Brandaid solution

An enterprise helmed by JWT Canada's Tony Pigott is helping artisans in Haiti prosper through the development of brand identities.

If we were to name some of the brands JWT Canada has worked with – say, Walmart or Tim Hortons – you’d recognize them instantly. But what about Croix des Bouquets? Or Carnival Jakmèl? Both are artisan communities based in Haiti, and though you probably haven’t heard of them yet,
JWT Canada’s CEO and president, Tony Pigott, is hoping you will soon.
As a co-founder of the Brandaid Project, Pigott is working on a global initiative that aims to help artisans from the developing world build sustainable businesses and sell their wares at fair prices – all through the power of branding.
“The conventional wisdom is that branding and marketing is the luxury of rich countries and big companies, and we think that it’s time for that to change,” Pigott says.
“[It’s time] to apply the advantages of good branding, marketing and market access to these handmade small businesses to create a market-based development model, not a grant-based and charity-based model.”
While its mandate to help artisans in poor countries reveals a clear social conscience, the Brandaid Project itself is a for-profit endeavour. Through collaboration with UNESCO, Brandaid identifies microenterprises that are community-based and led by a master artisan. It purchases creative work at the artisans’ asking price and then sells it at, at events and to major retailers.
But the project aims to shake up the way profits are divided. Typically when wares are produced in poor countries and sold internationally, artisans only receive 2 to 8% of the retail price, because the marketing aspect is executed by the reseller.
The Brandaid Project seeks to establish branding closer to the source, so artisans can reap more of the rewards. In this model, 35% of profits go back to the artisans or their community, with 10% of this money being funnelled through Brandaid Foundation initiatives for building capacity, skills and artisan well-being. The balance of profits remain in the business.  
“The concept is that Brandaid Project would develop a briefing package for new artisan brands, including background on the art, on the community that makes it, the cultural backstory and digital assets that represent it, such as photography and video,” Pigott explains. That package would be handed over to a volunteer agency, which would create a brand identity, wordmark and promotional materials.
So far, the Brandaid Project has launched two brands – Croix des Bouquets, a line of metal art made from old oil drums, and Carnival Jakmèl, a series of papier mâché masks – with creative help from JWT. The brands have been promoted through the use of banner ads and viral video, as well as a media partnership with Vanity Fair in the U.S. The project has also enlisted the support of Hollywood celebs like co-founder and screenwriter Paul Haggis and patrons Josh Brolin and Diane Lane.
JWT’s work for Brandaid Project earned the agency a shortlist nod in the Titanium & Integrated category at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, and Pigott hopes to see the project grow much larger, with other ad and marketing professionals volunteering their talent.
“We want to see hundreds of new brands launched from less developed countries so that there can be a sustainable business for artisan communities in dozens of countries,” explains Pigott.
The Brandaid Project kicked off in 2009, after a few years of discussion between Pigott and co-founder Cameron Brohman, a Canadian who has lived in Haiti for 25 years, working in development and media.
The mood of the project shifted when the worst earthquake in 200 years struck Haiti on Jan. 12, destroying the homes and workshops of the artisans Brandaid works with. Now the organization is helping them rebuild.
“The artisan communities have been really badly damaged,” Pigott says. “An integrated approach for the sector that includes much more emphasis on branding, marketing and market access will be one of the ways that Haiti starts to pull itself out of the ditch…These things take a bit of time, but the principles are right.”

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