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“When you know better, you do better.”

Jennifer Brekke By Jennifer Brekke

Few Americans have accomplished as much as Dr. Maya Angelou. Coming from humble beginnings and a traumatic childhood, she conquered all odds and became an inspiring role model. She’s an accomplished poet and dancer, a fierce civil rights activist, author of over 35 books, and a respected professor and spiritual leader. Though she’s received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Lincoln Medal, and the National Medal of Arts, perhaps her greatest accomplishment was the way she moved the spirit of so many.

Her bravery has influenced me greatly as a woman, as a CEO, and most importantly, as a human being. So as the world is saying goodbye to Dr. Angelou, let’s pause to reflect on a few of her pearls of wisdom and how they transcend into all areas of life, including business.

“Humility. There is always someone bigger than I.”

Be humble and open to learning from others. Study everything. Don’t limit your learning to just your industry. Be humble enough to know that learning can come from the most unexpected sources. Think of what we learned years ago from a little company who decided to Think Different. Your eager 24-year-old coworker, with two years of experience, may have a beautiful, naive, unfiltered perspective that becomes the spark of a great idea.

“Forgive. Forgive yourself for your failures. Forgive others for their failures. Drop it. Feel lighter.”

We can’t be brave if we’re afraid to make mistakes. True bravery is being willing to make mistakes, then learning from them, moving on, and doing better next time. The defining difference is how you learn and grow from those failures. And since we all fail at times, let’s all have a little more compassion for those around us who will inevitably fail at some point too.

“When you get, give. When you learn, teach.”

How would our world be different if people, and businesses, embodied these two simple concepts? What would happen if brands and brand leaders had the heart to “pay it forward”? For TOMS, which was founded on a purpose of making a difference in the world, it has given away shoes to millions of needy children, restored sight for over 200,000 people, and built a successful multinational brand. Panera has fed hundreds of thousands of food-insecure Americans through its Panera Cares program. Maybe that’s part of the reason customers feel such a strong connection with Panera’s brand.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

That, dear Maya, is the essence of how great people act, and what great brands have achieved. Great brands create powerful, memorable feelings—emotions that draw you in and connect. Here at Scout, it’s the currency in which we trade: emotional connections. And we have the privilege of emoting on behalf of brands that reach moms, business leaders, young adults, physicians, patients, caregivers, kids, and more. I’m often asked what differentiates our agency from others, and it is a pretty simple answer. All the typical marketing stuff is easy; what we do really well is unleash brave ideas that move the human spirit.

After all these great truths, I leave you with one final thought from Dr. Angelou: “When you know better, you do better.”