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Episode 151
April 10, 2020

Brands x Better

"What we are Witnessing is the Humanity of Love" is a phrase that shook us in this interview. Brands like Rhone, M. Gemi, Cotopaxi, and more have banded together to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for COVID-19 relief in a matter of days. On pace to raise over one million dollars in the month of April alone, they have gained the attention of over 60 other brands ready to join their ranks. Listen now.

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"What we are Witnessing is the Humanity of Love" is a phrase that shook us in this interview. Brands like Rhone, M. Gemi, Cotopaxi, and more have banded together to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for COVID-19 relief in a matter of days. On pace to raise over one million dollars in the month of April alone, they have gained the attention of over 60 other brands ready to join their ranks.

Sign up today at Brands for Better's website:

Phillip: [00:00:02] Hello and welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about, well... Life now? Hopes. Dreams. Aspirations. A better world. It used to be about cutting edge and next generation commerce, whatever that means anymore. I'm Phillip, for what it's worth.

Brian: [00:00:18] I'm Brian.

Phillip: [00:00:19] {laughter} And Adam's here.

Brian: [00:00:19] Today here we have a guest on the show to talk about some important stuff that's happening right now in this world. Adam Bridegan, CMO at Rhone. Welcome, Adam.

Adam: [00:00:31] Thank you both for having me. Excited to be here and share what's relevant to your audience right now. I think we're all in this together, and it's been a great opportunity to reflect and just focus on things that are most important in life, which is, you know, each other and humanity.

Phillip: [00:00:50] Yeah. Gosh. I feel that very intensely right now. We've been time stamping these at the moment of recording because every day feels like a week. And so it's Thursday, April 9th at 5:30 p.m.. So we are supposed to be publishing this tomorrow morning. So maybe this will be more relevant than some others that have been published a week later. But for those, Adam, who aren't familiar with you or Rhone, can you just give us a real quick primer on you and your background and the brand? And we'll kind of get into Brands for Better and a bunch of other really cool stuff you guys are working on.

Adam: [00:01:27] Absolutely. Yeah. Well, six years ago, I was living in Connecticut and at the time was working for Priceline. And my neighbor was a gentleman by the name of Nate Checketts and was working at the NFL at the time. And we became close friends through just, you know, hanging out. And he came to me one weekend and said, I'm thinking of starting a men's activewear clothing brand. And I said, "Nate, that's sounds amazing. I don't know anything about clothes. How can I help you?" And {laughter} so that was kind of the beginning conversation. And, you know, he started bringing over samples of products that he was testing. And that was really the beginning of kind of the catalyst for Rhone. And it's been a phenomenal ride over these last six years, having been there since the very founding and now six years, fast forward six years, we've been able to build our team, have almost 70 employees and a robust marketing team. And it's been an amazing journey. But even for us at the ethos of the brand has always been our motto is forever forward. And how can we push each other to be better every single day? And that's just part of our DNA as a brand. And even with everything that's changed, I would say in the last month, we jumped into action. And that's where I think, as we discuss Brands for Better, I'll give you kind of the real back story of how that started.

Phillip: [00:03:14] Yeah. Go right ahead. I'd love to hear more about it. We've talked about it on our like our YouTube channel. I don't think it's been mentioned on the broadcast proper, so catch us up.

Adam: [00:03:24] So a month ago, Nate sends me a text and it's a Sunday morning, which, you know, Nate's a phenomenal boss. He's usually really good about not, you know, sending me messages or meetings or phone calls over the weekends. But if I do receive a message, I know that it's something pretty urgent. So he sends me a text and he says, "Can you chat? I'm sorry that it's Sunday, but I have an idea that I want to run by you." And so I give him a call and he says, "Adam, we have to help." Like we know that so many people are suffering and so many brands in the retail environment are really suffering. And yes, we are definitely impacted, but we are not as impacted as a lot of brands just because we only have three retail stores in New York City. He was like, "I want to create a coalition of conscious consumerism where brands are going to unite and put in place the best practices when it comes to, you know, how we treat our employees and how we treat our office and fulfillment staff and making sure that we put in practice the highest standards in the industry and that we create a donation so that we can all do our part to help with COVID 19." And so I was like, "Yeah, absolutely. We just need to figure out how we get other brands involved." And so that was really the phone call. We hung up the next day, I got a message from him saying, "Hey, we have to get this going." And so we quickly put together a doc and put some of our initial ideas in. And then Nate went to the phone and began the outreach to all of the other CEOs and brands that he knew. And what you're seeing today is really the offspring of those early meetings.

Brian: [00:05:37] And a lot of brands are involved now. A lot of well-known names have joined on board. You're looking at names like M.GEMI, Kopari and Greats. Cotopaxi. And so many more have joined in in this commitment. Tell us a little bit more about what that commitment means specifically.

Adam: [00:06:02] Yeah, absolutely. So what we are doing is we are donating at least 10% of proceeds together as a group to various nonprofit organizations. We're gonna be helping at the frontline of, you know, nurses, doctors, making sure that they have all of the equipment that they need. Foods. Meals. So we leave it up to the specific brand as far as the actual nonprofit. But the donation is going to be 10% of proceeds and it's for us, as of right now, we've raised about $200K, and we're on track by the end of this month to be close to a million dollars that we're going to raise for these various organizations, which is really just a phenomenal experience to be involved with, to know that we can do our part. And the other benefit is all of the brands that are doing this are going to provide value to their customers. Right? It's yes we're making this donation, but we're also going to pass along a lot of savings to consumers at large knowing that a lot of them are, you know, facing unemployment and facing job loss. And it's a really tough time. And so as we come together as humanity to help slow this spread, I think what we are trying to foster is just some stability amongst brands to come together at this time and to pass along those savings to consumers. And also do our part and raise money and awareness to these organizations that so desperately need it.

Phillip: [00:07:47] Wow. We are big fans, and we're not shy of expressing our fandom of a bunch of the brands on this list. Brian just ran down them. It seems if you go to, you can click on the 10-plus plus movement and you'll see sort of the overview of brand commitment. And it seems like there are even brands that are committing more than just the 10%. Could you talk a little bit about how each of these brands have sort of come together in their own way to reach their customers and in a very distinct way? Because I take it that it's not just everybody's giving 10% and that's it. Everybody's sort of putting it in their own light and donating to the causes that they think would help the most.

Adam: [00:08:40] Absolutely. So as of right now, and keep in mind, we just unveiled this last in the last week, we have over 20 brands that are currently registered, but we've already had 60 plus brands in addition to that who have applied. So we are hoping to get them involved and up and, you know, part of the program next week. And then from there, just continue to expand, so there's going to be this compound effect of brands that I think is really good for consumers and really good for the amount of money that we're going to be able to raise. But what we wanted to do was just kind of put in these minimum requirements and allow the brands to do above and beyond that to what is probably most important to them and their ethos as a unique brand and to their customer base. So we definitely did not want to mandate certain organizations or things like that, but come together and say, hey, we can do our part. We can raise money for these organizations that so desperately need it. And then we can definitely provide value to our customers, but it's up to you and your brand as far as what that offering looks like. So again, there's no mandate. The minimum is 10% of proceeds to the nonprofits. And then as you mentioned, some of these brands are going far and above that. And I think it's really just a testament to these brands and what they stand for. And it's ultimately I think it's great for, you know, this conscious consumerism that people really do and feel connected to brands and want to do their part and stand up for those brands that they believe in.

Brian: [00:10:40] Yeah, definitely, I'm seeing just like the very first last thing on here, it's in alphabetical order, but Boll & Branch is donating 10% of proceeds, but they're also giving 10% off all purchases as well. And so like you said kind of earlier, it's donating, but also offering a price break for customers so that they can continue to engage with brands, even if they're experiencing a certain amount of financial difficulty. It's really cool to see this. I think the tone here is so good and so important. We've seen a lot of messages go out. What I love about this is that it's just straight action. And I think that having action around your messaging is just so much more powerful. It's not just words, it's putting your money where your mouth is. I really, really appreciating that and think that is so important at this moment.

Adam: [00:11:41] And Brian, one thing to add to that is a lot of these brands are struggling, right? This economy just took a massive swing in such a short period of time, and there's so many families that are impacted by this with just this crazy illness at the time. And so as you think about that as a brand and knowing that you have your teams, your employees, your friends and they have families. So all of that, right... These brands are in tough positions. And so when you think about some of the offers that are happening, these margins are taking a hit right? This is not, you know, in the best interests of the financial structure of the company to be offering these deals and things like that. However, humanity comes before that. Right? And I think these brands are recognizing that we do have to do our part. Yes, so our margins and these things are going to dramatically be impacted. But if this means that we can keep our employees, you know, putting food on the table and having health benefits, then, yes, we need to come together. And that was really the catalyst for Nate wanting to start this was knowing that there are real families who are in such dire need and that we as these smaller brands, you know, individually, it's hard to cut through that noise, but together, if we bonded together, then we could have a bigger voice and make a bigger donation. And honestly, we would love to have a lot of the larger brands, like the brands that most people are familiar with. We would love to have them involved. And, you know, to the extent that your listeners out there have connections to these brands, our message is the more the merrier. We're not trying to say, hey, competitors or non competitors, we want them all. Like, come, come join us and let's together stand up and make a difference.

Phillip: [00:14:00] This is such an important thing. I know a month ago when this came up and again, just to timestamp everything a month ago from now would be, you know, March 9th ish, which was in the middle of, I think, a spring cleaning sale you guys were in the midst of like a campaign you were running. It's how you just left turn, pivot to, you know, launch a league of businesses. It's an incredible feat that you've pulled off, not that you've done it alone, but it's really hard to get folks from all over an ecosystem and to find like minded individuals who can all kind of collaborate together and to see such an amazing show of support there. The website, again, goes into a little bit of like how you could get involved. What is the process? If I could pretend like I'm a journalist, which I'm not. If I were to ask a hard question like what's the process by which you're going through to sort of qualify what would be a brand that would fit well, like what are some qualifying factors for you to allow or vet businesses to join Brands for Better?

Adam: [00:15:16] Yeah. It's a great question and it's actually a question that we have discussed amongst our founding group. So the founding group, we've created a shared Slack channel. And again, this is all volunteer with all of us are coming together. We all still have our own full time jobs. But through this Slack channel is where we've really built the collaboration and started laying some of the groundwork as far as what is that brand commitment. And so personally I think as long as these brands are committing to the four steps that are on the website as far as their giving value and making sure that they are going to track the contributions and help spread the word through, you know, co-marketing and some of the things that we're doing together, we would love to have them apply. Now, the other thing is we do want to do some research on these brands to make sure that they do have a stellar reputation with their customers as far as how they're treating them and things like that and not have any negative things out there that could potentially impact. But as of right now, I think it's really a time for us to extend arms and just invite others to join, because really it's about the value that we're providing to these nonprofit organizations on the front lines. And I would say there's also a lot of valuable insights that are being shared amongst the different groups. You know, when you get all these CEOs and all of these marketing teams together, there's a lot of value of just shared learnings and knowledge sharing that we're able to do, which is great. And so now we have kind of these immediate connections to share best practices and things like that. So I think there's going to be a lot of intrinsic value that comes out of this as some of the offspring. But for the most part, I would say in this phase, as long as they're willing to commit to these things, then we'd love to have them join, and we'll review the application.

Brian: [00:17:31] That's awesome. One thing I noticed was that a couple of offers, had some time box to them, which is great. I think it's great to know like how long this goes and like what? What sort of around that. What do you see as the sort of the next steps as we get further along? You know, and I have no idea how long everything's going to last. But as we march...

Phillip: [00:17:55] Brian thinks it's over by May the 4th, by the way.

Brian: [00:17:57] I have no idea.

Phillip: [00:17:58] He's on the record.

Brian: [00:17:59] I have no idea. As we march together towards what's next what does that look like? What do you see as sort of the long term of this? And if we do and when we do come out of this time of quarantine and we step into the next phase of recovery, what does that look like for Brands for Better? And do you have a long term vision for what's next?

Adam: [00:18:33] It's a great question. I think we've discussed a lot of this, but I think at this phase and in the unknowns, like there're just so many unknowns as far as how long this is going to impact the country and the world, and I think we're all just trying to take it day by day, week by week, like most of your listeners out there, we're just trying to make sure that our individual teams, you know, have jobs. And I would say on one of your earlier points about the brands having, you know, what they're signing up for... I would say we, as in the retail industry, are having to reinvent ourselves every day. Right? Like we have to move fast and make sure that we are setup for success in this new landscape of how content is being distributed and making sure that we are relevant to the consumers and there's going to be this evolutionary process that happens through this. But ultimately, I think it's going to make a lot of brands stronger. There's going to be a massive key learnings. And ultimately, I think there's going to be a net benefit to consumers that they can go to brands that they trust that have built a strong reputation over this time of crisis.

Phillip: [00:20:16] Right.

Adam: [00:20:16] And there's going to be a lot of value to them. A lot of amazing deals. And from a product standpoint that are going to be available through them when this is over. I mean, you you think about some of the product lifecycles of these things and the businesses have just been devastated by this. Ultimately, I think you're going to see a lot of strength come from this, a lot of transparency, a lot of really strong equity in the form of loyalty, knowing that these brands did right by the world, they did right by their employees. That's what I think is going to be the net out of this. And so when we think about the long term movement of Brands for Better, I think there's something really powerful and really special here. And right now, we are focused on COVID 19. And where this goes, I think is yet to be seen. I think you can trust that Rhône will be intimately involved in this and be kind of a guide as to where this goes. But for now, I think a lot of these brands just want to do their part. And at the same time, they have businesses to run. They're trying to reinvent themselves, too, so that they can survive, and I think ultimately, though, Brands for Better is going to be here for a very long time.

Phillip: [00:21:51] Let's talk about that for just a second, because... I feel like I've got a little delay on my side. I apologize. I'm stepping on people. Just talking about the need to run a business. I think that that there's a bit of an echo chamber in the world of direct to consumer and sort of that the tone police came out in the last month of how you should run your business or engage your customers. I really appreciated some of the things that Rhone was doing on the marketing side and continuing to be, I don't want to say promotional, but sort of present, I think is the right word. There was an email that you had sent called "Not another COVID 19 email," that was more like, you know, if you want to read something, here is a C.S. Lewis piece we really like. If you need some home workout tips here are some. If you want to know what we're watching, here's a link from our blog. I felt like that was really nice. And then sort of at the end and also, you know, hey, listen, like, you know, we're also in business to make money and we've got products. And if you'd like to buy our products, they're here if you want them. And I felt like that that was really had had such a great tone.

Brian: [00:23:12] Authentic.

Phillip: [00:23:12] I feel like, yeah, very authentic and at least meaningful for me as a customer of yours. I'm curious what... If we get back to normal, I want to say that, I don't say that lightly, but at some point we have to shift gears to going to back to have some normalcy and running business where we're not in business to be philanthropists. Most of us. You don't operate a nonprofit. So I appreciate what you're doing to give back in some way during this time. But, yeah. Like, how do you sort of lift the lid on getting back to needing to sell apparel to run your business?

Adam: [00:23:57] Yeah. Well, I will tell you, I think what happens is a lot of these... Also, keep in mind that most of us have never been through a global pandemic like this. Right? This is new for all of us as far as being quarantined and how do you message during this time and tone and showing empathy. But really, it just came back to how we were feeling. All the sudden, it was like almost these cookie cutter emails where, you know, these emails started coming and then like everyone was just responding and "a message from our CEO." They were all looking the same and they were just like bombarding us. And I think even me as a consumer, just I asked my wife, I said, are you getting all of these e-mails? And she was like, "Adam, I have more emails than ever before. And they're all saying the same thing." And so that was just something that we talked about internally. And I even asked on LinkedIn because I was very curious as far as how to navigate during this time. And I don't profess that I have all of the answers. But it was just a moment for us to say, how can we provide value? Yes, we we still have product that we've, you know, ordered many months ago. And we have them in stock. And they have a certain time that, you know, they're supposed to be shipped out. And all of that is like, yes, it's in the back of your mind. But for us, it was really the question of what can we do differently and how can we provide value? And like I said, we've had to reinvent ourselves. We have a pretty robust community marketing effort where we're in gyms across the country working with trainers. And because of everything that's happened with COVID, all of the gyms are shut down. People aren't going to the gym to work out. And, you know, you think another industry that's been massively uprooted is, you know, personal trainers. And so for us, we are now moving all of our content online through social media. And I'm thinking to myself today, I'm like, why haven't we done this before? This is so phenomenal. Like, it's great. But that's where I feel that again, through this, you do have to reinvent yourselves and then when you're back against the wall, it's amazing the creativity that flows to you. And sometimes you don't unlock that creativity until you really have no other option. Right? And I think that that's what's happening with a lot of these brands. And I don't know what the new normal will be, but I can tell you that we have made some really key learnings as far as content, as far as advertising, as far as budget allocation of things that we would have never experienced, efficiencies that we would have never derived, had we not been in this position. So ultimately, I think for us, the new normal is going to continue to evolve. And but those key learnings are still going to be there. And it's just important that these brands that I would say historically have been spending so much money on customer acquisition and growth, if they're not careful during this time, I think they're going to be in really bad shape.

Brian: [00:27:46] Yeah, you actually you touched on a bunch of stuff that I've been thinking about a lot lately, which is and I'm actually writing about for our Future Commerce Insiders newsletter and that is this... Actually, Phillip and I went into this year saying that 2020 was a year that we actually need to set boundaries for ourselves and live within those boundaries and be creative within those boundaries. And little did we know how many boundaries were gonna come about, just imposed upon us naturally by COVID 19 and probably the greatest year of boundaries that we've faced in many, many, many years. And so it's so funny. A lot of the boundaries that we had set for ourselves in the past like job roles and the way that we did business, we're actually having to break those boundaries to account for the new boundaries that have been put in place. And we're having to get really, really, really creative within these new boundaries that, again, are imposed upon us. I think it's just when you have boundaries, oftentimes you push up against the edge of them and you find new ways of doing things within them. And now is the time to really, I think, highlight that also. I've talked to several companies recently where their entire executive teams are actually in the warehouses helping ship product from the warehouse, not just in like a day in the life of sort of way, but in like we've got to ship orders way.

Adam: [00:29:29] Right.

Brian: [00:29:29] And if we don't get into the warehouse and we help ship those orders they're not going to go out. Whether that be because you had an increase in volume, because you're one of the industries and sectors that have seen a massive increase just due to the changing behaviors and things that people are ordering right now, or you've seen a decrease and you've had to furlough employees or whatever it is you need to get in there and help ship what you do have, these boundaries are being broken. But I love what you've said you're using this time as an opportunity to think about things in a new way because you have to. And that, I think, is a huge takeaway for our merchants.

Adam: [00:30:09] Let me just share one example. I would say six months ago, my wife and I signed up for a delivery subscription to Walmart Grocery. And never has something been so important and vital to us in these last few weeks as that relationship. I mean, I loved it. I mean, I could order groceries on my phone, have them delivered to my house and pay a tip. Like it was convenient. It was a phenomenal experience. And now it's like, look at how important that is. Look at the massive implications of that of a food delivery, of grocery delivery. I mean, as you mentioned, there's massive growth in these categories, key learnings. But for many of our brands and people in the retail industry, eCommerce is our lifeblood right now. Right? And so if you haven't reinvented and thought through ways that you can get creative on the eCommerce space, well, I think you're going to really struggle, and I think it's great to see this movement towards eCommerce. Another great example is dealerships. Because of all of the social distancing and things like that, people are not going into a dealership. Well, I'm starting to get emails where, you know, car dealers are saying everything is "We can price your trade in through your phone and we can actually deliver your phone. You don't you have to go and meet with anyone or haggle. Everything's online." Like there's some really interesting things that are happening that I think are great for us as consumers. So to me, it's exciting looking at what this new normal will be from a technology and convenience and service. And, you know, even for Rhône, as far as how do we enhance that shopping, that online shopping experience? And yes, I fundamentally believe that in the future, retail and our partners there will play a role in our growth, but for us, it's how do we enhance that experience even further? And that's what gets me excited.

Phillip: [00:32:25] What an interesting time for us to be... I remember all the think pieces from last year on Modern Retail and a bunch of others about the rise of grocery delivery and curbside delivery, in-car delivery, and how it all felt just so unnecessary in that we're all you know, we're all mobile beings capable of going places and doing things for ourselves. It's kind of the thing that's saving a lot of people in urban environments right now because there is no other means of getting those types of products, especially from a grocery store.

Adam: [00:33:03] And saving lives.

Phillip: [00:33:05] Yeah.

Adam: [00:33:06] What we are witnessing is really the humanity of love. Because we all care about each other, and we care about those who are vulnerable at this time, we're staying home. And because of technology and what you just outlined is really just a manifestation of love for us to not go out and not be mobile at this time. How that impacts us going forward is yet to be determined. But thank goodness we do have that technology right now and that there are people who have implemented these things, so that we can save lives.

Phillip: [00:33:51] If brands, just kind of wrapping up here, if brands wanted to get involved and get on the list and get in touch with Rhône or get in touch with Brands for Better, what is the best way for them to reach out?

Adam: [00:34:07] Absolutely. Just go to and click on "Join." And then there is a nice little button there that says "Apply Now." And we'd love to hear from other brands. And again, just to reiterate, even the larger brands, you know, the multibillion dollar brands out there, we would love to have you join us.

Brian: [00:34:31] Adam, thank you so much for coming on. Meeting you back at eTail east and talking with you there was such a such a joy. And I'm so glad we got to have this conversation. You kept saying something in this interview today that that you are reinventing yourselves. But I really feel like this is flowing out of the core of who you are. And so, yeah, maybe you are sort of reinventing yourselves. But I think it's like a fundamental part of who you are as a leadership team and as a brand and as a business. And so thank you so much for leading up this effort. Really appreciate it.

Adam: [00:35:05] Well, thank you both for having me. It's a pleasure to be here. And again, we just want to help and do our part and to know that potentially at the end of this month that we can have a million dollars donated, is really exciting. And again, so to the extent that your readers out there, or your listeners and your readers take action, we can make a real impact.

Phillip: [00:35:28] Yeah. And we are truly better together. Thank you so much, Adam. Also, being better together also means that you can be part of a community. And the Future Commerce community, our Insiders community, of eCommerce brand merchant operators is thriving. We want you to join it and you can do that over at Lend your voice to this conversation. Won't ya? Drop us a line at And hey, maybe if you got a minute, I know you're probably running on your treadmill or you're juggling the kids right now and learning how to homeschool, which is not a thing you signed up for, like me. But now you have to, and that's just life. If you get a second in between moments, why don't you go over to Apple podcasts and leave us a five star review? That'll help us get a little bit more visibility to other brand operators just like you in the space to help them navigate their way through, you know, running modern retail brand. And that's what we're all about here at Future Commerce. Thank you so much for listening. And hey, be safe and be well out there. And now let's make a future that we can all be proud of. Thanks.

Brian: [00:36:34] Thanks.

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