Driving Purpose in a Capitalist World
Q&A with Bill Oberlander, Executive Creative Director and Founder of OBERLAND
Globality Agency Spotlight: featuring Oberland.
This is a new blog series about the unique stories of small and midsize agencies in Globality’s Service Provider Network. Our community is made up of top SMEs that are handpicked based on their outstanding talent, award-winning portfolios and local market expertise. Currently, this spans across 70 countries and is growing every day!
1. What’s the story behind Oberland and the secret sauce that makes your team so unique?
We’re a purpose-driven branding agency. Everything we do has to play a role in the world, in society, in people’s hearts. So we look to work with brands that have a higher purpose. This became my vision for Oberland after I started working with The Robin Hood Foundation, an organization that develops and funds poverty-fighting programs for all five boroughs of New York City. My experience as Marketing Director there is what inspired me to found Oberland and focus more on solving social issues, instead of selling luxury hotel packages in the Caribbean and Sprite soda, like I was earlier in my career. That’s how I made the leap from material to what matters more.
Fun Fact: Oberland is the highest mountain top in the Swiss-German Alps, so when we talk about higher purpose branding, that’s where the cleverness starts to kick in.
2. The company talks about “spitting out the kool-aid.” Can you explain this concept?
It means rethink how you live life. Be more conscious about how you’re buying things and the effects the things you buy have on society. Essentially, conscious capitalism. Marketing and advertising has brainwashed society with the idea of “you need this now”. It’s a vicious cycle and ‘spitting out the kool-aid’ means get off the treadmill and realize you’re being brainwashed to behave this way. Every individual on my team is personally involved and wants to do their part to eradicate that kind of thinking in our system. There’s a real need to bring smart, strategic marketing to promote foundational causes and issues in the world today, and that’s what we strive to do.
3. What are you most passionate about as a small business leader?
As people — specifically millennials — become more cautious about what they consume and how they behave, I’m encouraged by this ‘turning of the tide’ I see happening for modern marketers. These new behaviors are creating a new type of customer and brands are catching on, which is creating new agency models like ours. It’s causing a ground swell and the need to bring smart, strategic, creative marketing to promote real causes, versus just a brand name. I’m very passionate about this, and finding clients and business partners that feel the same way. It’s like finding religion together and makes for an exciting time to grow a business.
4. What unique differences do boutique agencies have from the bigger kids on the block?
Genuine intent, passion and speed. I’ve found that big agencies and big businesses tend to be run by finance leadership, and it’s about making as much money as possible. But most smaller agencies have a mission that is personal to the founders, and they’re looking for disciples and evangelists to move their crusade forward. At these agencies, you get a much more unified point of view and a more passionate investment to inspire and drive the right kind of creative ideas, and then go make them happen.
5. After 25 years in the advertising world, how have you seen the pitch process evolve over time and what pitfalls still exist?
It’s slow and expensive, period. The big agencies have CMOs and teams who spend all day doing hardcore networking — collecting business cards at the 4As, going to TED conferences and dozens of other things. From there, you get into an RFP loop just to get on a list of 50 competing agencies. Then it’s a full-on creative pitch for the next round of battle and suddenly you realize that you’re in the hole $75K, thinking ‘hopefully they pick us’. If they don’t, all of that is money shredded. The whole process is medieval and inefficient. For a small agency like us, it’s challenging to play in that league, where clients might be just window-shopping. Ultimately, no one wins. If this could be evolved, it would be a long-overdue game changer.
6. What are the biggest pain points that Globality helps you solve?
Access, it’s like Airbnb. For a smaller agency like Oberland, Globality gives us the opportunity to find clients in another state or halfway around the world who want to talk about the issues we care about; clients who we already know are singularly focused on actually tackling those issues. Globality’s platform connects agencies with client projects through a comprehensive process that uses both artificial intelligence and domain expertise in marketing. So we don’t have to put on a dog and pony show to prove that we’re qualified to help companies with what they aim to accomplish. Globality’s algorithm helps illustrate all of that — with targeted details about our agency profile, distinct capabilities and what makes our culture unique. Plus, the prospect of finding your ideal client and that next piece of meaningful work just like that, is exciting!
7. What’s been your favorite moment at Oberland so far?
When we first started Oberland, we tackled 12 different verticals in the social cause space at the same time, with only 12 employees.
One of those projects was with Blue Man Group — to reestablish the company with a new brand identity without reinventing their act. Rather than advertising the shows, we knew we needed to get back to their roots: reminding people to embrace the full spectrum of life with all of its emotions. So the “Dare to live in full color” campaign was born — with a new logo and a brand reinvention on every touch point: merchandise, social, digital, advertising, employee communications and more.
We also worked with The Nature Conservancy, on their first awareness campaign in New York City. The goal was to garner local support, and we decided the best approach here was to show New Yorkers that The Nature Conservancy’s work is relevant to their daily lives, that people depend on them to protect the many things they love. Without clean water, there would be no morning coffee. If seasons didn’t change in a timely manner, fashion wouldn’t be the same. And if our coastlines weren’t safeguarded from floods, our selfies would be ruined. We created the message that The Nature Conservancy’s work isn’t just about preserving the environment, it’s about preserving how we go about our day. We chose photographs as the best medium to reflect that sentiment — featuring people doing what they love most in nature, like surfing or kids playing outside.
We’ve been lucky with an extremely wide range of interesting and significant work. We’ve been in business for about 4 years now, but in just the first 24 months, we had projects pertaining to the arts, the environment, fertility, adoption, cancer, nutrition, education, teen pregnancy, veteran relief, drug law reform, early child development and mental illness. So to your question — it’s tricky to pick a favorite! It’s been an adventure so far and truly a major achievement for all of us.
Today, we continue to have our ambitions set high…just about 600 more verticals to go! We don’t currently work on any immigration causes or anything that has to do with the rights of animals — which we would love to do! So that is definitely on my radar for the near future.
Globality was founded in March 2015 by seasoned entrepreneurs Joel Hyatt and Lior Delgo, who had a vision to make globalization work for more businesses and people around the world — by helping them grow, create jobs and foster innovation. We help top small and midsize service providers get discovered by and work with leading corporations around the world.