting out of this moment into doing new things. But the ones that really understand who they are and have this kind of sense of purpose behind what they're doing are going to be able to pivot in the right direction and not just be opportunistic. 

Chris Snyder [00:27:48] Now, let's get into your focus, restorative versus sustainable, like it feels like you're CPG for sure, right? You guys probably do other stuff. 

Katie Klencheski [00:28:02] We're doing a lot with the food right now to just the whole, like, food delivery system is blowing up. So we've definitely been looking at a lot more consumer brands in that space these days. 

Chris Snyder [00:28:13] Yeah, talk about strategically. Let's talk about the difference between restorative and sustainable. Can you talk to us about your focus there? 

Katie Klencheski [00:28:23] Yeah, for sure. So, you know, going into this, like we've definitely seen over the past couple years, that brands that are embracing sustainability are clearly experiencing more growth than on brands that aren't. And we know that, you know, with millennials, it's really important for them to interact with brands that are embracing sustainable practices with Gen Z, who is just about to blow up and become our largest group of consumers. They care about it even more so on. 

Chris Snyder [00:28:51] There is no, sorry to interrupt you. That means why are you selling me plastic Dasani bottles way? That's like we're all of this stuff is winding up in the ocean, right? That's an example, right? 

Katie Klencheski [00:29:04] Yeah, for sure. People or, you know, people are looking at the products that they're buying and realizing that they're using the thing that's in the bottle for maybe, I don't know, a month, two months is skincare. Maybe you've got to own yourself for three months. But the packaging that's going to live in the ocean forever. You know, there's a lot of issues around that. And I could get into the nuances of recycling and post-consumer waste. And there is a lot there to kind of unpack. But the bigger piece of it is that consumers are looking at the things that they're buying and they're asking more questions. How is it made? What is it made of? What is it? What's going to happen to it when I'm done using it? And is this brand doing anything good? You know, when I spend a dollar with them, you know, what is this? What is this doing? So this is a trend that's been rising. NYU Stern put out a study last year looking at the growth of CPG brands since 2013, and they were able to show that actually brands that are marketing sustainability are growing at a rate of over Firebacks vs. traditionally marketed products. So there is a clear competitive advantage for sustainability on top of it just being the right thing to do. And so, you know, coming into this crisis, this is definitely a trend that we've been following and we've been, you know, working with more brands that are embracing that and then helping to find ways for brands that are on our roster to do more. But I think what we're seeing is where we're going into and hopefully coming out of it soon is that we're also seeing a lot of issues that are more social around inequality and how people are being treated along the supply chain. And so that that social impact side of it is kind of what we're also thinking about when we talk about restorative. And I think as we look at, you know, look forward, what kinds of brands are rebuilding? What kinds of businesses are rebuilding? You know, we can go back to business as usual and we can, you know, keep building these kind of these structures that aren't considering people on planet along the way. Or we can take this moment to try to learn from this. Know that we have a generation of consumers that are going to be dramatically changed by this experience. And they were already looking for brands that were solving issues along the way. And, you know, look for ways to kind of let us let this change us and let us create brands that are actually looking to be restorative in how they go about their business. So doing things that are going to help solve social issues and also take on issues of sustainability. 

Chris Snyder [00:31:37] Yeah. So I think about sustainability and I think about, you know, an Amazon box that shows up at my door with like a six-pack of batteries in it. Like, what the fuck is that? That doesn't make any sense anymore. 

Katie Klencheski [00:31:50] Yeah and more bubble wrap and fill - box inside a box. Yeah. 

Chris Snyder [00:31:55] Like there was listening to a podcast - This Week in Startups. Jason Calacanis. And he was getting a little frustrated with the pods. Right. With the coffee machine pods. Yeah. The pods are usually individually wrapped and then those are wrapped in a box and then that box is shipped in a box with a box. I mean, OK. So here I could go on with this. And I know you have more examples than me. I don't look at it as closely as you do. I try to think about these things, but. Do you feel like the companies that should be doing something about this? I won't name names, but, you know, you like these guys actually care about being sustainable. We'll get to restorative in a second. But what about sustainability? Like, are you kidding me right now? 

Katie Klencheski [00:32:46] I think that there are some companies that are trying to do a lot. And I will say that, you know, if you look at the Unilever's and L'Oreal's, they've set very ambitious goals for themselves. Whether they're actually going to be able to deliver on those things and whether those goals are actually doing enough soon enough when they've already done a lot of damage along the way. You know, there is know PMG is, you know, really excited because they have a recyclable toothpaste tube now. OK. So before it couldn't be curbside recycled. Now it can be curbside recycled. That's good. But only 99% of the plastic that even makes it into recycling bins gets recycled. Most of it ends up in landfills. A lot of it ends up in the ocean and some of it ends up getting burned for fuel. So, you know, we're not necessarily taking enough steps in the right direction fast enough. So I think a lot of the companies that are starting to kind of get on board need to do more and they need to do it faster. And I also think that there is a trend that we're starting to see and not nearly enough companies are doing it. But there are companies that are looking back at the damage that they've caused and looking to repair that. So they're trying to go beyond negative at a certain point and say, OK, by this time we'll be carbon neutral. But then by this time we'll have repaired what we've done by, you know, since 1970. I think IBM is one of the companies that took a look at that. Former Microsoft, I always get them confused because I'm a Mac person. But, you know, I think that there is we need that. That should be the gold standard. But, you know, the big brands they do have the advantage of, they can change one small thing and it can have a very large impact because they have such large global reach. I have a friend who worked at L'Oreal and she, you know, they took the foil off of one of their secondary boxes. And that was something that was going to have a really big impact for a small independent brand. That's not very much. You're not doing very much there. But I think the role of the big brands is to really start putting some of these solutions in place at scale that they have to because independent brands can't have enough of an impact on the supply chain to actually make a lot of meaningful change there. But independent brands can try like this crazy out of the box, sustainable innovation that a large brand never could because it's just too much of an investment for them to move everything over to that. So I think it works on both sides. It's like the big brands. They can do things at a global scale and they start putting things in place that can actually have a massive ripple effect across the whole industry. And with small brands, they can try stuff, see if it works in the market, and then that can get imported into larger companies. But the trick is it all needs to start happening really fast right now. You know, but the market advantage is that when you invest in sustainability, we get to tell marketing stories about it. And how much are you paying an agency to come up with a campaign? If you are actually interested, principally have something great with your product. That is a sustainable story. That's something that people are going to get really excited about. You can just tell that story. You don't have to pay an influencer hundreds of thousands of dollars or create a campaign that uses car chases to. To tell people how great your razor is, you know. So I think that there's definitely - you put an investment in. But what you get out of it is so much more in how you're creating this brand equity with consumers. 

Chris Snyder [00:36:30] Yeah. I mean, I have an idea. I think I mean, it's about accountability. And I think once you reach a scale, you shouldn't be allowed to just pay a little bit more money and say, that's not my problem at all. I'll give you an example. Amazon. Amazon should have to figure out how to pick up all their own fucking boxes. They should have to figure that out. It's like, look, you guys are making these boxes. You're making money on this, but you're pushing that into the waste management companies and they have to deal with it. Wait a second. You guys are dropping billions of dollars to your bottom line. You're not paying a lot of taxes. Obviously, I'm singling them out because they're young. But what? Instead of saying, hey, Amazon, why don't you just pay us a little bit more money in taxes? Because we think you're producing a lot more ways than what a boutique firm would produce or a boutique manufacturer would produce. And we're actually you're on the hook to solve the problem. And you have to create a billion dollars worth of recycling plants and make them better. So we can all do a better job. Right. Like that would be accountability. And by the way, guys, if you can't do that and you've exceeded your threshold, you have to drop your threshold back down to where? It's not like crushing our environment at this astoundingly quick, at this fast of a rate, right? 

Katie Klencheski [00:37:57] Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, the gold standard should be a circular economy. We can't have these kinds of like when you are a giant company, you can't say, OK, well, like, once it leaves our hands, like, good luck with it. You know, there is so much that needs to be thought about. They're just shifting the problem to somebody else. So I completely agree with that. I think there's some really interesting, you know, examples of people really starting to think in a more circular way, though, that are starting to come up. I think that they're starting to be proven in the market. But when we're talking about a scale like Amazon, it's just it's beyond. And also, I mean, right now issues it's the, you know, I live in New York. So the people that you see on the street are all delivery people, right? Yeah. Or people walking their dogs. So get to work becoming very aware that it's a privilege to be able to work from home. And, you know, the people who are kind of exposed out there getting us our packages every day. I mean, how dare you forget about them and how dare you not ensure their safety and profit off of them and union bust. I mean, that just that that can't stand. It's it's it's heartbreaking. And I hope that, you know, through this, we will start to really, really demand more from the companies that we interact with and ask them to do more and how they're doing business. 

Chris Snyder [00:39:21] Yeah, I agree. Now, let's get into restorative a little bit because it feels like that was an incremental it was incremental to sustainable. You guys were already focused on sustainable, but you feel like you added restorative or we talked about it a little bit. What is it like? What are we doing with restorative? What does that really mean? 

Katie Klencheski [00:39:44] Yeah, I mean, I will say, like since the beginning, we've worked with amazing brands that also have a social impact as part of what they're doing. Some of the most amazing companies that we work with are they're thinking triple bottom line. So it's, you know, people planet and profit. But I think there's some. So when we think about restorative. It needs to be how do we make sure that, you know, as we do business, you know, at every point we're sharing prosperity, you know? And I think there's some really amazing examples of that. One of the companies that we were lucky to work with a while back was a company called Greyston Bakery, your Greyston Social Enterprise. But they make all the brownies that go into Ben and Jerry's ice cream and they have what they call an open hiring process. So all of their bakers are people who were formerly incarcerated and often have trouble finding employment. And then beyond that, they go beyond to provide social services both to their employees, but also to the community around them, where they have their bakery and they're doing tremendous business. So it's a company that, you know, they're actually thinking about, you know, how do we actually do really great things along the way? Another company that we're working with is called Conscious Step, and they make apparel, socks, sweatshirts, kids' products. And your product, you know, anything you purchase has an impact and a donation goes to a nonprofit. But beyond that, along the way, everything is made in a way that's nonprofit. They are using fair trade practices so that their entire supply chain is treating people fairly along the way. So the purchase itself is serving the needs of the consumer, but it's also giving back and doing good along the way. So I think, you know, we need to have more companies that are thinking that way. And there's some really tremendous organizations that are looking at how to kind of spread this ideology to businesses like the Conscious Capitalism Institute and B Corp. But, you know, for you know, sometimes I feel like, you know, I'm a marketer. What I'm talking about with those, I'm going way outside of my lane. But I think for us to really think about, like, how we can create businesses and brands that are going to have longevity and are going to solve big problems, we all need to kind of do things that aren't maybe our job. And one of the reasons that we've taken on issues around sustainability and are really trying to drive the brands that we work with to talk about social impact is part of their stories, is because that it's a mechanism for spreading good, but it's also a mechanism for creating and creating a bigger bottom line for those brands because consumers are onto it. It's a marketing advantage to be doing good and to be able to tell that story to consumers. 

Chris Snyder [00:42:34] Yeah. No, I actually think you're right in the lane you're supposed to be in. I don't think anyone should be working with a firm that doesn't have someone at the top that really understands the space, understands the issues of the space, and where the puck is headed. So, you know, I think you're fully in your lane. Well, Katie, as we start to bring this to a close, you know, one of the questions I usually ask is, you know, given all your years of experience, you certainly have probably learned a couple of things along the way that you could help advise our audience or give them a piece of advice. You know, someone on my last shows like just work hard and take chances when you're young, right? There's just we always get these little tidbits that I think it's just it's so neat to hear different founders' and entrepreneurs' and owners' perspectives. So what are you going to give our audience today to get us through this? 

Katie Klencheski [00:43:30] Well, I can give you one really tangible thing, which is - we actually published a guide for consumer brands to take steps towards the city sustainability. That's available on our website. We're calling it the mission plan. And we put out the first app for this past week. And that's those kind of easy wins. The things that can go can be implemented in a couple of weeks instead of a couple of years. So that's a free download off our site. But just thinking a little bit bigger. You know, I think one of the things that somebody told me a while back that's really served me in 10 years of making a lot of mistakes and going through, you know, a lot of times that were, you know, trying or, you know, challenges and opportunities is always kind of sitting back and asking, you know, what does this situation have to teach me and what I learned from it and how I let myself be changed from it? So I think, you know, when we're thinking about, you know, coronavirus, you know, that I really tried to come into this eyes wide open and really looking and listening and trying to hear whatever, whatever I need to learn from this, because, you know, it is taking a lot to kind of go through this emotionally, mentally. I think we're all feeling that. But we don't have to have all the answers right now in this moment. We just have to be willing to kind of absorb it and let ourselves start to synthesize it. 

Chris Snyder [00:44:48] Yeah, I agree 100 percent. Well, everyone, we've been talking with Katie Klint Chesky. She's the founder and CEO of Brooklyn based branding agency SMAKK Studios. Their mission is to help purpose lead brands, drive change that are better for people and planet. You can find her at Katie, we will put the links to those guides in our show notes. So we look forward and any other materials you feel like would be helpful for our audience. I really appreciate your time today. It's great to have you on the show and we'll have to do it again sometime soon. 

Katie Klencheski [00:45:32] Awesome. Thanks so much. This was really fun.  



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