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Prima’s Christopher Gavigan on Building Trust in the Purpose Economy

"What we are experiencing and demanding and requiring of brands is to step up with an activist and advocacy position," Gavigan said.

Christopher Gavigan thinks trust and self-awareness are paramount to thriving in the purpose economy.

“The purpose economy is here. Brands need to imagine, pivot, embrace and do the hard work to look inside to understand what their deepest mission and purpose is,” said Gavigan, The Honest Company cofounder who created the CBD brand Prima in 2019, in a virtual presentation at WWD Beauty Inc’s 2020 Virtual Wellness Summit.

CBD is one part of a “young, nascent category” that spans more than 100 other kinds of cannabinoids, Gavigan said. Brands have been quick to enter the space, but being an early player doesn’t necessarily guarantee consumer trust.

“Anyone can throw a good copywriter at a brand, but are you doing the third-party associations necessary to bring that level of trust and certainty,” Gavigan said. “It takes pioneers, not posers. … How we need to demonstrate leadership in this new economy and category is to do it slowly and carefully with a purpose mind-set that is aligning to the clinical data.”

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Gavigan described trust as “a beautiful collision of consistency, knowing yourself and being uncompromising.” He noted a collective shift in focus on skills and data toward self-awareness. The willingness to be vulnerable and radically transparent will be a key differentiator for brands moving forward, he said.

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“Every business document, every cultural document, HR, our profit and loss statements, our specific board documents to our board leadership and stakeholders, those are moral documents,” Gavigan said. “Those documents should be seen as imagining a future that is more mindful, more diverse, more inclusive and specifically equitable. Yes, brands are built around shareholder value and profit, but they need to be built around purpose and their people, as well.”

Christopher Gavigan speaking at the Beauty Inc. Wellness Summit.
Christopher Gavigan speaking at the Beauty Inc. Wellness Summit. Courtesy Photo

The coronavirus pandemic has spurred a rise in wellness and self-care, as consumers who are able to do so spend more time at home, self-isolating. It is possible a renewed enthusiasm for one’s personal health will impact the CBD industry, but customers aren’t likely to buy from brands who don’t first establish trust.

“There’s a global distrust of institutions and sadly, the clear data that’s coming out of academia and medicine is eroded and hard to qualify and time will help qualify that data,” Gavigan said.

Combined with the sociocultural upheaval of the first half of the year, and lack of a unifying vision, consumers are more than ever looking for the brands they use to fill the void.

“We’re looking for trusted voices and we’re having a hard time finding them. Brands have an ability to connect and carefully showcase that data and demonstrate a level of trust and sophistication around that data,” Gavigan said. “Everyone should click through to your test results, have access to your executive teams and who’s on them and why they care. They should see your faces. Demonstrating that science now more than ever is incredibly important.”