Every vote is now on the line: yellow, red, blue and green umbrellas are draped over market places and pedestrian areas. The goal of group members is to have as many conversations as possible that go beyond the greeting. Two weeks of tough street election campaigns. Attractants such as gelatin bears, folding rules or windmills should prevent passers-by from walking indifferently past the stand. The closer the September 26 federal election date draws, the bigger the battle for materials will be.
The means are left to the local associations themselves. In Bremerhaven, a member of the SPD distributes canned herring fillets. The Greens in Erfurt try out small paper satchels with plasticine and colored pencils. So far so harmless. Until the FDP handed out wooden spoons with the slogan “Cook with love – choose with understanding” in one constituency. Instead of being happy with the gift, there was malice and outrage on Twitter about a gift that can all too easily be seen as a lack of understanding of equality.
Founder Chalwa Heigl has experienced dozens of times such head-shaking moments – at trade shows, in voting booths and after opening gift bags at events. Cheap thongs, lighters: “What kind of message is that supposed to be?” Heigl was often annoyed by crowded trash cans with cosmetic samples, notebooks and mini-fans. But instead of complaining, the 53-year-old distilled a new business idea into the problem: turning boring disposables into sustainably produced gift ideas that truly benefit businesses.
“Everything does not have to be organic or ecological”, says the founder
To do this, they need suggestions and choices, Heigl thought. This is why she founded the start-up Clouberry in the spring of 2020. More than 170 products are presented in the online store. Chalwa Heigl and her team make the selection themselves and ensure that the items and their packaging are produced in an environmentally friendly manner, she says. “But not everything has to be organic or ecological. For me, something is just as sustainable if it is valuable and therefore sustainable.” Your third selection criterion are products that create social added value, such as the Munich pastry label “Kuchentratsch”, which engages seniors to cook.
Heigl works as a sort of curator and searches stores, online stores and salons for gift ideas that are suitable as “corporate gifts” as she calls the products in her store. The Clouberry homepage promises that Heigl and his team wanted to “revolutionize the advertising market”. It seems overkill. Perhaps that is too much of a stretch. However, if you meet Chalwa Heigl on a Monday morning in her Munich office, you have a lot of confidence in her. There she stands in front of you in bright yellow signage colors and explains her ideas for good “storytelling” for a wide variety of brands like a torrent. Which means how to integrate the central message of a business into a story.
Chalwa Heigl is still at the start of what she calls her revolution. Currently, seven employees are freelance and are employed for Clouberry. But she has already shown that she has teeth and is flexible. Because the start of the online store fell directly on the first lockdown in March 2020. Gone are the days when you could shake hands with customers, no shows, no celebrations – nothing. From this need, Heigl and his team developed the idea of ”Digi-Gifts”. These are analog or digital gift cards, the link or QR code of which gives the customer a choice of possible gifts. He can choose the item he likes and stores his home address for shipping. “It’s actually even more durable because you can then choose the right color for the bottle, for example,” Heigl explains.
She is the Creative Manager of Clouberry, enjoys grinding concepts and spinning ideas. At 23, she founded her first public relations agency. But if it’s too routine, you’re bored. This is also the reason why she started over and over again during her more than 20 years as an entrepreneur. At 53, she’s sort of a serial offender in the start-up scene. And the risk? Heigl is fortunate to think more in terms of opportunities. “Now I thought back, if it bothers me, it must also bother others,” she said.
With Clouberry, Heigl wants to move away companies or parts of large warehouses with plastic pens, so-called scattered goods and umbrellas produced at low prices. But where? On the customer lists of small start-ups that produce in an environmentally friendly way. “Because the positive image of a small start-up that manufactures a sustainable product shines on the company,” Heigl explains, picking up a dark blue plastic bottle. The logo of a large automobile company is placed discreetly and low on the edge. But the company did not manufacture the bottle, it was the London start-up “Ocean Bottle” which made it. The company promises to catch eleven kilograms of plastic waste from the ocean for each bottle.
It is important that gifts convey the DNA of the company
The e-merchant stands in front of a buffet full of products displayed on the Clouberry site. Pressed grass ballpoint pens, chic refillable scented candles and recycled plastic lunch boxes. Some argue, Heigl says, such as a take-out cup made from leftover coffee, because it shows the company is thinking green and innovative, Heigl says. And then there are other products that only work when a suitable currency has been found. For Clouberry, for example, Heigl himself sends cards with seeds of plants that can be planted in the ground after reading. If it works, hopefully the saying “For a successful cooperation” fits it, Heigl thinks.
In 2019, companies spent $ 3.6 billion on advertising materials, according to the Promotional Products Industry Association (GWW). It is the second highest advertising expenditure after television commercials. “The company thinks about every effect in great detail”, explains Chalwa Heigl, “but not there.” She first had to discuss at length with a large German insurer why it couldn’t advertise with lighters, Heigl explains. On the one hand, offering discounts on fitness subscriptions and encouraging smokers does not go hand in hand. While the budget is often large, many businesses see the harmless little things in giveaways. Anyone who has ever completed an internship in a large company and was able to distribute it over a large area at an event can confirm this.
“The companies are leaving so much potential out there,” the 53-year-old explains. On the one hand, because they fail to convey a message to the whole. In its party shop, the SPD shows how it can be done differently. Local associations can order red folding rules as small gifts. It is written “For a good job”. Whether you find a folding rule attractive or not, it highlights what the SPD wants to stand up for. “Corporate gifts” aim to “pass on the DNA of the company,” Heigl explains. That’s why she also doesn’t like the outdated term “advertising material” as it is called in the industry.
Her different roles at work now help her
Chalwa Heigl is a shopkeeper, she knows the job from both sides. She knows what it’s like to come up with little gift ideas on her own. She invented the start-up “Der Gugl” – small round cakes with holes – 12 years ago. But she also knows the give-away problem from the point of view of the marketing departments of large companies. This now gives her the qualities of a mediator. Especially when small start-ups have no experience with corporate contracts. Not knowing how to personalize your product for others. Or quite simply when businesses don’t know which promotional item is right for them and what currency they want to give to customers.
Heigl is not an environmental activist, she is a businesswoman. But she’s excited for the ingenious ideas on how to conserve resources and knows what’s hot. And it is clear to her that companies cannot ignore customer interest in sustainable products in the future. And the fearless woman in yellow has no problem thinking big. In their vision, Clouberry will become a big market in the coming years, where suppliers and companies can find and exchange ideas.
In this election campaign, you can very well see which parties have already invested in smart communicators. From soap to the purchase chip in the form of a D-Mark coin, everything is included.