Julia L F Goldstein

How Are You Changing the World?

Defining a Brand: One Message, Two Business Lines

I’m struggling to define my brand. I think about some feedback I’ve gotten:
“You write all these very technical papers, but your website has photos of nature. I don’t get it.”
“Shouldn’t your company logo have a tree in it?”
“Your book deserves to be classified as a reference tool for countless professionals.”
“Your book inspired me to think before buying new stuff or throwing something in the trash.”


Am I the writer who can learn enough about photolithography or lithium-ion battery chemistry to write about those topics in understandable English? Or am I the author trying to change the world by spreading the message of environmental sustainability and smarter use of materials? Can’t I be both?
I’m thinking about branding as I recall my recent interview with Ian Rosenberger, founder of Day Owl and First Mile. These are two brands that originated from one company, Thread International. In Ian’s words, “We’re still one company, just two business lines.”

First Mile does the work of the original company, collecting plastic water bottles in developing countries, recycling them, and processing them into yarns for making fabrics. First Mile works with well-known brands like Puma, Ralph Lauren, and Reebok. The concept of the first mile is the journey that starts when someone discards a water bottle. The supply chain starts there instead of starting with purchasing fabric.

But Ian also wanted to set up his own brand, which he sees as a case study and example for other brands to follow, besides being an opportunity to create products that people want to buy. The endeavor began by making a backpack using canvas made from the company’s recycled yarns. I was one of many supporters who bought one via Thread International’s Kickstarter campaign in 2017, and it’s a great backpack. You can read my previous blog post about it, so there’s no need for me to elaborate here.

The backpack now sells under the Day Owl brand, which is also making face masks. They do not make these items from recycled water bottles, because polyester canvas is not a good fabric for face masks. Masks need breathable, natural materials like cotton that can filter pollutants and viruses. Day Owl’s cotton comes from overages, excess fabric scraps that aren’t being used to make clothing. Ian would like to make the masks from organic cotton, but he can’t find any. It turns out that cotton is in short supply because everybody's making face masks.

Ian told me the story of the brand name Day Owl. It’s based on his ideal customer, someone who wants to do their best to improve the world from the time they open their eyes in the morning to the time they shut them at night. They aren’t night owls; they are day owls.

Who is my ideal customer? I, like Ian, have two distinct business lines, but I control both of them. Regardless of whether I’m writing technical articles or leading workshops on recycling, I want to attract people who care about the impact of their actions on society and the environment. My audience has opinions but isn’t afraid to change them if they learn something new that causes them to question what they believed to be true.

My ideal corporate customer is a company that not only creates innovative products but considers the environmental footprint of producing those products and treats employees and customers with respect. I appreciate companies that embrace the triple bottom line—people, planet, profit. All aspects must be in balance.

My ideal reader is someone who wants to use the information in my blogs or books to inspire them toward positive change. They believe in doing the right thing for the people around them and the community where they live, even if they aren’t always sure what action to take. When they hear the words “sustainable manufacturing” or “smart recycling,” they want to learn more.

Does any of what I wrote here resonate with you? Drop me a line. I always enjoy connecting with my blog readers.