Lessons Learned: How Life is Good Makes Money

Bert and John Jacobs, founders of Life is Good (and brothers), describe how their message of optimism--and charitable giving--help drive sales.

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Video Transcript

00:04 Bert Jacobs: My name's Bert Jacobs and I'm the CEO. At our company, that stands for Chief Executive Optimist.

00:09 John Jacobs: My name's John Jacobs, I'm the Chief Creative Optimist for Life is Good. We're primarily an apparel company today. What we really do is spread the power of optimism.

How can a social message help a private business?

00:22 Bert: The most powerful tool for social impact, positive social impact, is a privately held business. There's a benefit on the for profit side to targeted authentic social work. If you are attaching yourself to a social cause because you believe it's going to help build your business and that's your motivation, consumers have the ability more than ever today to see through that and they can damage your business. If they truly believe that your heart is in what you're doing, they can build your business.

How did you realize the power of your own message?

00:58 John: Ultimately, the biggest lesson we learn was from people facing great adversity.

01:02 Bert: There was one in particular, the one relationship, with an 11-year-old girl and her name's Lindsey Beggan and Lindsey Beggan was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer. And the remarkable part of the story with Lindsey is that she was wearing a Life is Good t-shirt or hat every time somebody wrote an article about her. One person interviewing her asked her did she understand her diagnosis, 11-year-old girl. And she said, "Yes, I do." He said, "What does it mean?" She said, "Well, I don't think I'm going to live longer than a year." The interviewer said, "Well, I find it interesting that you're wearing a shirt that says Life is Good." And she said, only in a way that little kid could say, that before she was sick, she took her life for granted. It was a breakthrough for us because it was the first time that we clearly understood that sometimes it's the most challenged people who appreciate life the most.

01:56 John: Ultimately, it meant we learned the depth and the power of the message through our own customers.

How do you connect to a social cause?

02:06 John: We have a non-profit side of our business called The Life is Good Playmakers and it's about physical play therapy for kids facing trauma, poverty, illness, violence. Really difficult stuff and we're talking about really young kids whose life is probably going down a terrible path and we're helping to steer them to a place where they can actually view the world with open arms and the eyes of an optimist.

How does charitable work affect customer perception?

02:37 Bert: It's our customers that have built the business and part of that, I think, is because they see an authenticity in what we're doing. That we're actually dedicated to helping children and we're really trying to do that and as a result, I think they feel better about buying Life is Good products. Life is Good, we can say that the character and the name is powerful, but I think that if we weren't backing it up with albeit simple but authentic actions that have positive social impact, I don't think that the community would rally around it.

Last updated: Nov 10, 2011




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