As digital marketers most of us have a keen sense of the negative side of the internet and social platforms such as when they amplify hate and shame. Content can lure us in – when we might prefer it didn’t. At other times we can be diverted by cat videos or deeply inspired and uplifted by stories of hope and warmth – representing the very best of humanity.
We believe brands and organisations can play a significant role through brand messages that support inclusiveness and acceptance. Emotionally engaging content is critical to achieve this.
For context it may help to know we are writing this in the aftermath of two further devastating gun massacres in the US. All evidence suggests the perpetrators were motivated by hate filled online forums where they were keen to spread the message and impact of their atrocities. Our hearts are with the affected families and communities.
What is the role of brands like this in times of social turmoil? Do we stay silent or take a stand?
NZ’s Prime Minister’s Jacinda Ardern taking an active role campaigning globally for better controls on social platforms is a positive sign of leadership. We support these steps and ensuring we are collaborating and having well informed conversation and debate in order to reach appropriate solutions.
Reassuringly, data indicates that most Australian’s are compassionate and do care about others as well as social and environmental issues – but we need to ensure we are framing issues correctly to appeal to these tendencies rather than fear or hate.
If you are interested in exploring this topic more there are a few organisations that are working hard to expose and eliminate the root cause of hate online. Check out the work of Anti-Defamation League for a start.
What is our role as Digital Media specialists?
As digital media specialists we have to consider our own role (and that of the brands we represent) and the many ethical questions and opportunities we are faced with it comes to content creation as well as responding to, sharing and indeed reporting issues that may incite hatred and even violence towards others.
Actively caring about important issues and building these into your brand story (as well as your business) – in a way that supports your brand purpose and intent is a strong approach. It makes for compelling content, leading to much stronger customer engagement, acquisition and retention. Brands like Patagonia and The Body Shop have been successfully galvanizing and activating their consumer communities for years through content marketing campaigns around the issues they champion. They also walk the talk. The growing B Corp movement has hundreds of accredited businesses engaged in both social purpose and profit making.
Advocating for issues you care about
We know from the data that bland corporate statements are really not enough if you want Gen Z and Gen Y to pay attention to your brand. When young people were asked, "Who should be most responsible for addressing the problems facing our world today?” they said “citizens.” Not our government or not-for-profit organizations. You and me.
Much has been written about Gen Z changing the definition of brand engagement and consumer social impact. In a US study from 2017, 87 per cent of people said they would purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about, while 76 per cent would refuse to purchase a company’s products or services upon learning it supported an issue contrary to their beliefs. We have bold examples of brands stepping up in recent times and expect (hope) to see many more.
Brands taking a stand
Recently Airbnb launched a new ad with call for respect and inclusion aired at the Super Bowl shortly after President Trump signed an order to temporarily close America’s borders to refugees. The ad, called “We Accept” showed people of different nationalities along with the words: “We believe no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love or who you worship, we all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept.”
Cadbury is a local example of a brand taking a stand. Director of Marketing, Paul Chatfield comments: “Every single day, Cadbury’s Australian Facebook page is flooded with hateful messages and comments that have nothing to do with chocolate and everything to do racist sentiment. As an iconic brand in Australia we have a voice and a responsibility to lead by example, which has been the impetus for the creation of this symbol… By responding to these comments with positivity, we’re demonstrating an unwavering commitment to inclusivity, and encouraging others to find the ‘glass and half in everyone.” Nice tie-in Cadbury.
Sixty-four per cent of people in the 2018 Earned Brand study by Edelman US said they are buying from or boycotting brands based on the company's stance on a social or political issues. More than half (53 per cent) said brands can do more to solve issues than governments can.
Ultimately great content marketing presents high value for your customers, drives engagement and expands on your organisations authentic brand story ensuring ongoing relevance in times of change. Content Marketing is, as Seth Godin says all that is left in marketing. But it is contested ground.
How do social issues align with your brand and content strategy? Is your brand taking a stand? If yes let us know – we’d love to spread the word.