Q4 Agenda: Purpose over Profit with Rinat Aruh
“You can still do good and do well building purposeful brands.”
“You can still do good and do well building purposeful brands.”
Text: Stella Pak
From going All In for small businesses in NYC, designing gadgets for Google, all the way down to how we interpret Perfection with Marc Jacobs, Rinat Aruh knows a thing or two about leading with solutions from the heart. The belief that Purpose and Profit can coexist is a driving force behind her agency – Aruliden, that both supports and challenges the whys and why nots of how we interact with brands. After all, she found her moment of “aha” when she met her partner, Johan Liden while they were both at BMW Group 14+ years ago. “We worked for an amazing brand and it gave us a taste of what we wanted to do and build Aruliden as a place that can really bridge design with brand and demonstrate that power.”
Now that we’re in the last quarter of 2020 – the most volatile year of a lifetime, the dust has yet to settle. Whether you’re a multi-hyphenate creative, entrepreneur or someone looking for a job with purpose, V chat with Rinat Aruh to gain insight on the changing landscape of the industry for our very own moment of “aha!”
SP How are some of the brands you’ve worked with become game-changers?
RA We don’t fall in love with the idea. We fall in love with the people leading those ideas. The biggest “aha” with The Feelist, for example – that just launched with Shea Marie, was the fact that there are a lot of brands in the wellness and even CBD space that were very much focused on zenning out and tuning out with all these muted palettes. We (Aruliden) highlighted the fact that just because you’re taking care of your body doesn’t mean that you want to press pause. You want to continue to live that life and do it all. Build a brand that responds to that. It was the first time we were working with an influencer. We developed moodboards in real-time and she’d say, “Ok, let me send this out to my audience and see what they think about that.”
SP Did you freak out?
RA As a design agency, sometimes you’re protective of your process and your work. But we’re learning that that’s not the way forward. We met midway to – “Let’s put it out there and let’s see what people are saying. Let’s get some feedback. Let’s get their input.” Not only are we getting the community and audience involved very early on, it was helping to drive some of the design choices we made. It’s a very different process than the way it used to be.
SP The old school way is where everything is locked into a vault, secured with NDA’s every step of the way. You’ll never see the light of day until there’s a huge chunk of media buys and bam – we’re launching. But it’s such a different process now.
RA We all learn to embrace it and eventually, you realize the value of those inputs early on. It makes it stronger in a natural way in a conversation of what they want. It’s only positive. You figure out what you want to hold to yourself, what things you want to be a surprise. But when you’re crafting a brand for this generation, they want to participate with you. They want to be part of that conversation. Gone are the days when these brands have monologues where they push out their messaging. “Here’s another picture of my product… another angle of my product.” Instead, you gotta bring people into the conversation and make it worthy of them to spend time with your brand. “What void does this fill in their lives?” And then speak to that. The work we did for Marc Jacobs – for Perfect, is an example of the shift in the industry. “We are all Perfect, and what Perfect means to a variety of people.” I think that conversation, just a few years ago, would be atypical. Marc’s vision that was shot October of last year put out a product full of optimism. Not just sitting on the face of one person or one model. But having a bigger conversation with a bigger audience of what perfect is. I think that’s setting a new benchmark in the industry that’s been quite tired and mundane.
RA Those companies all realize how important it is to bring in the community from day one. They used to do traditional research, get some insights, but we need to start bringing in the community and start speaking to them. Gen-Zers care about the materials you use. They care about the choices you make as it pertains to design. They care about the choices you make with which models you’re going to put behind this. What influencers will be behind this. They want to know your process. Not just to get the product out. What about when I’m done with the product? Are you gonna take care of recycling it for me? What are you doing? How are you playing the part in doing something that’s better for the planet? It’s really double-clicking every single design choice you’re making. And making sure you’re making responsible ones. We’re partnering with Terracycle to make sure what we put out there is vetted. We have experts at the table to look at our process. It’s about picking recycled materials and having informed conversations. Those companies have the power and the scale to make a dramatic change by changing their process even by just a little bit.
SP A slight shift in their operations can make a huge impact.
RA There’s not one brand that comes our way where they start with – “we want to start with and make sure our packaging is sustainable. We want to make sure we’re using XYZ materials. But they don’t often have the scale to deliver on that.
V It's the start-up companies or the smaller brands that lead a new set of values. And then the bigger companies take that and start developing it in a sense.
RA You’re right.
SP We’ve entered a time where job insecurity is high. What advice can you give to our readers who aren’t sure how to navigate around today’s job market?
RA I love this question because we’re interviewing. We’re hiring right now. My filter when I hire is always, “Do I want to go on vacation with this person?” We spend so much time with the people we work with. More than our families. In times of crisis, I spent more time with my team than I ever have the last 4-5 months at all different levels. You’re going through things that nobody prepared you for. Especially the younger set. They have no idea what tomorrow may bring. When interviewing, when speaking to a job you want to take, don’t underestimate the importance of talking about what you really care about. There are alot of great talented people. We see a lot of portfolios. We look at a lot of work. The conversion happens when we find that someone is really interesting. At the end of the day, you want to be surrounded by interesting people with great stories to tell. Whether it’s about their background, their youth, their passion. Just think about what it is that the person on the other side would never know unless they had a conversation with you. Especially because we’re going to be in a virtual landscape. Don’t underestimate the way you articulate, the way you come through on screen. That’s going to be important. As an agency, we’re in the business of selling our vision. Talk about the things that are real and that you really care about. Make sure you put that forward in a way that people get and that they’re excited about. Ultimately, we’re only as good as the people we work with and it shows.