Exploring The Meaning Behind A Red Goldfish

red goldfishA Red Goldfish is a brand differentiator. It’s how you embrace purpose in business.  The little things you do to help you stand out in a sea of sameness. 

Why a Goldfish?

The goldfish is a metaphor for something small. A little thing that can make a big difference. But goldfish are interesting creatures. The average goldfish is just over three inches in length, yet the world record is nearly 20 inches.

Average goldfish is 3 inches (8 cm). The world record is close to 20 inches (50 cm)

Average goldfish is 3 inches (8 cm). The world record is close to 20 inches (50 cm)

How can there be such a difference? Well, it turns out the growth of a goldfish is influenced by five factors. Your business is influenced by these same factors.

Here are the five factors:

#1. The size of the bowl or pond the goldfish is in.

Impact: The larger the bowl or pond, the larger the goldfish will grow.

What’s the equivalent of the bowl or pond if you are in business? It’s the market for your product or service.

#2. The amount of other goldfish in the bowl or pond.

Impact: The less goldfish, the larger a goldfish will grow.

Who are the other goldfish if you are in business? The other goldfish represent the competition.

#3. The quality of the water in the bowl or pond, specifically the nutrients in the water and its cloudiness.

Impact: The more nutrients or less cloudiness, the larger the goldfish will grow.

What are the nutrients or cloudiness if you are in business? It’s the economy. The nutrients represent the ability to get capital to grow your business. The cloudiness is the buying climate and represents consumer confidence.

#4. The first 120 days of the life of a goldfish.

Impact: How a goldfish grows in its first four months will influence how large it will ultimately get.

What are the first 120 days in business? It’s the earliest stage of business as a start-up. It can also represent when you develop a new produce / service.

#5. The genetic makeup of a goldfish.

Impact: The genes of a goldfish will determine how large it can get. It’s the DNA of the goldfish, how it stands out from the other goldfish.

What is genetic makeup in business? Genetic makeup is differentiation, what makes you different in the marketplace.

Why Red?

Red is the fifth color in the Goldfish series of books. The initial trilogy of books were an ode to an iconic American city and its most famous event. That city is New Orleans. Purple, green, and gold are the three official colors of Mardi Gras. It’s a reference to New Orleans because there is one word from New Orleans that exemplifies this idea of doing the little something extra. That word is lagniappe. Pronounced lan-yap, lagniappe is a creole word for an “added gift” or “to give more.”

purple green golden blue goldfish books

In the trilogy, Purple Goldfish focused on the little things you could do to improve the customer experience, Green Goldfish examined how to drive engagement to improve the employee experience and the third book Golden Goldfish uncovered the importance of taking care of your best customers/employees.

The fourth book Blue Goldfish revealed how to leverage technology, data, and analytics to improve the customer experience. Blue was a reference to a 10th century Danish king named Harald Gormsson. Gormsson united Scandinavia and converted the Danes to Christianity. His nickname was Bluetooth, a reference to a dead tooth that had turned blue. In the 1990’s, Bluetooth became the name for wireless area networking.

Why Red? Red is the color of blood. It’s historically been associated with sacrifice and courage. In the U.S. And Europe, red represents passion, whereas in Asia, it symbolizes happiness and good fortune. Our inspiration for RED comes from the (RED) movement.

(RED) was created by Bono and Bobby Shriver. Launched at the World Economic Forum in 2006, it’s purpose was to engage the private sector and its marketing prowess in order to raise funds in the fight against AIDS in Africa.  On the back of a napkin, they outlined their idea for a unique union of brands and consumers. The plan had three goals:

1. Provide consumers with a choice that made giving effortless
2. Generate profits and a sense of purpose for partner companies
3. Create a source of sustainable income for the Global Fund to fund the fight against AIDS.

(RED) has a clear manifesto:

Every Generation is known for something.
Let’s be the one to deliver an AIDS FREE GENERATION.

We all have tremendous power. What we choose to do or even buy, can affect someone’s life on the other side of the world. In 2005, more than 1,200 babies were born every day with HIV. Today that number is 400. We must act now to get that close to zero.

(RED) can’t accomplish this alone. It will take all of us to get there –governments, health organizations, companies, and you. When you BUY (RED), a (RED) partner will give up some of its profits to fight AIDS.

It’s as simple as that.

BE (RED). Start the end of AIDS now.

Before (RED) launched, businesses had contributed just $5 million to the Global Fund in four years. Since its inception, the private sector through (RED) has contributed over $350 million. One hundred percent of the funds are invested in HIV/AIDS programs in Africa, with a focus on countries with high prevalence of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

The branding agency Wolff Olins helped build the platform for (RED). They created a unique brand architecture that united participating businesses by literally multiplying their logos to the power (RED).

Photo Credit: Wolff Olins

Photo Credit: Wolff Olins

Global brands such as Apple, Nike, Dell, American Express, and The Gap came on board. The appeal of (RED) was clear, it allowed them to tap into a purpose beyond their own profit. Partner brands created special (RED) versions of products and a portion of the profits from the sales would contribute to the Global Fund to fight malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS. (RED) helped reinforce the simple idea that doing good is good business for both your customers and employees. American Express saw an immediate lift in brand perception with younger customers, while GAP saw a major improvement in employee engagement, as well as the quality of incoming recruits. 

Know any good examples of companies that are leveraging purpose in business? Leave a comment on this post or contribute to the Red Goldfish Project.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Gap’s INSPI(RED) T-shirt in 2006 became the biggest-selling in company history. Here’s a video to celebrate the 10th anniversary and the continuing mission of (RED):