James Gill: [00:00:00]
This week I have the great pleasure of being joined by Maria from Soleil Marketing. Now Maria and I have spoken before. We had a great chat, but I [00:01:00] wanted to just give a bit of background on Maria before we handed over to you, Maria, to say your piece.
But Maria is an award winning, qualified marketing consultant who helps purpose-driven businesses increase turnover and brand awareness. Maria's got over 10 years of experience in the world of marketing. So probably knows a lot more than almost anyone else I know in the world of marketing which is great.
So from a marketing perspective, we've got a lot to learn from you, Maria. But you are also big into the world of sustainability and being a climate conscious business. So I believe you have an accreditation as being carbon literate and you hold a mini MBA in Marketing from Marketing Week.
So you've got the perfect combo of skills, and knowledge to be talking to us on the podcast this week. And I believe you're also a volunteer for the Kent Wildlife Trust. So you tick a lot of boxes for being a great person to be speaking to on the EcoSend podcast. So thank you so much for joining us.
Do tell us more about you, Maria, and what you're up to at the moment.[00:02:00]
Maria Soleil: Thank you James. What an introduction, I'm not sure how to follow that. I run Soleil Marketing, which is basically a consultancy that helps purpose driven brands with marketing strategy and execution.
And ultimately I work for purpose driven brands, and I am purpose driven myself. The business is purpose driven. So everything that I do is trying to positively impact the planet and people rather than be exploitative or extractive or purely just in it to make money for myself. And that's kind of the approach I try and take to business.
James Gill: That sounds great. I if only more people and businesses were like what you are doing. Maybe the contrarian would be like, "Why, why do you care about this? Why are you purpose driven?" What got you on this path, Maria? Because a lot of people wake up and they just want to go out there and make some money in the world and they want to start a business, or especially I think in the world of Marketing, you know, it could be sometimes challenging to get clients to win business.
How have you ended up in this place where your [00:03:00] purpose is so strong, and how have you got such admirable values in this otherwise quite chaotic world?
Maria Soleil: That's a really good question. The journey started over two years ago now, during the height of the pandemic really. I think a lot of people have these realizations when they go through these challenges. So I was made redundant from my last employed marketing role; I was a marketing lead in the UK and US for a travel agent. But quite a niche one. It was in yacht rental; yacht chartering.
James Gill: Oh, sounds fancy!
Maria Soleil: You know I've had a bit of a varied background in terms of roles that I've worked in. Before that I worked in a multinational, construction materials company.
So that was very corporate, very challenging. And so I went into a travel job because travel has always been a passion of mine. I just always felt like that corporate life wasn't really for me, it always felt like I was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. It just didn't ever really feel quite right. I thought it was what I wanted when I went [00:04:00] into it, but actually I realized it didn't align with my values at all. And so going into that kind of travel role, it actually afforded me a lot more flexibility.
The company culture is completely different. But as you know, it's quite obvious what happened. The pandemic hit, people weren't booking holiday. So, very quickly it became apparent that the marketing role for a travel company was at risk of redundancy.
So I had a few months in 2020 on furlough, figuring out what I wanted to do. It felt like a really weird time for the job market. I mean, it was a weird time for the job market, especially with the whole overnight change to remote working, and it felt like a lot of companies were going through so much change and adjustment.
I was looking for roles and I couldn't really find a role that I felt really passionate about, that gave me what I wanted. And I actually spent some time doing some; it was actually a career change course. Really good. But ultimately what it showed me was that all my values aligned with [00:05:00] the idea of going self-employed. But actually going self-employed in Marketing for particular types of clients and doing particular types of work. So that came about from realising that always sort of cared about kind social purpose; social mobility. The environment stuff actually came into it a bit later for me
James Gill: Right.
Maria Soleil: So basically September, 2020 I went fully self-employed.
James Gill: A bold move. It's a bold move. .
Maria Soleil: I mean, to be fair was almost like if I don't do it now, given the situation at the time this is the best time to do it.
But then that doesn't ever make it feel any easier. It's still hard to kind of get going. So I came across the B Corp movement. They're all about bringing purpose into business and using businesses as a vehicle to solve social and environmental problems. And I was like obsessed with it. So I really embedded the idea more of okay I want to be a purpose led business and I want to only work for these particular types of businesses because that's how [00:06:00] I've always felt in the past that marketing is there as a function to bring in revenue. To drive profit for shareholders. The positive outputs of marketing are not shared across the business or maybe in wider society or to the environment. So I came across the B Corps movement, loved it.
And basically ever since I've been, trying to, to build that purpose. That kind of work in the running of my business, but also the types of clients that I work for.
James Gill: It is always fascinating to hear peoples' journeys in this world. And it's never a linear path. I think it's always paved with unexpected things. I mean, not many people could really predict that we'd all suddenly start turning the world upside down and work from home and not be able to go out for two years.
It was a huge challenge, but in many ways, for some it was this point of rethinking everything. Whether it was a business or individuals. And it sounds like that [00:07:00] very much was the case for you. And it's quite fascinating to hear the positive outcome of some of that and, the necessity to go and do something on your own. I'm actually fascinated by this idea though of the focus on the B Corp movement and sustainable businesses or values driven businesses.
While that's an admirable goal, for a lot of people it's like, do you take a client and get paid or not? So I'm actually fascinated; has that choice driven you to have any difficult decisions of clients to work with and have you ever said "no" to a client because they didn't align with what you wanted; the kind of company you wanted to be working with?
Maria Soleil: Yeah, I, I have said no. I've been approached by a couple of businesses actually, and I've just felt... it's almost like they were interested in almost becoming purpose driven businesses or developing or sort of doing purpose driven marketing.
James Gill: Mm.
Maria Soleil: But the type [00:08:00] of business and the industry they were in; it just didn't feel quite right. I just knew that they wouldn't be the right type of clients for me. I wouldn't say I'm selective. I'm just fortunate to have several long term clients...
James Gill: sure.
Maria Soleil: ...who align with my values.
But I would say that I do think there is a difference in I guess budget with the types of clients that I might work with. I could have gone another route and gone fully into digital marketing. Maybe get really deep into SEO and provide those kind of services.
Because the role I did before was quite general, so I managed seo, managed an agency; doing ppc. I was doing paid social, I was doing organic social, and so I could have gone down any of those route that tend to be quite in-demand skills.
I've always enjoyed strategy. The stuff that comes before the tactical stuff. I've always enjoyed that. And planning and creating structure in businesses and processes. Less so the kind of hands on PPC management, social media [00:09:00] management.
So firstly I decided to go down that route more. I suppose to summarize what I'm trying to say is that I could probably command a higher daily rate doing something that's more specialized for, I don't know, e-commerce businesses or bigger brands.
But ultimately that's not really the type of work that I wanted to do. Or still I'm not really interested in doing. So they've been compromises I guess, and there continue to be compromises that I make along the way. An example is the fact that I dedicate sometime each month to mentoring and volunteering, which is time that I could instead be charging for work.
But to me that's all part of what running a purpose- driven business is about; it's about giving back.
James Gill: Yeah it's, honestly, it's so interesting to hear because I always count my blessings that we have customers that pay us and that helps us run the business successfully and pay [00:10:00] everyone's salaries. But when you can be clear about your own values and what drives you then you can get so much fulfillment from things that are not money; trying to balance your time and energy as a, as an individual or as a business. I think so much of the, the world is so focused on: make more money, increase the value of a business, and financial metrics.
But at the end of the day, there's humans behind every business, and those humans are not solely driven by money. The money helps, but then people have needs and wants and goals, and values.
Maria Soleil: Definitely.
James Gill: I think sometimes people struggle a bit. I know I struggled a bit with how to balance that and felt quite guilty if I'm encouraging us as a business to do things that are not purely about making more money.
But I think it is incredible how much it can be rewarding for yourself and for your team as well to be doing more good things .
Maria Soleil: And I think it's, it's, it's personal growth as well because, you know, in [00:11:00] previous roles that I've had I didn't ever have the opportunity to do the types of things that I'm able to do now, and which is a massive shame.
I guess capitalism has brought us to a place now where we have almost constant growth, year on year growth with no regards to, or very little regards to the impacts that might have on things like carbon emissions, environment, people's wellbeing and mental health.
That's brought us to a place that's not a good place. So the way I see the world of business, which again admittedly is only from my single perspective, and there's so much nuance to it, is that something has to change. Every business can't keep doing business the way it's been doing business, unless you are a circular business.
Patagonia always gets mentioned. They're always setting the standard for proper purpose- driven business. And so I suppose I'm saying is I think the traditional business model does have to change. And if now you can [00:12:00] be ahead of it, it's a competitive advantage at the moment.
I think if you shift the way that you do business into a way that is purpose driven and is giving back... It won't be a competitive advantage hopefully in five to 10 years because everyone will be doing it,
James Gill: Hopefully
Maria Soleil: Exactly. And that's kind of the point we need to get to. It's all driven by personal values, but it is a competitive advantage ultimately because a lot of people within the marketing sector are having to learn now about sustainability.
James Gill: Absolutely. It's a very optimistic future I think you, you have there, Maria. I share your optimism. I I think there's, there's no point being anything else, but I think it you are right; that does lead very naturally onto something I know we wanted to talk about, which was that for a lot of businesses they may behind closed doors want to do the right thing, which in itself is great. I know there's a lot of businesses that probably don't or they've got different priorities, but for those that do want to do the right thing, it's [00:13:00] interesting to talk about how much . I, I think, I think we've felt this like how much fear there often is when you see someone like a Patagonia walking the walk and talking the talk and showing how it can be done and setting the standard.
And then for so many individuals, businesses that haven't been on that journey for decades, learning everything there is and having a Chief Sustainability Officer and baked it into their values from day one. For businesses today who want to get on this journey and want to be a bit more climate conscious, and want to be doing the right thing.
It feels like there's quite a bit of fear, about speaking out because there's a fear that you get labeled as, "Oh, you're just doing this for the marketing, you're just doing this to get some headlines" and so I think it does seem like there's a lot of people, a lot of businesses, maybe they have the desires and intentions, but it's almost like a where do [00:14:00] you start? Have you felt that at all with, with any of the clients you've worked with a fear of greenwashing?
Maria Soleil: It's definitely, I think it does scare a lot of businesses, and businesses that generally want to be doing good stuff. Want to be, say tracking their carbon, carbon emissions and reporting on that and reporting on other stuff that they might be doing.
And I think it can come from a genuine place. Obviously, often it will come from regulation. So it is not necessarily like they're just doing it of their own free will. I think those businesses that are wanting to try and make changes of their own free will are far and few between because it generally will come from like a CEO founder who almost sees it as, it's almost like a personal, you know, they can really see that the need for it.
Generally, I guess board members, shareholders can almost see it as a risk or disruption or, a massive investment that's going to cost the business money.
And actually, generally you'll see that [00:15:00] purpose- driven businesses tend to have more longevity and financial success. There's, it's not totally black and white. And actually, Mark Ritson wrote a quite a good blog post in Marketing Week about purpose. And purpose in marketing and what it means.
But I think ultimately in terms of being scared to say things, it's quite simple really. You have to be factual and you have to tell the truth.
You have to be quite careful about what language you use. I saw a campaign recently that it used the words 'Save the Planet' by doing this.
James Gill: But you see that, that all the time, right? You see that in, you know, you walk to your local supermarket and every item on the shelf, apparently you'll help me save the planet.
Maria Soleil: Yeah, if you go by, the green claims code, which is the competition of markets authority's instructions on what to say and what not to say, how to avoid greenwashing. They will say you can't make big grand, ambiguous claims.
That's the type of thing you shouldn't be saying. But[00:16:00] say you're releasing a new product that might have lower carbon emissions; that's great and you can say, "10% less carbon emissions than a competitor" or something like that.
Just making sure you're clued up on what the Green claims code says and avoiding those things that are ambiguous and clearly not actually true.
James Gill: Well I know you were saying as well, terms like, I think it was " eco-friendly". You know, you see a lot, but actually that's quite meaningless when you get to the details really.
Maria Soleil: Yeah and I had this chat actually with a sustainability consultant who knows an awful lot more than I do. I really know next to nothing compared to these people. And she just basically said like nothing is eco-friendly really . Basically everything has carbon emissions attached to it. Every pound that is spent has carbon emissions attached to it. So any time money is being spent that's creating carbon emissions.
There's not really anything that can claim to be eco-friendly.
It could be better for the environment, but then you'd have to be say, why is it better for the environment?[00:17:00]
It's completely understandable why businesses might be scared of saying the wrong thing. And also quite frustrating I think when maybe competitors are saying things that are clearly greenwashing. That is really frustrating I think for a lot of businesses.
James Gill: Yeah.
Maria Soleil: Then ultimately, if you are genuine, you are doing things right; you're building that kind of trust with your customers and potential customers, then in the long run you are going to be in a better position. That's the way I see it.
James Gill: For me it's actually so fascinating where marketing and the values of business meet. So much around marketing is about copywriting and good copywriting, and being an effective copywriter. And it feels like it's as, it's more applicable here than than ever where you've got to be a great writer to explain the value of a product, but then also incredibly delicate and well sourced on how you talk about those sustainability and climate related claims.
It's fortunate that in the UK we have the green [00:18:00] claims code which I don't know if other people might not be familiar with it; we can link to it in the show notes as well. But I'm sure that it varies around the world of whether there's such clarity for how businesses should talk about their products in other markets.
But I know when we, we briefly spoke before that really interested me, Maria, and that was around trying to build a sustainable business. Is that enough? Is there further we should be going? And I know you had some thoughts on that, so I'd love to hear you share those if that's okay.
Maria Soleil: Yeah, of course. I think we're all on a continuous journey. I definitely am. I'm learning new things all the time and in recent months I've been learning a bit more about regenerative business. So it's kind of a step on from sustainability and having a sustainable business.
Well, you know, this world of in business is moving really quickly, so things are changing a lot. So the idea around [00:19:00] running a regenerative business is that, so I guess to start with sustainability, like my understanding of sustainability is being able to run a business or have a society that is running a way that sustains the status quo, which means ultimately it's about stopping things getting worse. Regeneration recognizes that we've created a lot of environmental and sociological damage, through it mainly in the global north and western economies through the way business and business has really been done.
But regeneration is almost looking at, okay, so we looking at where we are; looking at the fact that, trying to achieve net zero is a massive feat. The things that need to change, like behavioral changes, like infrastructure. But ultimately we should really be repairing the damage that we've already [00:20:00] created.
So I suppose it's quite difficult to explain. I think one good example, one business that I've seen that I think represents this really well is a company called Elvis and Kresse, and they are, I believe they're a B Corp. They're actually quite local to, to me in Kent. And their original kind of business was to take old fire hoses from fire stations that are no longer used and create bags and purses and stuff out of these old fire hoses.
Reducing waste, kind of a circular model. And more, I think in the last couple of years, they, the founder actually, or the founders, sorry, there's two of them. They bought a farm in, well, where they're based in Kent, they actually bought a farm. And you think, well actually a farm has nothing to do with creating handbags and sending handbags. But why they're doing that and ultimate they're to regenerate the lands. They do loads of cool stuff. I'd recommend [00:21:00] going, I think going to their website or just reading up a little bit more about them.
James Gill: Yeah, this podcast is sponsored by Elvis and Kresse.
I mean, this is a good example though, I guess just not to, Sorry. I just like, you know, doing good things is in itself good for your business as well. You get attention as well for doing the right things, but it sounds like they're not driven by that.
Maria Soleil: Yeah, I mean they're very much driven by, I spoke to the founders several months ago, and they're very much driven by personal values and always wanting to do more and thinking, "Okay, like we make, you know, we make handbags, but is that even good enough?" Yes, we are taking waste and making it into something else, but actually we need to be looking at how to, tackle things like improving soil and repairing land and taking more carbon out, the atmosphere and stuff like that. So they're planting trees. I know they're doing some other stuff. I can't remember exactly what they're doing, but a lot of businesses, think there's other businesses that are doing things like that. Faith in Nature for example, they make soaps and shower gels and stuff like that. They've recently made [00:22:00] Nature an official director of their company so,
James Gill: Wow.
Maria Soleil: So basically, the views of Nature are represented in the boardroom officially, which is really interesting how they've managed to do that legally and stuff.
So, I think that again fits into the idea of how can we regenerate and give back and repair damage that we've done over the last hundred and fifty years. Essentially to reset the balance because everything's out of balance. So to me it's blowing my mind learning about it.
Cause I'm thinking, well, how does this apply to my clients? How does this apply to the way I run my business? How does that even apply to marketing? And what does the future look like for marketing within business? I think it's a really interesting topic. I think it's going to grow the idea of really giving back and repairing; rather than just profit, profit, profit all the time.
James Gill: Yeah absolutely.[00:23:00] It does seem that the last, well, a hundred 50 years, like growth, growth, growth, but then as you said, I think it just makes so much sense being sustainable. If what we are doing is unsustainable, it isn't going to help us anywhere near enough to undo so much of the previous damage that's been done.
And seemingly the world is getting more and more knowledgeable about that damage we have done and about what could happen in the future; it feels the urgency and the sheer amount of things that need to change and need to be done. There's more things that need to be done and under more urgency, increasing.
So all of those things combined feel like we need more people and more businesses to not just think, "how do I tick some boxes? How do I look like I'm doing the right thing?" We don't even need businesses just keeping things sustainable. We need businesses to go further to set the bar so much further out there that we can start undoing things in [00:24:00] a big way and start turning things, turning the clock back a bit on, on some of the the damage that's been done.
So that concept sounds fascinating. Well, I certainly, when you told me about it, it certainly inspired me a lot to, to think about, " how can we, how can I, how can more businesses be thinking like that? Not just sustainable, but go further?"
Not sure I've got the budget to buy a farm yet, but we'll figure, we'll figure that out. There's, there's some life goals there. You mentioned though, Maria, the future of marketing. I think probably final topic just to touch on there, seems like an appropriate one.
Do you have any thoughts on the future of marketing and how that's going to look over the next five, ten years? I mean, those are big, big numbers in themselves. Maybe even one year. I don't know.
Maria Soleil: I know, and it changes, so it feels it changes so quickly anyway it is a really, really good question. It's one that I'm thinking a lot about at the moment because of all the things that I'm learning and things around how marketing is one of the causes of where we [00:25:00] are now; driving consumption, causing people to buy things that they don't necessarily need. And ultimately that can't, okay, it could continue as it is, and it has been for years and years and years, but we're staring down the barrel of a bit of a scary future, unfortunately.
And especially if you know, anyone might have seen the latest David Attenborough documentary and the message that he left at the end is like, "We need to do something!" Sustainable marketing is something that is growing. The Chartered Institute of Marketing; they run a course on it. I know there's a course by Cambridge University, I think about sustainable marketing. And so there is clearly a shift happening, which is making people realize that, okay, we need to do things differently.
So, you know, a lot of the bigger brands will be legally obliged to report on carbon.
James Gill: Yeah.
Maria Soleil: So they are going to be tracking carbon emissions of marketing campaigns or, production [00:26:00] of products and everything. So they're really keen to understand how to do advertising and promotion, and everything involved in the marketing process at a lower carbon impact.
So I think that is an interesting thing going forwards. Marketing at the moment generally seems to be, I mean, it's hugely data driven. A lot of businesses have way too much data compared to what they actually need to actually achieve their goals from a marketing perspective.
And with data, we know it does have carbon emissions and I think because almost you think it's just hosted on the cloud or you don't think about the impact of it.
James Gill: Yeah.
Maria Soleil: I think data should be cleansed and you shouldn't be keeping stuff unnecessarily anyway. So I think that's going to scaled back. I think campaigns are going to look quite different because I think they probably won't be so elaborate. But I also think there will have to be a lot more creativity involved. Because well equally, you know, these [00:27:00] big campaigns cost money. But I think there'll be a lot more changes in production around campaigns. And the other thing I was thinking is, I think copywriting will become more important than it is now. Because even say for example, a very small thing that a website for example has a carbon footprint. And usually the more images and the more illustrations or complex code on there impacts on the carbon emissions. So I think things will be stripped back a lot. It'll become a lot more about language, and simplicity than doing crazy stuff and running campaigns on loads of different channels, sometimes unnecessarily. But long term I think it's going to be very interesting because, but then I do have a bit of a optimistic vision of where things will be. It's something I'm asking, I'm talking to people and asking questions about at the moment, because I don't understand. How in 10 years time I feel like things are going to look so different, but I can't even really [00:28:00] comprehend how different they're going to look.
James Gill: Yeah. Yeah, 10 years ago was you know, things were quite different 10 years ago, so no, it's honestly, it's fascinating hearing you say it. A lot of that though, what I heard there was a lot of, a lot of positives in terms of how marketing can be changing. A lot of, almost returning to, maybe some might call it the good odd days where marketing did rely more on creativity, did rely on great copywriting, did rely on doing more with less. And it feels like that could be better for, for brands, with maybe smaller budgets. Could be better for people in the marketing industry to focus more on, quality and creativity. Could be better for consumers too, with less bombardment of things on different channels, and then better for the climate too. So it feels like there's a lot of reasons to be, as you said, as you are Maria, optimistic and positive about the future.
So, yeah thank you so much. I [00:29:00] feel like that's made one Hell of a great show. I hope listeners are going to be very inspired. If there is any way you wanted to share for anyone wants to go off on this journey and, and find out more, is there any where you'd recommend they go check out?
Maria Soleil: Yeah, because this stuff is quite overwhelming and there are a lot of places you can go to read. I, I've created a resources page on my website, which is @soleilmarketing.co .uk/resources.
I haven't read all of them because there's quite a lot on there. But I've had them recommended to me and I have read a couple.
James Gill: You're being very honest there.
Maria Soleil: So definitely recommend going to my webpage on that, but I guess the most prominent things to pick out are I would say the Sustainable Marketing Manifesto. That's a really good place to go just to learn because they have podcasts as well and that's really interesting. And actually just things like the B Corp impact assessment is a good framework, I would say. They are changing it, they're kind of developing it, but it's a framework that [00:30:00] businesses can use to almost understand the case; so what does it mean to be purpose driven? What things do we have to look at in each aspect of our business. And the the UN sustainable development goals that's the last one I wanted to mention. So the UN has created 17 goals, which again, kind of linked to almost every aspect of society and businesses and that's an interesting framework that a lot of sustainable models are based on.
James Gill: Right, we will absolutely link to that in the show notes, and lots of it sounds like it's an absolute treasure trove of handy resources there. Thank you, Maria. And if anyone wants to learn more about you and connect with you, where can they find you?
Maria Soleil: So I'm mostly on LinkedIn so just search for Maria Soleil. I do use Twitter as well. But I suppose a good place really; you can sign up to my newsletter as well which is called 'Marketing by Purpose'; there's links that on my homepage and it's a monthly newsletter.
James Gill: A true, a true [00:31:00] marketer there; get their email subscribers up. Fantastic. Well thank you , thank you so much Maria. Honestly, it's been an absolute pleasure chatting with you today because I feel like every time I speak to you I learn a hell of a lot more and come away feeling incredibly inspired and I'm sure that's how anyone listening will feel too.
So thank you so much Maria and really, really enjoyed speaking to you. And, if anyone has been listening and they wanna help us out with the Ecos Send podcast, which is always appreciated, you can go find our podcast on all the major podcasts providers, of course.
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So thank you very much for listening and we'll catch you next time.