With the rise of social activism, customers are now more interested than ever in what the companies they support stand for. When you support a cause your customers believe in, you can create a loyal following and do good at the same time.
But not every business has a natural lean toward social causes, so how can leaders find a way to make their brand truly stand for something bigger? Below, members of Rolling Stone Culture Council share their tips for brands that want to be part of a movement and create real change for their customers.
Align Yourself With a Cause
Align with a cause or organization that’s close to your heart and that both you and your employees are passionate about and can get behind. To avoid virtue signaling, your level of engagement must increase over time. You need to create a vision for how your organization will support this cause or organization or community, not just now but also in the years to come. – Harrison Wise, Wise Collective Inc.
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Be Authentic With Your Efforts
Consumers are more curious than ever before and can read through the lines. When thinking about cause marketing, focus on partnerships and initiatives that truly reflect your respective companies’ key business goals, values and objectives. – Taylor Foxman, Parallel
Position Yourself Against an ‘Enemy’
In a time when brands are standing “for” something, be the one to actively stand “against” something. Pick an enemy and position you and your brand as anti-that. Patagonia has notoriously done this for years, most recently in September with their “Vote the a**holes out” tagline. By knowing what a brand stands against, you can ultimately stand with them and know what they’re fighting for. – Kim Kaupe, Bright Ideas Only
Get Clear on Your Direction
Creating a movement requires clarity about the direction in which you’re heading. However, writing an iron-clad mission statement alone is not enough. The outside world needs to understand your mission and the ways in which your company commits to it daily. Our mission statement is the first page in every catalog and is at the top of all our job posts, and our customers know it by heart like we do. – Vanessa Nornberg, Metal Mafia
Actively Show Support
Don’t pander. Be genuine and choose a cause that relates to the activities of your brand. If you actively show support and take advantage of branding opportunities where appropriate, you will see benefits to your investment and perhaps provide aid that is lasting to both sides. – Michael Polk, Billboardology.com
Strive to Be Educational
Cause marketing needs to be educational, not just about marketing. The most interesting movements start by identifying a problem and explaining what we can do about it. The outcome isn’t just about selling; it also gives back to the consumer in terms of new knowledge. – Meg He, ADAY
Create Shared Experiences Around Your Values
People want to see more action and less transactional promises. It’s not only important, it’s also socially responsible for brands to stand for something “bigger.” The best way for them to espouse these values is to create shared experiences with the groups or cultures that share them. Be active and be a real force of progress to move something bigger forward. – Matt Blackburn, ORDER
Start With the Three Ws
It is important to start with the three Ws: why, what and who. Why are you supporting your cause? What is your cause and the connection to your brand? Who will benefit from your brand supporting this cause? Authenticity is also key while planning your campaign. You do not want to join a cause without thinking these through or else your brand may run the risk of being considered tone-deaf. – Ashley Deese, Smithsonian Institution
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Focus on Accountability and Work Ethic
Accountability and an unrelenting work ethic are still the driving force behind any successful business or brand. In modern times, we can still use these old tropes to create something bigger than ourselves. When you create opportunity for others and allow them to better themselves, you are inherently building an environment which will organically manifest itself in the social enterprise. – Wes Meyers, Burning Tractor
Understand Your Purpose, Mission and Vision
Many companies do not understand their “true north” so to speak. When you know what you want and where you’re trying to get, the decisions become much easier along the way. Surrounding yourself with people who share your goals, visions, ideas and way of operating accelerates your progress toward achieving these goals and objectives. – Matt Morea, Velvet Cannabis
Brainstorm Genuine Ways to Make a Difference
I’m always looking for needs within our immediate community along with what’s going on in the world, like the pandemic or social injustice. Then, we brainstorm genuine ways our brand can connect and make a difference to help meet those needs. Owning a business and a brand is much more fulfilling when it can be used to make a positive impact, and it strengthens our connections with the community. – Buck Wimberly, ULAH, LLC / ULAH Interiors + Design, LLC
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