How Founders Can Grow Revenue in 2024 Through Organic Content, with Jake Hurwitz, CEO of Thursday Labs

Jared Mintzlaff

January 31, 2024

Humans have always been drawn to compelling stories and authentic content. I think we can agree that overt advertising and pushy sales tactics no longer work to capture our attention and dollars. Ever seen a comments section of an ad on TikTok? Case in point. Modern audiences crave substance, emotion, and meaning from the brands they engage with.

Giants like Patagonia, Yeti Coolers, and The North Face have long understood this truth. Over the years, they’ve invested heavily in beautifully produced films shared across Instagram and YouTube. The key? These cinematic stories celebrate admirable humans living life to the fullest, empowered by the brands' products. Yet they rarely mention even one word about product features or direct sales calls-to-action.

I've been fascinated by this effective yet counterintuitive approach lately, so I sat down with our producer, Jake Hurwitz, to dig into this concept. He’s a HUGE fan of these “passion brands” and broke it all down for us.

In this article, we’ll analyze why Patagonia, Yeti, and The North Face's focus on aspirational brand films represents brilliant organic growth strategy. Additionally, we’ll examine how the new world of slower venture capital demands gives founders permission to follow this high-impact creative playbook.

Before we dive in, be sure to check out our full conversation here:

The Power of Emotional Storytelling

Patagonia astounded the marketing world when their artful documentary "DamNation" premiered at SXSW Film Festival in 2014. This stirring exploration of America's dam construction boom and resulting environmental consequences was unexpected, as it avoided any overt Patagonia branding. Yet it strongly reinforced Patagonia's brand ethos of saving our natural world.

Most startups would balk at the idea of investing heavily in a feature film with no clear sales pathway. But Patagonia understands that compelling stories which align with the values of its core customers will pay dividends for years to come. Even without hard revenue attribution, these films foster fierce loyalty and affinity for the brand.

Similarly, Yeti Coolers funds documentaries like "Uncharted" and "Yeti Presents". By showcasing relatable adventurers pushing their limits, Yeti taps into our deep human yearning for connection, meaning, and outdoor transcendence. Though no Yeti products appear explicitly, these joyful, daring stories perfectly encapsulate why customers invest in Yeti's premium outdoor gear.

The North Face presents its impressive roster of elite climbers, skiers, and outdoor athletes in beautifully filmed highlight reels. Crystal clear is the message: with The North Face by your side, you too can push your outdoor passions and explore life's beauty”. The motivation is far beyond touting product's about sharing a soul-stirring worldview which The North Face enables.

The Business Impact

Some hardened direct-response marketers may critique this approach as indirect and unmeasurable. But the leaders at Patagonia, Yeti, and The North Face understand today's consumers at a deeper level. We gravitate towards brands that awaken our spirits, touch our souls, and inspire us to live courageously.

And this story-driven marketing approach pays off directly in business growth. Patagonia is privately held but recently shared it's on pace for $1 billion in sales this year. Profitability is strong with over 10% annual growth. Yeti’s public quarterly filings reveal healthy e-commerce growth, expanding margins and soaring stock price. The North Face parent company VF Corporation reported The North Face + Vans retail revenue jumped by 41% in 2021.

These remarkable achievements prove that stirring stories which reinforce brand ethos drive rapid growth. Yes, a hyper-focus on CAC, ROAS and granular analytics is important. But try not to overlook brand building through shared values and meaning.

Permission to Take Risks in The New VC Landscape

In past eras, venture capital timelines strongly discouraged experimentation by founders. Investors demanded rapid growth by any means necessary to reach benchmarks needed to fund the next round. Often, growth shortcuts came through inefficient paid ads, as we see with many D2C brands limping into 2024.

But today's collapsing valuations paired with tighter VC checks have led to a new environment. Rapid high-burn growth is out; deliberate, organic growth is in. The runway has lengthened dramatically for startups, taking pressure off management.

2024 represents a pivotal moment for founders to focus energy on brand storytelling reminiscent of Patagonia's iconic marketing style. As consumers flock to authentic brands aligned with their values, the startup environment finally allows patient, organic growth fueled by compelling content. Daring film projects, documentary series, aspirational is the time for startups to invest in stirring creative which spotlights the ethos living within their business.

Will such bold branded content directly drive trackable sales dollars? Perhaps not immediately or measurably. But, in 18-24 months such memorable and meaningful storytelling will pay dividends for startups willing to stay true to their brand values. Just as Patagonia, Yeti and The North Face have proven for years.

The capital environment allows more creative risks than ever before. Take this newfound freedom and channel it towards spirited brand building through standout films and content. Eschew short term paid ads and instead inspire soulful connections with current and future customers. They will reward your boldness with fierce loyalty in the years ahead.

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