7 Ways Brands Can Create A Social Movement

Myriam SidibeOctober 28, 20203 min

The strongest brands stand for something bigger than the products that they sell, as we have seen in various examples of social movements. They stand in unity with the public sector, the populations united against a common enemy which is a social issue (such as child mortality, women’s equality, trachoma elimination). Saul Alinsky in his book Rules for Radicals: A pragmatic primer for realistic radicals outlines a successful social movement and makes the common enemy identification the key to any successful social movement.

Based on her experience of supporting brand advocacy work, Marianne Blamire, Global Chief Strategy Officer at MullenLowe Salt, offers a list of what brands can do to help create a movement:

1. Go beyond the brand: focus on the social purpose itself and on a measurable outcome, ideally aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals. Not only will this inspire consumers, but it will also draw in rival brands and partners from the public and private sector.

2. Identify a specific issue and set a rallying cry: Picture a desired outcome in, say, ten years, such as “We have reduced child mortality from x to y in 5 years and mobilized z million people rallying behind that issue.” Combine education with inspiration so people know what they can do, tangibly, as soon as you’ve made them aware of the issue.

3. Make the issue human and simple: strip out jargon, make the complex simple and the simple compelling. Make it relevant to ordinary lives. Inspire people to care about the issue as much as you do.

4. Identify participants and a plan for engagement: you need both broad grassroots support and high-profile supporters. To whom does your issue matter to, and how? Can you align with their values (if a celebrity), policies (if government) and existing programs (if an NGO)? How will your brand educate and captivate each audience?

5. Provide multiple ways to participate: movements are emotional and communal, but people interact in different ways. For this reason, always provide a choice, such as watching and posting on social media, pledging donations, event attendance, volunteering and user- generated content. The act of jolting the public awake to a hidden issue, such as mental health, can break down social stigma and be of huge educative value if executed sensitively, so do not underestimate the power of online content views and TV. People can move up the steps as they deepen their interest and commitment.

6. Devolve power to partners and consumers, so they share ownership. In the public health context, it’s critical the movement goes beyond your brand as the issues are far too complex and systemic to be tackled in isolation. Not recognizing this complexity can dent a brand’s credibility and make worthy efforts unsustainable because of the budget and resources required to maintain it alone. Partners, such as NGOs, provide subject- matter expertise and behavioral change methodologies to add a depth that’s harder for brands to deliver on.

7. Be transparent about the journey: people want to know if progress is happening and what the brand is doing to increase the pace. There’s authenticity in explaining how hard the journey will be – that’s why it’s a mission. Be open to learning from consumer interaction as you go, and adjust the appeals accordingly.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Myriam Sidibe with the permission of Routledge. Excerpted and adapted from Brands on a Mission, How to Achieve Social Impact and Business Growth Through Purpose.

The Blake Project can help you define and develop your brand purpose and create a social movement.

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Growth and Brand Education

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