If you have great products, excellent customer service, produce killer video marketing, offer great value to your customers, and have happy, content employees, well done. But I’ve got some bad news for you: today, customers expect you to have all these things. As a result, they are no longer enough to set you apart in the highly competitive world of digital marketing.

Today, customers (especially younger customers) want the brands they do business with to also have a social conscience. Many of the most successful marketing campaigns of the past decade have therefore sought to prove the values of brands, rather than just the value they provide to their customers.

Blending a social cause into your content marketing workflow can be a little tricky, however, and it is not without risk. But fear not. In this article, we’ll show you how.

The Value of Having Values

For startups and entrepreneurs, the value of having values is pretty clear: it allows you to differentiate yourself in a crowded marketing landscape. In addition, taking a stand on a prominent social cause can resonate with key customer groups, and especially millennials, who increasingly report that they preferentially buy products from socially responsible companies. 

The evidence backs that up. A 2015 survey from marketing agency Good.Must.Grow found that 30 percent of its respondents expected to increase their spending on goods and services from socially responsible companies over the next year. 

But it’s not just startups who can benefit from signaling their values. “Customers today want to do business with responsible companies that reflect their personal values,” Trisa Thompson, chief responsibility officer at Dell, told Entrepreneur recently. “Having a greater purpose and embedding it into the DNA of your business is critical to developing deeper relationships with customers in an age when creating meaningful connections is getting harder and harder.”

The value of having values is pretty clear: it allows you to differentiate yourself in a crowded marketing landscape. Click To Tweet

How To Incorporate A Social Cause Into Your Marketing

All this said, many brands find it difficult to blend a social cause into their marketing strategy. But there are some key principles to doing so. Here they are.

Find Your Cause

Some companies may feel that a social cause is a somewhat arbitrary add-on that is largely unrelated to their product: if you make accountancy software, for instance, it’s not obvious that you should be taking a stance on racial equality. In reality, however, most exciting new startups will already have employees with a strong social conscience, and a corporate culture that reflects these values. 

The first step in incorporating a social cause into your marketing is often, therefore, to find out what your employees stand for. You might be surprised at what you find – Burger King had great success with a campaign that focused on online anonymity, which at first glance is not an obvious choice for a burger restaurant. Equally, it may be that your employees are passionate about gender equality, which has been another popular area for brands looking to signal their values.

The first step in incorporating a social cause into your marketing, quite often, is often finding out what your employees stand for. Click To Tweet

Start a Conversation

Once you’ve decided on the issue that you will address, it’s time to start blending it into your digital marketing. There is a Golden Rule when it comes to doing this: try not to preach to your customers. Telling your followers what they should think is a quick way to annoy them.

Instead, start a conversation. Some of the most successful and socially conscious campaigns of the past few years have been those in which brands didn’t so much take a stand, but provide their customers with the opportunity to air their views. 

Just nine days after President Trump signed an order to temporarily close America’s borders to refugees, for instance, Airbnb aired an ad during the coveted Super Bowl spot in direct response to the decision. The ad, however, was carefully designed to encourage viewers to share their views on the ban over social media, rather than rally behind AirBnB as a leader of one side of the debate.

Be Humble, and Make Friends

You should also recognize that, whichever social cause you choose to represent in your marketing, there will be experts who have spent years researching and campaigning on it. Those of us with an entrepreneurial mindset can have difficulties at this point, because it may seem that this undermines the uniqueness of your campaign. 

In reality, established campaigners are your friends. If you reach out to them as part of your campaign, this is a win-win situation: they get added media exposure, and your brand gains a degree of authority. 

As Marc Pollick, president and founder of The Giving Back Fund, put it recently, “there are not nearly enough collaborations between charities in the nonprofit space… we need to check egos at the door and seek out creative ways to collaborate in a sector where there are never enough resources to cover need.”

Be Careful

Finally, be careful. As Pepsi’s disastrous campaign of 2017 proved, if you are campaigning on an issue merely for the sake of selling products, your customers will see through you pretty quick, and your campaign will backfire. In other words, don’t spend more money pointing out your social conscience than actually making a difference, expect to be accused of Greenwashing.

Take It Slow

Ultimately, you should also recognize that aligning yourself with a social cause is not a quick fix. There are plenty of marketing tips for new websites that can help you grow quickly, but having a conscience is not one of them. 

Instead, campaigns that incorporate social issues in a careful, responsible way – as we’ve shown you above – are a more long-term investment. So take things slowly: the issue you are addressing is not going to go away anytime soon (unfortunately), so you should be prepared for the long haul.

Jeff Baerwalde

Jeff Baerwalde

Jeff Baerwalde hangs out in comic book shops when he’s not consulting as an environmental evangelist for his company, Earth One