Embracing Social Movements

After simmering on the back burner for the last few years, Social Movements are again beginning to move back into the spotlight.

We are now seeing the era of the social activist, who, armed with the tools of the Internet, tech savvy and attitude, now have the power to lift brands or sink them with astonishing speed. Social movements should not be considered as a “fad”, but as a powerful means to add objective value to the customer experience.

As we are currently seeing in the US and around the world, social movement groups are organising and marching in numbers never before seen. Although these movements have been initiated by political changes, the implications for marketers can also be monumental.

Recent research shows us that successful brands are linking nearly all their activities toward clearly defined purposes and movements. With recent events in the US and abroad, we will be seeing brands step into the social arena in ways that would not have been imagined just a few years ago. We have already seen brands making their mark in the areas of LGTBQ rights, marriage equality and immigration/refugee issues.

Decades of mass advertising and marketing have inoculated many consumers, and we are seeing a trend away from traditional advertising and toward more personal experiences that allow people to be involved in those causes they truly care about. These causes are the seed of social movements.

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As Scott Goodson (author of Uprising) states:

To the established brands, if you stay the same or do something that ticks people off, they’re going to rise up against you.

For creative agencies, it’s important to keep a close eye on emerging trends and movements, as many times, the consumer and the brand are better served by these movements than by traditional marketing campaigns. In order to properly develop these movements, it is necessary to:

• Determine which social movement best aligns with the brand’s vision and values
• Understand the role of the brand in the social movement
• Assure the brand can envision a “higher purpose” within the movement

Often, one need only look inside the brand itself to find the seeds for these social movements. This investigation gives creative agencies insight into the company culture, and opens the door for an opportunity to meet those people within the company who champion their social efforts. It is vitally important to identify recognise those who are key to these movements in order to grow the movement and keep it fresh.

This type of social or “cause” marketing incorporates the ideals of corporate social responsibility and philanthropy, and actively engages the consumer in the company’s social work. Campaigns such as these work most effectively when they are transparently implemented between brand and customer. In the long run, customers will associate brands with the causes they support, and purchase that brand on a regular basis due to their support for those causes.

The ultimate goal of social movement marketing is not only to gain customers, but to develop committed and loyal brand advocates.

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