Darryl "DC" Cobbin of Brand Positioning Doctors
Darryl (‘DC’) Cobbin is a branding and marketing trailblazer. Former CMO at Boost Mobile, VP at Coca-Cola and for the last 15 years founder of his own consultancy business the Brand Positioning Doctors. DC was the first CMO to partner with RockCorps.
In 2005 when expanding Boost Mobile across the US, DC saw RockCorps as the perfect partner to bring to life his growing brand. We took some time out to hear from DC about his journey and reflections on the evolution of Social Purpose used within marketing campaigns – once a siloed pillar, but now integral across the whole business.
When did you start hearing the term “Social Purpose”?
Social purpose, ESG, sustainability weren’t terms when I was starting to use social purpose. Now Purpose is another discipline that you must have in order to be successful. In the 1920’s in business you had to understand radio, in the 1950s it was TV, digital in the 90s, social in the teens - but not just that - social purpose too.
Data from Aflac shows that Social Purpose is now a requirement from both investors and consumers - 73% of investors and 77% of consumers say it’s important to do good in the community. With three quarters of people agreeing on both sides, you need to be able to do this well to do good in business. It is no longer a sustainability strategy – it is just strategy.
When you were at Boost Mobile, you were ahead of the curve, what were you seeing that others didn’t?
For me, it wasn’t so much about “doing good” at the time, social purpose was a brand positioning strategy – we were launching a product in the tech space with Boost Mobile. We were already in California and Nevada but looking to expand nationally across the US.
The core focus was “boosting” the lifestyle of young people in ways that matter”. We were looking for the best way to manifest that and then I came across RockCorps. I first heard about the concept whilst on a flight to Vegas with friend and RockCorps Co-Founder Chris Robinson. Who also happened to direct several iconic Boost Mobile commercials featuring Kanye West, Ludacris, Jeezy, The Game and Jermaine Dupree to name a few. From the moment I heard about the RockCorps Give, Get Given idea, I knew it was perfect.
“You can’t win a ticket, you can’t buy a ticket, you have to earn a ticket…give, get given”
It worked so well with our strategy of ‘boosting’ the community.
We can talk all-day about how we feel, love, our opinions - but when it comes to the cash register, that says it all.
We went from a start-up to nearly $2bn revenue*** in less than 4 years. We became the fastest growing no-contract phone service in the United States.
Was social responsibility the only thing? No – we had a great team and a great product, but social purpose was the thing that tied it all together.
2. What did Boost Mobile do for RockCorps?
Our business at the time had two problems it was attempting to solve:
One, awareness and two, differentiation – we were a start-up and were in an amass of competition with those that had a lot more money than us.
RockCorps had a similar challenge – it wasn’t known nationally and although it was different, people couldn’t see that. There was no language or proof point around Social Purpose at the time, it wasn’t well known. Sure, RockCorps has had Lady Gaga, Snoop Dogg, Rihanna and many more – but back then, it was RockCorps who?
Now looking back at all the countries, the 1000s of volunteers and hours of service, multiple brands having worked with them, I’m humbled at what we at Boost Mobile did for RockCorps, and greateful for what RockCorps did for the growth of Boost Mobile.
If I go to the grave today – knowing thousands around the world were engaged through the power of music and are now doing things in their community that perhaps they wouldn’t be doing if it wasn’t for RockCorps, I’d die a happy man.
3. What would you say to someone in your position as a CMO today? Why should they consider Social Purpose and why RockCorps if it landed on their desk?
For my fellow CMOs around the world – I’m going to talk to both sides of the brain.
First to the analytical side of the brain: You have a team who want to be the best of the best marketeers in the world – ultimately, you won’t be the best if you’re not on optimizing both digital and Social Purpose. And you can’t just show how you swim; you must jump in the water.
More than that, for it to work, it can’t be constrained to a single department. It’s not CSR, something that’s nice to do as an add on, it’s CSR, Marketing, Branding, HR. It has to be a cross-marketing function. If you’re building the best marketing team in the world – it’s a capability thing.
Now, to the human side of the brain: Businesses talk about enabling people to bring their whole selves to work, but ultimately that’s hard to do when all your work is about the KPI’s and the bottom-line.
To quote my friend, Stephen Greene (Co-Founder of RockCorps):
“Capitalism is the second-best system to the one that’s yet to be created” – building and producing is a necessary part of our society”
Before RockCorps became integrated as part of our marketing function, we were all simply focused on the marketing KPI’s.
Post RockCorps, every single person in the organization volunteered at a project in the community and was then rewarded for their civic action with the concert at Radio City Music Hall – Times Square New York – the big time. This truly allowed us to see more people bringing their full self to work. It became part of the fabric of our culture.
I’m speaking now at the end of 2023 – there are two prominent wars – one in Ukraine and one in the Middle East, with the threat of more tragedy to come. I continue to be inspired by both Chris and Stephen when they say “Humanity is our client”.
You may think of your client as the person buying makeup, formula, sneakers or those selling cars and other goods – but our real client is humanity. Find a way to serve humanity in your work and you’re winning for us all.