How can a brand craft a compelling socially-conscious marketing strategy? We explore how socially-conscious content can drive engagement on social.

Socially-conscious marketing campaigns have gained popularity as brands respond to what millennial consumers are interested in.

According to the 2017 Millennial Impact Report, millennials are increasingly connected to philanthropic causes and are looking to buy into brands that align with causes that they care about. Millennial consumers are also more likely to research the causes and culture of a certain company before buying from it, so it’s more important than ever to clearly communicating the causes that a company is committed to.

Simultaneously, more and more consumers are developing relationships with brands over social.
When a brand aligns with a social cause, it makes a statement that can help develop loyalty and engagement with customers. Whether a brand pledges to help reduce environmental waste by banning plastic straws or makes a socio-political statement during a political moment, socially-conscious content can oftentimes humanize a company and differentiate it from its competitors. 

Our latest report examines what makes a socially-conscious marketing campaign successful on social. Below are the top 5 insights that we found in our research, or you can check out the full report here. 

1. Be prepared to be bold – and occasionally controversial 

The purpose-driven content that gains the most engagement on social is often bold and takes a strong stance in support of a cause. Being bold can help build loyalty among some customers, but often generates some controversy among others.

An example of how bold socially-conscious marketing can drive engagement is the marketing strategy of outdoor goods brand Patagonia.

When President Trump announced in December that the size of protected land in the U.S. would be significantly reduced, Patagonia reacted swiftly. The company changed its website landing page to a bold statement: “The President Stole Your Land.”

The statement brought controversy but ultimately drove engagement. While some customers rejected Patagonia’s politicization, others commended it for taking action on the cause that it supports.

By making a bold statement, Patagonia showed that its commitment to conservation was authentic and built loyalty from customers who supported the decision.  

2. Draw an authentic connection between your company and an appropriate cause

Developing a socially-conscious marketing campaign requires authenticity to back it. Without genuine alignment to the brand, a campaign quickly loses its momentum and pokes holes in the trust that customers have in brands.

When choosing a socially-conscious campaign to engage with, brands should consider not only what cause they’re backing, but why they are an appropriate brand for this particular cause. Great socially-conscious campaigns relate to a mission or cause that is already at the heart of the brand’s product or service. 

3. Time socially-conscious content to stand out from competitors

Socially-conscious content can help a brand stand out, especially during events and times of the year when consumers are flooded with similar kinds of ads.

For example, beer commercials are abundant during the Super Bowl as competing brands try to sway prospective buyers that their product is the best.

But in 2017, Budweiser’s commercial far outperformed its competitors. It told the story of an immigrant and was interpreted by many as a political statement about inclusion and immigrant rights.

As a result, engagements for Budweiser skyrocketed while other beer brand engagement only saw a small increase. 

4. Create socially-conscious content that stands out

While there are numerous socially-conscious causes that brands and companies align themselves with, the majority of socially-conscious branding is focused on a few certain causes. Environmental conservation, body-positivity, LGBT+ equality, and increasing access to food and education are all causes that many brands align themselves with.

When tapping into a socially-conscious cause that already has a large following, brands must consider how their content can stand out, or whether they’re adding to an already noisy space (and jumping on a trend vs. being genuine). 

5. Tap into a social movement or moment 

Developing a socially-conscious campaign that relates to a cause can help drive resonance. A brand can show its commitment to a cause by responding to current events or pop culture moments that are relevant to the causes that they value.

For example, in the lead-up to an Australian parliamentary vote on legalizing same-sex marriage, Ben & Jerry’s made a reactive marketing campaign: the brand refused to sell two scoops of the same flavor at any of its 26 Australian locations and asked customers to join the fight for “same-flavour love”.

The campaign quickly went viral and distinguished the brand from other summer ice-cream marketing, skyrocketing the brand’s engagement well above that of competing brands. The marketing campaign aligned with the brand’s previous campaigns toward inclusivity and was authentic to what customers expected the brand to stand for.

Socially-conscious marketing can be high risk, but also can deliver a high reward on social media. Considering authenticity, timeliness, and what makes your content unique is imperative when developing a socially-conscious campaign that resonates.

For further tips for developing a successful socially-conscious campaign on social and insights about what kind of socially-conscious content drives engagement, check out our full report here

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