Thomas Kolster, founder Goodvertising Agency: “Sustainability should never just be a marketing exercise, but a company transformation”

Thomas Kolster is a man on a mission. Counting more than 15 years of agency experience his belief is that the communication industry has a pivotal role to play in promoting a more sustainable mindset and behaviour, and that by making advertising better we can make the world better. His book “Goodvertising” is the most comprehensive book to date exploring communication for good.

Kolster will be one of Sustainable Brands Madrid 2018 speakers. He will talk about ‘How human brands win!’.

You are known as Mr. Goodvertising. How has marketing changed over the last 15 years to become more sustainable and with more social impact?

For the most part, marketing is still stuck in the do-good corner rather than embracing sustainability as a driver of growth, innovation and disruption. That said, the last couple of years have seen the conversations maturing across the board with e.g. big industry events like Cannes Lions adopting the Sustainable Development Goals and D&AD pursuing a true impact agenda. Sustainability is also a topic, that’s increasingly being discussed among CMOs. But sustainability should never just be a marketing exercise, but a company transformation, so it’s important to break down the silos and invite new players onboard to understand and tackle the challenges.


More and more companies are focusing their marketing actions not only on a goal of product sales, but on the purpose and corporate reputation. Is this behavior causing a change in the scale of values ​​in the purchasing decision of citizenship?

Yes, there are more brands bringing focus to a cause or even advocating for change, but unfortunately all those deeds aren’t necessarily converting to sales. People say they want to buy purposeful brands, but intent doesn’t always follow action. It’s important for brands to understand how to bridge that purpose gap. It’s not enough to ask why, but also when!  


How can marketing help a sustainable company to turn into a more profitable company?  

You can have the best or most sustainable product in the world, but without marketing to make people talk about it or experience it, you’re not going far.


What strategies does advertising accomplish to reinvent itself, reach its mission and, at the same time, promote responsible consumption? Is this conversation being taken into account at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, which you recently attended?

It’s a sad state of affairs. As many of the Fortune 500 companies are struggling with failing revenues and profits, short-term thinking wins. The same can be said about the existential dilemma a lot of the agencies see themselves in. It’s easier to chase next quarter’s profits rather than asking if we’re heading in the right direction altogether. We need to rethink the model. As the founder of Interface, Ray Anderson, cunningly reminds us: “What’s the business case for ending life on earth?”


We are living in the audiovisual era. We are used to see everything and it seems that nothing can surprise us anymore. What role does creativity play in the challenge of drawing our attention to those social and environmental realities that we do not want to see and to be aware of our responsibility in this regard?

I’m a staunch believer in the power of creativity. And that’s what I’ve always loved about advertising: it’s creative people. My wish and my mission the last 8 years have been to make marketing people realize that their voice and work truly matters. That’s the true movement of Goodvertising: to make people unlock their creativity for good!  


Why should the professionals in the advertising industry and marketing managers of the companies go to Sustainable Brands Madrid 2018?

Apart from digitization I don’t think there is a bigger threat or opportunity to our industry than sustainability. People are tired of being bullshitted, it’s time for brands to get real!  

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