Antagonist Website: antagonist.co/
Antagonist Instagram: @antagonist_co
Very Good Looking Website: verygoodlooking.berlin
Very Good Looking Instagram: @verygoodlooking.berlin
Producing with Purpose Instagram: @producingwithpurpose
On this episode of Producing with Purpose, presented by Noskin, I’ve got a chat with Eric Mirbach of Antagonist and Very Good Looking, where we discuss the key to killer content. It’s an honour to have Eric on the podcast for a discussion I’ve been really looking forward to.
“[Veganism] is the number one thing that addresses all the major problems that I was worried about, and I could actually do something about it.”
Eric majored in photography in university originally; during this time and after graduating, he spent five years shooting for a skateboard magazine, which published a hard copy once a month. After that, he worked for the Red Bull media house, where he helped build the team and worked on numerous content campaigns.
Around that time, Eric became vegan. He also started to question the work he was doing. It was a great place to work and the money was good, but he felt he was investing too much time into content he wasn’t passionate about. So he decided to quit and concentrate on veganism. Utilising his broad content experience, Eric first founded a blog, then a print magazine called Vegan Good Life, which quickly expanded internationally. Recently, the magazine’s name has changed to Antagonist.
That’s one of the hats Eric wears; the other is as CEO and content lead for his branding, content and venture studio, Berlin-based Very Good Looking. Their tagline is “We Make Very Good Things Very Good Looking” – a reference to their commitment to only work with ethically minded brands.
I was interested to hear if Eric thinks that the day of the print magazine is over, considering the current landscape. Antagonist is primarily digital but also exists in the print medium, and that’s something Eric is keen to continue. Concentrating on a high-end print concentration worked well for them in the early days because not many people were doing it, but Eric is certain that Antagonist will always exist in print form, even if the main focus is digital.
“For me, it was important to make this [cause] my job, because if I don’t have to worry about where my next paycheque comes from, then I’m free to invest my eight hours a day into something that has a good outcome.”
Eric has previously said that we need the people who are doing good things to be financially rewarded. So does he think that these days there’s more financial reward for doing the good thing? He does, but admits we live under capitalism. We need to make a living; how is it not logical to try and make that living with something that has a positive impact? He thinks changing things from the inside is a great method of operation and wants to keep doing it. I agree with Eric – I think all sustainable businesses should have aspirations to be bigger and greater. That’s how we make an impact.
“The main problem that we have with veganism is that it’s still understood as ‘someone is taking away something from you’. That’s why everyone is scared of talking about the topic – you feel like you have to miss out on something. We have to change that narrative.”
The main thing I wanted to talk about with Eric was the key to creating killer content. Eric’s drive to create his own business is exactly the same as mine: despite rapid growth, the ethical market still struggles to look good. Eric thinks there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this problem. It all depends on who you’re trying to talk to.
The narrative of veganism is still that it’s trying to take something away from people. Eric doesn’t believe it and he’s committed to changing it. Every vegan business needs to work against this prejudice, in their products, their marketing and their content. You have to make people understand that this is the better version of what they’re used to, whatever the industry. But it’s a constant fight, because the marketing of the original products is so good.
On that subject, I wanted to ask Eric if there are any marketing tactics he’s hit upon that are really working for him in his space. I immediately think of the word “vegan” and how it’s positioned in today’s marketplace; does it still have the same connotations it always did?
“What I want to do with Antagonist is make veganism the cool kids’ table.”
Eric says he’s thinking about that constantly, especially with the word “vegan”, as its context changes all the time. He felt that the original name of Antagonist, Vegan Good Life, was useful as a descriptive title to let people know what they were buying. But the new title is a good tool to change the perception of what veganism is.
Eric says that veganism is seen as an exclusive club – one that no one wants to belong to because it doesn’t seem cool. That’s the perception that he’s trying to change. To do that, vegan brands have to hijack the tools of capitalism, which is the arena they work in.
I believe the new generation is more vocal about causes that matter to them. Eric agrees and admits that he only has a couple of years left to be a true voice for that generation. He extends an invitation for young people who have a voice and something to say to please get in contact; he loves the anger and the energy of the generation that’s coming up behind him.
As anyone who’s been listening to a few episodes of PWP will know, I always try to tie a portion of the podcast back to what we’re trying to achieve with Noskin. What advice would Eric give up-and-coming businesses who are trying to get featured in places like Antagonist?
He says the game has changed dramatically for media brands like Antagonist, and it highly depends on who you are as a brand. When he answers this for a brand like Noskin, he thinks community is the key; vegan brands should help and sustain each other. They can create their own corner in the market together. It’s a fine line between creating your own content and promoting yourself, versus outside promotion. But if you have the right branding, the right product and the right narrative, you should be able to reach a wide, yet specific audience.
“What we are trying to do is establish a platform that earns the trust of the readers, so they know that if we talk positive about something, we’re actually telling you the truth.”
Antagonist is one such outlet that can help, but they also need to be mindful about what they take on. Eric suggests making the editor’s life as easy as possible for the best chance to get featured. Have a great press page with images and text. Also, be nice and be mindful. Antagonist is a media house that was started before veganism was really understood by a wider audience. Eric asks that companies and brands try to understand where he’s coming from when they approach him.
“What I think Antagonist can be is Red Bull media house structure meets Highsnobiety cool, but ethical. That’s what I want to build. That’s what we’re in the middle of doing.”
The idea behind Antagonist is to create a unique space and universe for vegans and vegan brands. They’re not interested in the scarcity mindset that sometimes comes from a niche market. However, the market is getting bigger and bigger every year. I think that Antagonist helps facilitate that by demanding great quality editorial for its audience to consume.
So what does the next twelve months look like for Eric? Well, between Antagonist and Very Good Looking, he has mountains of work, and he tries not to stretch himself too thin. He’s looking to grow Antagonist as much as possible and reach new people. There are a couple of exciting upcoming initiatives he’s launching to achieve that. Both companies will continue to work in tandem to promote vegan/sustainable products and lifestyle around the world.
Thanks so much to Eric for taking the time to chat. Hint for readers/listeners: you can look forward to a Noskin and Antagonist collaboration in the future! In the meantime, if you’d like to keep up with Antagonist, you can find all the info here, and you can check out Very Good Looking here.