Patagonia inspires and enables social action

Make it Meaningful

Inspiring brands to fuel social impact

In a previous article, Repurpose Marketing, I suggested that the financial and human capital currently being spent on advertising and marketing was doing little to help brands and is having no real positive impact on the world. Essentially, it is a broken system that needs to be redesigned.

This week, in his opening speech at the ANA Conference in Florida, Procter & Gamble’s chief brand, Marc Pritchard told the audience that it’s time to “disrupt this archaic ‘Mad Men’ model.” He said, “we bombard consumers with thousands of ads a day, subject them to endless ad load times, interrupt their screens with popups, and overpopulate their screens and feeds,” We’re awfully busy, but all of this activity is not breaking through the clutter. It’s just creating more noise.” He called for major disruption in the business model (which certainly needs to happen) and also called on creatives to focus on making content that is “useful” to people.

I agree it is a good step to go from being noise that no one is paying attention to, to creating things of utility for consumers. But, if we are going to rethink and remake marketing and advertising, why stop at being useful. What if the creative peoples’ talents and energy as well as the marketing dollars could be repurposed to create things that were also meaningful—could have real impact on bettering the world? I believe that most of our most talented creative people in the industry would jump at the chance to spend their time and talents creating things that they believe can make a big meaningful difference in the world and deliver results for their clients.

Thing is, by helping people make impact on the things they care about, brands will likely build deeper and longer lasting loyalty and advocacy — things they are increasingly not getting with traditional approaches. This approach will also likely (and more efficiently) deliver the key metrics of awareness, consideration, purchase and brand advocacy they are seeking.

So, how can strategists and creatives start to bring this to their work and push their clients to shift their thinking and start to make meaningful and impactful things? I started a list that hopefully can be helpful in creating some sparks of inspiration as strategists and creatives start to tackle their clients’ challenges. These principles for creating impact can be a reminder that each of us can redirect our talents to ensure our work is aligned with our values, helps our clients goals and ultimately betters the world.

Make it Meaningful: Principles for inspiring brands to fuel social impact

  1. be in service of people — people are the heroes, not the brands
  2. be heart-led, sincere, seek to understand and connect with peoples’ values
  3. you can both grow the brand and better society (think shared mission/shared success)…the brands that are helping to solve the world’s biggest challenges will win.
  4. how can this brand help right a wrong, solve a problem, advance a cause that is consistent with the brand DNA and accelerates the brand mission
  5. yes, move people and inspire them, but also arm them as leaders to mobilize others — causing goosebumps is great, inciting action is better
  6. let go: share the idea + enable people (and other brands) to make it their own. forget about credit and who owns the idea. Set it loose into the world and get your satisfaction from the impact it creates
  7. imagine what the world will look like when you are done, design it to be self-sustaining
  8. inspire and challenge your clients to focus on social impact first (always bring them +1 ideas that arm and activate people)
  9. take the long view — will this make your kids proud + will it create measurable positive impact in the world
  10. act with urgency, be relentless, be an advocate for impact (if you don’t act now, what happens?)
  11. live in the solution/don’t give into cynicism, spread the belief that brands can be agents of change
  12. always measure the business and impact results and track the momentum…energy and action will feed itself…remember sometimes the impact is individual and can’t be tracked in big numbers

This is meant to be a start but hopefully will spark some new ideas and empower advocates in the industry to push their clients to repurpose their marketing and be brands making meaningful impact.