While socially-conscious companies may be commonplace today, there is one company in particular who blazed the trail, setting into motion a philosophy that emerging brands would emulate for decades to come. Dr. Bronner’s, a natural and environmentally-conscious soap company, with its history dating back to the 1850s, has successfully built a thriving business that embraces a purpose much bigger than profit alone.
Based in Southern California, Dr. Bronner’s was founded in 1948 by Emanuel Bronner, a third-generation master soapmaker from a German-Jewish soapmaking family. Wanting to start a new life in the United States, Bronner left Germany in 1929—before the persecution of Jewish people and before World War II began. As Bronner watched the horrors of the war unfold from afar, it became the catalyst for his life’s work.
I recently had a chance to connect with Lisa Bronner, granddaughter of Emanuel Bronner and spokesperson for the Dr. Bronner’s brand. Detailing the unconventional underpinnings that laid the framework for the company, Lisa shared the chain of events that started it all:
My grandfather, through the 40’s, became super passionate about an ideology, really fueled by what he was seeing going on on the global scene—WWII, the advent of the Nuclear Age—and he was firmly convinced, as many were, that mankind was about to destroy itself. So he started speaking out against nuclear warfare, against communism, against any war. He developed this philosophy he called the Moral ABC, which is the idea that we all are similar, we all are part of mankind, and we need to grab onto our similarities instead of fight over our differences. It was really this philosophy that got him back to the soapmaking. Because he wanted to share this philosophy with people, he would speak wherever he could find an audience. He would speak on this idea of world unity and as a thank you he would give them a small bottle of his family’s recipe for soap. My grandfather noticed, however, that people were coming and they would snag the bottle of soap and wouldn’t stay to hear him speak. It totally defeated his purpose. So he wrote down his philosophy and put it on the label so that when they took the soap they would take his philosophy with him.
The company took off in the 1960’s largely by word-of-mouth grassroots efforts. Bronner started selling his socially-conscious soaps at local health food stores and then later expanded his distribution into a variety of national chains.While business was important to Bronner, he was driven mostly by the passion to share his message of unity, his philosophy on the Moral ABC, and his ideas behind social and environmental consciousness. Through his work, Bronner became a leader in the organic and fair-trade movement, setting himself apart as a pioneer and a true radical in the industry.
Fast forward to now, Bronner’s grandson, David Bronner, along with his sister Lisa Bronner, other family members and employees, proudly carries on his legacy and passion for activism. The Dr. Bronner’s brand has reached a new level of success, with over 150 employees and $100 million in revenue last year alone. The company continues to carry on the good works of Emanuel Bronner with a unique and successful business model that combines high quality products, environmental activism, and social giving.
So, what is the secret to Dr. Bronner’s success?
- They don’t sacrifice their integrity for the sake of making a profit. Dr. Bronner’s is equally as committed to creating high-quality products as it is to making the world a better place. This has become the core of who they are, making it impossible to have one without the other. As a result, this decision has ultimately built a strong and loyal following of consumers who not only love the product, but are passionate about what the brand stands for.
- They aren’t afraid to stand up for what they believe in, regardless of the outcome. Both Emanuel and David Bronner can be described as radical activists who frequently challenged industry standards, leaders, and lawmakers. They have been vocal participants in many initiatives over the years, including the GMO labeling campaign that began in 2012. While their actions occasionally landed them in trouble—David Bronner was put in jail for his use of industrial hemp—this unbridled passion for speaking up for their beliefs has inevitably fueled the growth of the Dr. Bronner’s brand.
- They stand steadfast behind their mission to make the world a better place, starting with their employees. For some companies, making a donation to a charity might be the extent of their involvement. But Dr. Bronner’s goes above and beyond, making philanthropy a central practice and core value within their company. This idea extends to their employees who are treated like family with progressive business practices, including 100% free healthcare and a five to one cap on executive salaries.
- They understand the importance of connecting with their customers. Building a relationship with their consumers is paramount to Dr. Bronner’s, so much so that Lisa Bronner even answers customer service emails herself. As the main person listening to their concerns, customers were getting the answers they needed straight from the source. To this day, the people behind Dr. Bronner’s make a point of putting themselves out there for the public, and it only reinforces their mission of “All-One”.
When we spoke, Lisa mentioned that the mom market was of particular importance to Dr. Bronner’s. She went on to explain that Dr. Bronner’s understands that moms aren’t just another consumer. Instead, they are passionate, inquisitive, and adamant about making sure the products they bring home to their families are the healthiest and best that they can be. Reaching moms has become a prime focus for the brand. That’s why Dr. Bronner’s has partnered with Moms Meet on campaigns over the years to reach our powerful network of influential health-minded moms. The results have been stunning—as evidenced by the hundreds of positive reviews and enthusiastic comments about Dr. Bronner’s Organic Coconut Oil and Peppermint All-One Toothpaste on momsmeet.com. Lisa’s advice to other brands wanting similar success? Listen to what moms have to say. Answer their questions. Have a conversation—because moms are driving the modern health movement.
Learn how you can get your brand seen and products reviewed by influential mom consumers. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.