Alumni Western Be Extraordinary The Campaign For Western

StrawberryFrog Forever

Ad agency leading a cultural movement within industry

by Kathryn E Kinahan, BA'86, MLIS'93 | May 8, 2017

Scott Goodson
Scott Goodson, BA’85 (History), is CEO and Co-Founder of StrawberryFrog, a “cultural movement” advertising agency located on Madison Avenue in New York City.

Ready. Set. Leap.

Scott Goodson, BA’85 (History), has followed that philosophy since his days at Western. The CEO and Co-Founder of StrawberryFrog, a “cultural movement” advertising agency located on Madison Avenue in New York City, finds inspiration in the belief that when you make the leap, life takes you places you never expected.

Goodson grew up in Montreal in a close-knit family with four sisters. After attending Bishop’s College School in Lennoxville, Quebec, he chose Western for a variety of reasons – perhaps, most notably to his then-teenaged mind, “it was far enough away from home that I could just be a young student finding my way in the world.”

At Western, he connected with an “amazing group of people” at Sydenham Hall residence (he stays in touch with many to this day). Goodson also connected academically and still recalls a class with History professor Craig Simpson, an “amazing, incredibly inspiring thinker. He was instrumental in helping me learn to deeply understand and communicate emotionally and powerfully. The way he was able to bring words on a page to life just made me feel changed as a human being.”

In his final year at Western, he met Sondra Gibbons, who mentioned her intention to run for University Students’ Council president. He got involved in her campaign and everything crystallized. In collaboration with a team of people, he helped Gibbons go from also-ran to winning the majority vote.

“It changed my life. I thought, ‘This is what I want to do. I realized that we could make a huge impact.’”

After completing his BA, Goodson worked at his father’s publishing and printing business in Montreal for a short time before taking time off to travel and work throughout Asia. When he was growing up, his father travelled to Japan frequently for business so this seemed a logical place to start. When the year was out, he had visited Japan, Korea, China and India.

On his way home to Canada, he stopped in Greece where he met Karin Drakenberg, a Swedish woman who would later become his wife and company co-founder. As she was not able to work in Canada, they relocated to Stockholm, Sweden, where Goodson secured a 10-year work visa.

He quickly became part of a team that started to make waves in the marketing world: launching both Bjorn Borg’s fashion line – the first professional athlete to do so – and the Ericsson mobile phone, when mobile technology was just beginning to take off.

Goodson worked with major Scandinavia companies who were breaking out and becoming global brands (e.g. IKEA). He eventually became co-owner of a successful Swedish advertising agency. However, when his dad developed cancer, he sold his stake in the company and moved back to Canada. After his father passed in 1999, Goodson moved back to Europe and started a new company – StrawberryFrog.

The distinctive moniker was chosen as a direct contrast to the huge corporate advertising dinosaurs that controlled the marketing world at the time. To rally clients, he looked for something that represented the antithesis – something small, lithe, quick and unique. He heard about the rarest frog in the world. The strawberry frog.

“It’s small, red with blue legs like a rebel with jeans. If you lick it, it’s toxic. So it’s highly effective. It’s the perfect symbol for a challenger or rebel who wants to turn the global marketing world upside down.”

He set up shop in Amsterdam, The Netherlands – just in time for the city to emerge as the creative capital of Europe.

“We were in the right place at the right time,” Goodson said. “We were doing the type of work clients around the world were looking for – that meant doing the complete opposite of what a traditional advertising agency would do. Instead of coming up with a creative way of pushing products at consumers, trying to convince them to buy something they don’t need, I wanted to be part of doing something that makes the world a better place.”

And the cultural movement agency was born.

“Business benefits if the world is better,” he explained. “It’s in the best interests of corporations to try to do more than just deliver shareholder value. If they want to be relevant and they want to be purposeful, the best way is do that is to align with the values of their consumers. Those big corporations that create jobs for millions, support the economy, and manufacture daily consumption products that touch people’s lives can make a massive difference.”

Today, StrawberryFrog employs just under 100 people at offices in New York and the United Arab Emirates.

Goodson sees a specific future for his company.

“I’d love it to be known as the world’s foremost place to come if you want to start a movement,” he said. “People are starting to realize we are living in this age of movements; that only creates opportunity for us. In the past, I’d sit down with clients and talk about ‘living in the age of movements’ and point to Egypt or an uprising Syria and it wouldn’t resonate. But now, if you look at what’s transpired in the United States in the recent elections, people realize there are movements, backlashes, marches, etc. They start to realize we are living in a time of movements and if you’re a brand and you stick your head in the sand, you risk becoming irrelevant in a revolutionary time.”

Goodson is more than comfortable wearing the mantle of an entrepreneur.

“I’ve always loved to work for myself. And I learned that on the knee of my father, who was an entrepreneur. My grandfather, originally from the UK, also owned his own business in the early 1900s. Part of being an entrepreneur is being able to live with a certain level of uncertainty.”

Goodson found studying the humanities, philosophy and business ingrained in him an understanding of how to analyze and communicate ideas.

“You have to have a certain self-security, that you learn from places like Western, that allows you to be fearless. If you have that security, if you have that strength behind you, then you can be fearless. It’s when you have no structure that you become fearful.”

This article appeared in the Spring 2017 edition of Alumni Gazette
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