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In 2003, Goodwll asked our team to help freshen their eighty-year-old brand in metropolitan Phoenix. The organization was generating $17 million in annual revenue through twenty-four thrift stores. The revenue funds workforce development programs that help Phoenicians find jobs.

When we began rewriting its brand story, Goodwill had trained more than 4,000 people that year and placed 885 individuals in jobs throughout metropolitan Phoenix.

When our team studied the customer persona of Goodwill shoppers, we found a fascinating group whose story would be fun to tell. We call them the “Soccer Mom, Closet Shopper.”

These are women who love to unearth retail treasures but are reluctant to reveal their thrift store treasure hunts. We learned that they are typically very social moms with household incomes of $50,000 plus, and they share a fear of what their friends (who frequent swankier stores) might think of their secondhand shopping habits.

You probably know someone that fits this persona. The woman who comes home and tells her husband in a hushed voice in a quiet living room that she just bought a $150 Nanette Lepore blouse from Goodwill for $6. Her husband asks, “Why are you whispering?”

Her unfounded fear of being branded with the scarlet letter of being a “thrift store shopper” is based on the obstacles the industry itself has to overcome. Those antagonistic forces include the perception of dirty stores, messy aisles, tattered clothing, and what some might regard as questionable patrons without much money.

Before our team could craft a new brand story, we asked Goodwill to begin living it by honing their operations. They fixed light fixtures, painted walls, tidied aisles and expanded their inventory so more treasures would be discovered. In some stores, we even suggested moving the coffee maker to the front to help mask that exotic scent-of-thrift.

Then we created a thirty-second TV commercial that featured our soccer mom protagonist, Michelle, secretly and happily flowing through the store collecting her treasures. Here’s what happens next…

Fancy Meeting You Here from Park&Co on Vimeo.

We “outed” the soccer mom, and in doing so, we helped her overcome her insecurities about being judged for shopping at Goodwill. Incidentally, Goodwill was concerned that the commercial would look like they were making fun of their shoppers, especially the shy ones.

However, finding the courage to tell the truth about their shoppers’ habits and embracing their psyche endeared Goodwill to their customers like no insincere campaign filled with clichéd platitudes could ever accomplish.

A third protagonist is at play here as well: our band of storytellers. We were told in no uncertain terms by Goodwill that if this didn’t work, we’d be fired. This had the makings of a short love story to say the least. But we felt in our heart-of-hearts that this tale of the treasure hunter’s journey would resonate with their customers.

It took courage from everyone to overcome our collective antagonists and obstacles and tell a story that underscored the basic truth of these unique value shoppers: Be proud of who you are.

Today, Goodwill of Central Arizona has grown beyond 60 stores and generates more than $125 million in annual revenue to power their workforce development programs. In 2015, they served more than 41,000 people and placed more than 15,000 individuals in jobs throughout the Phoenix community.

The Goodwill narrative has changed over the years from one of a secondhand industry, to a story about celebrating the thrift store phenomenon. That’s what authentic storytelling can do for the character arch of brand through a well-lived and well-told story.

The Story Behind Goodwill of Central Arizona's 300% Growth from ParkHowell.com on Vimeo.