Tag Archives: social movement

Would your husband marry you again?

41CC2BQTQ4L._SL500_AA280_This week’s post was inspired by Dan and Chip Heath’s “Made To Stick” column in this month’s Fast Company. The Heath brothers are calling for “an arms race of goodness — a generation of companies that compete on real emotion rather than stick-on sentiments.”

The column covers an issue in branding that has long been a topic of discontent for me. Creating an emotional bond with customers is not a new idea – Palmolive was doing it in 1921 when they asked housewives “would your husband marry you again?” And yet, for many brands, the approach to creating that bond hasn’t changed in a century.

They’re still trying to attach product attributes to random emotions without any substance behind it. Is there any reason to believe Calvin Klein cologne makes women lose their inhibitions? Is there any reason to believe Citizen watches make you “unstoppable?” Is there any reason to believe Coors Light “tastes colder” and is thus more refreshing than other beers? The answer of course is no – and consumers are paying less and less attention as a result.

“Back in the day,” Palmolive actually struck a chord with women because no other dish soaps were claiming that they softened your hands. But today, in every sector, there’s at least 3 competitors making the same claim. Owning a product attribute is almost impossible now, but that hasn’t stopped marketers from trying.

So how do we create an emotional bond now? How about actually meaning what we say? How about brands walk the walk for once? If you’re the cereal brand that gives kids the energy they need to learn at school then start a campaign for in-school nutrition or to stop the cutting of phys-ed programs. If you’re the jewelry brand that empowers women to take what they want in life, then do a campaign about your program to educate women in developing countries.

To create a social movement around your brand, “meaning it” is critical. We’ve already discussed Gen-Y’s desire to align with brands with built-in social meaning, and as word-of-mouth becomes marketing’s gold standard, only brands that give people something real to talk about will be heard.

Some brands are catching on: Toms Shoes for example has “doing good” built into their business model by donating a pair of shoes to kids in developing countries for every pair they sell. Consumer brands are now encroaching on the business of non-profits in order to foster emotional connections. Conversely, non-profits are “doing good,” but very few of them pay any attention branding. What if brands competed on how much good they do rather than how many GRP’s they run in prime-time?

The article mentions one last critical aspect of social movement marketing. Actually standing for something, makes employees engage with your brand. When you walk the walk, you define a strong, internal culture for your organization, which ultimately and inevitably leads to a strong, customer culture for your brand.


Fiesta Time!

FordFiestaMovementIt’s nice to see the theory of Social Movement Marketing get some national exposure…too bad it had to come from the Ford Motor Co. Though Ford (and GM for that matter) have consistently botched their attempts to sell cars that American youths relate to, Ford has nailed it this time…at least from a marketing standpoint.

To market their new Fiesta model, a sub-compact for urban youths, Ford is running a campaign called the Ford Fiesta Movement. Sound familiar? Rather than spending $30 million dollars cramming TV spots into NFL games, which they usually do, Ford recruited 100 “agents” to spend 6 months with the car and to use social media to tell EVERYONE about it.

These Fiesta agents get a free car, free insurance, free gas, and national exposure for 6 months. Each of the 100 agents embodies what the Fiesta brand wants to be: Young, urban, artsy, funky, curious, active, and most importantly, savvy in social media. In return for living the Fiesta life for half a year, these agents are charged with essentially tweeting this car into pop-culture lore.

The Fiesta movement’s website aggregates all of the agents’ tweets, pics, flics, vids, blogs, nings, and any other contemporary monosyllabic networking tool into one, well organized place where you can learn everything you need to know about the Ford Fiesta culture.

Perhaps most surprising is that Ford was able to resist making the campaign egregiously self-serving. Understanding that product information doesn’t start social movements, Ford gave the agents specific missions to accomplish (with their Fiesta at their side) that focus on community service, activism, and culture. They’re using these 100 agents to be the poster children for an aspirational urban identity, of which the Fiesta is a small but necessary part.

This is, of course, fundamentally how social movements work. They define a vivid collective identity (active, multi cultural, urban youths), empower charismatic leaders (the agents), and spread influence through stories (missions) and word-of-mouth (social media).

Traditionally, social movements have relied on word-of-mouth because buying TV spots was far too expensive. Now, thanks to social media, word-of-mouth has become what TV used to be: the most influential means of communication, and marketers are looking to own that too.

Consumer brands may put together impressive campaigns like the Fiesta movement, but they can’t own it – nonprofits have an equal opportunity to push influence in social media. A nonprofit could easily find young activists (start with your volunteers) to be agents for a cause. For example, put 50 young, multi-ethnic, urbanites on the street with a cheap video camera, have them film discriminations they come across in daily life, put it in an online documentary, promote it on Twitter, and you’ll get more national attention than 6-months worth of highway billboards would get you.

For help with your social media strategy call BRANDEMiX.

Activate your bandits

artest_peta_adIngrid Newkirk, president of PETA, said, “thinkers may prepare revolutions, but bandits must carry them out.” Her speech is often dripping with social movement metaphors – she clearly recognizes the importance of turning boardroom theory into action.

Since your brand is the personality of your organization, it’s that which is responsible for inspiring action. It cannot be merely an intellectual endeavor; it must be able to move people on the ground level.

For consumer brands, this simply means convincing people to buy products, but the cause world is more difficult. Indulgence is an easier sell than benevolence. Inherently, a non-profit’s ultimate goal is to start a social movement: getting people to come together to fight for a cause. But more often it’s the consumer brands that have defined cultures.

Which is easier to describe: a Harley owner or a YMCA volunteer? Is there a reason one has to be more distinct than the other?

Ingrid Newkirk would say no. In fact she’s built a powerful non-profit brand, rife with personality and culture. Whether you support their tactics or not, you could describe a PETA activist to a “t”… it probably involves a can of paint.

PETA has achieved social movement status (2 million members) because its brand incorporates all the critical aspects of social movements as discussed in my first post:

1. A common identity: It’s not merely belief in a common cause (that there are no dominant species) that brings PETA members together, but more so that they share core values or personality traits: veganism, extremism, and risk taking.

2. Rituals or codes: PETA members rally around a very clear credo of behavior: “direct action.” Defining a code of behavior is a natural way to build a culture around a cause, which social movements have used forever (for example see nonviolent resistance).

3. Social interaction: PETA has always forced word-of-mouth through controversial action. This ad is a perfect example.
Finding celebrities to support a cause is on every non-profit’s agenda, but PETA gets them naked. That is to say, they stay true to their brand, and infuse their ads with controversy. If a given celebrity won’t take the risk, then he/she wouldn’t fit the brand anyway.

PETA takes controversy to an extreme, but without a strong opinion people will have no reason to talk about your organization. Newkirk also said, “we’re the biggest group because we succeed in getting attention.” PETA didn’t start as the only animal cruelty group and they’re not the only one now, but they succeed to a higher degree because they create word-of-mouth. They use celebrities for good (Pam Anderson) and bad (Michael Vick) to force themselves into everyday culture.

4. Emblematic event: PETA emerged on the national scene in 1981 when they had a scientist arrested for experimenting on monkeys in a lab in Silver Spring, MD. The controversy ultimately ended up in the Supreme Court where an amendment to the animal welfare act was made. It was then that PETA’s culture of national attention and dedication to “direct action” were conceived.

5. Voice of leadership: Clearly Newkirk has worked hard to perpetuate the culture that has made PETA such a success.

If you can piece these elements together you stand an excellent chance of creating a brand that can truly move people on the ground level. For help taking your brand out of the boardroom and into the streets check out BRANDEMiX.

What’s in it for me?

37406361_a1604773a0In my last post, I lamented the fact that too many brands (and non-profits in particular) communicate in such a way that forces people to think analytically. Logic does not tell someone to become a brand evangelist. Logic does not tell someone to open his or her wallet and hand out money for nothing in return. However, emotion does … in particular self-interest.

In the consumer world, smart branding is when you can escape the urge to pontificate about as many product attributes as you can conjure, and instead highlight the emotional benefit of the total package. In other words, people don’t buy drill bits, they buy holes from which they can hang pictures of their family. People don’t buy lawn mowers, they buy a lawn that makes their egomaniacal neighbor jealous. Advertisers are extremely adept at activating consumers’ self-interest on an emotional level.

What I find fascinating about social movements is that they’re essentially a group of people acting in concert with one collective identity who, at the same time, are motivated by self-interest and are bent on expressing their individuality. They force group action by telling stories that move people on a personal level (like the story of Rokia in the previous post).

Non-profits and causes, in theory, are built on selflessness so triggering self-interest feels incongruous. However, rationally we all know that giving money is far from being a purely altruistic endeavor. People still want their name on the library and daddy still wants little Larry to get into school. Would Paul Allen have donated $1 billion if Bill Gates hadn’t done it first? Self-interest will always play a role in giving so we might as well understand how to leverage it.

The good news is that self-interest doesn’t have to imply materialism or narcissism. Social movements promise the benefit of enjoying meaningful change in one’s life or the euphoria of joining a group of like-minded people. For donors, self-interest could mean assuagement of guilt, self-actualization, transcendence, and many other things. You’re not selling the importance of fighting alcoholism – you’re selling heroism. You’re not selling the importance of reducing homelessness – you’re selling peace of mind.

One great case study on leveraging self-interest for a public cause is the “Don’t mess with Texas” anti-litter campaign created by Dan Syrek. He determined that the typical litterer in Texas was a truck-driving, rifle-wielding, beer-drinking, young male (as if there’s any other kind). Guilt, shame, or fear was clearly not going to be enough motivation. The ads he created featured Texas icons, like football player Too Tall Jones, crushing a soda can and saying “don’t mess with Texas.” It implied that real Texas men don’t litter, and anyone who does, is instantly an enemy of the state, and if you’ve ever been to a Cowboys game you’d know that this is not acceptable. Syrek was able to appeal to self-interest through identity … which is exactly how social movements work.

One last example. Consider this ad that was designed to get young people to vote.

It makes a personal appeal, and it’s certainly emotional, but where’s the appeal to self-interest? What does this have to do with the collective identity of young men and women? What’s the benefit of not silencing yourself? This ought to be spelled out.

What if the ad said something like “Are you still letting your parents make decisions for you? That’s what you’re doing if you don’t vote.” What if it was a picture of a 45-year old man in a suit and said “would you normally let this man tell you what to do everyday? That’s what you’re doing if you don’t vote.” Young people are very individualistic and rebellious, so theoretically they should care deeply about having others make decisions for them.

For help creating ads like these, contact BRANDEMiX.

Activate Their Little Devil

red-devil-bigThe super-ego is the part of our psychological makeup that’s responsible for making you behave in a socially acceptable manor. While your id plays the role of the devil on your shoulder, begging you to do whatever your little heart desires, your superego works to override those urges. It keeps you from acting on impulse. It’s the part of your brain that says “no” when your id tells you to burp in a nice restaurant.

Unfortunately, the superego is also the enemy to those of us in the marketing profession. Giving people all the logical reasons to do something, regardless of how poignant they may be, will only engage the part of our brains that works to PREVENT action.

In the consumer world, creating an emotional urge to buy is the gold standard. If consumers were analytical we wouldn’t have terms like “retail therapy” and no one would drive a Scion.

Social movements don’t develop because people start balancing the pros and cons of revolting against an injustice. Movements are described with words like “fever” and “momentum.” They’re collective emotional outbursts not premeditated events.

Furthermore, it’s been proven that people are more likely to donate money (and more of it) when they’re in an emotional state of mind. There’s a great case study on the subject as described in the book Made To Stick written by Chip and Dan Heath.

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon conducted a test in which they sent out two versions of a donation request letter to a pool of respondents. The first version of the letter showcased statistics about problems facing children in Africa similar to: “more than 11 million people in Ethiopia need immediate food assistance.” The second version of the letter focused on one young girl. “Any money you donate will go to Rokia, a 7-year old girl from Mali. She is desperately poor and faces the threat of severe hunger.”

The people who got the letter about Rokia donated twice as much money as those who received the other letter did. It’s been well documented that people identify more with an individual than an indeterminate problem, but what’s particularly interesting about this case is what the researchers did next. They tested a third letter that combined the statistics AND the personal story and found that the letter about just Rokia still outperformed the combined letter by a factor of 2.

The researchers theorized that when people are fed statistics they are put in an analytical state of mind and are thus less likely to act emotionally. So they conducted the study once again. This time, they primed the respondents to think analytically before reading the letter by asking them to do math problems. And amazingly, the average gift of those who read the Rokia letter was cut in half!

People who think analytically are dramatically less likely to chip in than those who are emotionally activated. And yet we still see so many communications that force people into that kind of thinking.

People don’t respond to abstract, they respond to people. That’s why social movements work. That’s why we hate dealing with employees who act like robots. It’s always tempting to build a case based on all the “right reasons” that people should donate, volunteer, or contribute in some way, but we must put those aside to appeal to the real reason they do. Empathy is an emotion all humans share – It’s just a matter of finding it more often.

For help activating people’s emotional side contact BRANDEMiX.

Is your story the same old story?

red_riding_hoodIn my last post, I began to discuss the importance of storytelling in turning a cause into a social movement. Movements use stories to instigate action, not just attention. So how can we use stories to transform passive donors into engaged activists? There’s a formula. This is part 1.

The 4 basic components of a story are: a setting, characters, a plot, and a moral. The setting and characters are supposed to be familiar to us – we should be able to relate to them. We know what a dark and stormy night looks like and we know how an aging but wily detective acts. Conversely, the plot is supposed to shock us. An unfamiliar conflict arises in a familiar setting. Aliens invade earth, an enormous shark attacks a placid beach, a wolf eats your grandmother. These are the stories we remember.

Here’s the point: The greater the dissonance between the familiar setting and the surprising plot, the greater the impact of the moral.

That’s why we’re fascinated by stories of “normal” people acting extraordinarily. That’s why we love books like “Chicken Soup For The Soul” and why we can’t stop watching movies like “Alive.” We can truly identify with the “everyman” characters in these stories but are shocked by their actions.

We are biologically designed to be this way. Our brain uses our 5 senses to constantly survey the landscape, pick up on patterns, and use them to anticipate what will happen next in order to keep us out of danger. It’s when this “guessing machine” is broken that all sorts of alarms go off in your body – i.e. adrenaline. Have you ever asked someone what happens next in a horror movie? Humans don’t like uncertainty and that’s what makes us take action.

This is of course how advertising works. In a 30 second story they create a familiar backdrop and then throw in something utterly out of the ordinary. A linebacker suddenly tackles your co-worker or a car suddenly totals your VW.

One of the best recent examples of this principle of dissonance being applied to cause marketing is the Truth campaign aimed at lessening teen use of cigarettes. The agency that created the campaign, CP+B, first determined a fundamental trait that all teens relate to: rebellion against authority. Coincidentally, being iconoclastic is a main cause of smoking in the first place so they knew any ad that preached the negative consequences of smoking, no matter how gruesome or evocative, would be dismissed like every other admonition coming from elders.

Instead, they used that trait to provoke ire for a different authority figure: big tobacco. Each TV spot would start the way typical cigarette ads would – cowboys on a cattle ranch or skydivers getting ready for a rush (the familiar setting). Except, instead of skydivers or cowboys there were body bags (the dissonance). The tagline blames tobacco companies for not disclosing the truth about cigarettes. The ads summoned a familiar emotion and then broke teens’ guessing machines. 66% of teens who were exposed to these ads were more likely to quit – a shocking success.

There are two components to applying this to your own causes.

1. You must find that critical insight – the human truth that links the followers of your cause. It may be a need for rebellion or it could be a feeling of duty to protect animals, but this insight must be unique to your constituency. This is, in effect, your brand.

The best way to uncover this insight is to do some qualitative research. Figure out what emotions people associate with your cause. Figure out what similarities your employees share. Or hire reserach experts like BRANDEMiX 😉

2. Once the insight is determined, figuring out how to frame your story becomes very clear. You must create uncertainty in the world and let people figure out how best to resolve it. Those that are affected will join your cause.

Check back next week for part of 2 of using stories to inspire action.

Does your brand move people?

I submit to you this idea: Brands are social movements.

Think about it. Is there a better way to describe how the Apple store looks on a Saturday evening? Or the hysteria around America’s Next Top Model?

We live in a movement culture: we define our personas, more than ever before, by the movements we take part in. How green are you? Did you vote for change? Do you eat local? Are you a Mac or a PC? Are you a hipster or did you just stop showering?

The ubiquity of social movements these days is a result of the relative ease with which they’re created. Web 2.0 has democratized social movements (ironically) so what once could only be started with a coup can now be started with a click. And often, brands are right in the middle of it.

It’s old news that consumers don’t just buy products anymore. We know they seek brands with similar value systems and engage in multi-dimensional relationships. But I think brands now extend beyond just helping people express their identities. Rather they function as a way to bring like-minded individuals together and to behave as a collective…much the way social movements work.

It’s therefore not surprising that if you look at the components of a social movement by traditional definitions, the most successful brands in the world account for each one. Take a look:

1. Common Identity: This one is easy. Brands have always been forums for people with similar values. For instance we know BMW drivers value engineering and people who eat Ben & Jerry’s ice cream value wearing Tevas year round.

2. Informal: Social movements aren’t formally organized nor are they exclusive since their success hinges upon your involvement in the first place. Brand followers are the same way. They’re simply a group of like-minded individuals with no formal hierarchy (this is arguable – see Amex) and varying degrees of devotion…but their money is accepted nonetheless.

3. Incorporates A Set Of Rituals Or Events: “Love-ins” in the 1960’s, graffiti in Paris in 1968, communist book burning in the 1950’s, Woodstock in 1969. Harley Davidson bike rallies, Saturn homecomings, dipping Oreos before you eat them, going to Disney World after winning the Superbowl, committing a felony at a Raiders game.

4. Hinged On Social Interaction: Certainly social movements only happen when people are brought together. Art and music are central to all movements because they’re the bonding media. Brands aren’t much different. Their bonding media are user generated and distributed via Facebook, Flickr, Youtube, Twitter and others.

5. Set Off By An Emblematic Event: You could argue that Rosa Parks sitting in the front of the bus was the catalytic event that set off the civil rights movement and that Vietnam did the same for the American youth movement of the 60’s. Brands have these moments of truth too. Did the 1984 spot propel Apple to stardom or was it the release of the ipod? Was it until the Prius that Toyota became an American icon?

6. Unified Voice OF Leadership: Malcom X, John Brown, Bob Marley. Steve Jobs, Tiger Woods, Fred the Baker.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see an agency learn to harness this type of thinking and use it not to fortify consumerism, but to help engage communities for important social initiatives, or to help NPO’s generate awareness and raise funds, or to help companies create cultures of prosperity and loyalty rather than the opposite?

Dibbs. It’s called BRANDEMiX.