An integral aspect of a successful marketing plan is strong brand messaging. This is the language that conveys your underlying value proposition in order to persuade buyers. Take, for example, Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan or Subway’s “Eat Fresh.”
Brand messaging resonates on a personal level and can help justify a purchase. But nowadays, that doesn’t seem to be enough. We’ve entered the era of The Conscious Consumer. These are people who want to understand the values of the brand they are buying from and what impact their purchase has. This attitude has had both positive and negative impacts on brands; take, for example, Uber’s scandal with its former CEO, Travis Kalanick, and previously reported poor company culture, which led to the #dropuber movement.
As consumers become increasingly aware of the brands they are buying into, brand values have become a core component of brand messaging.
Conscious consumers tend to focus on things like corporate culture, environmental effects, labor laws and ethical sourcing. Their focus is less on what they are buying and more on what the brand they are buying into stands for. It is almost to a point where brands are not selling products, but their products are selling their values. For example, Aerie, the loungewear line by American Eagle, made a commitment to stop Photoshopping its advertisements and promote body positivity. This commitment was supported by the #AerieReal hashtag and has been a brand ethos for five years.
But the truth is, traditional marketing channels can be a hard platform for promoting values when done by the brand itself, especially when authenticity is front and center of a potential buyer’s mindset. And a big-name celebrity on a billboard isn’t always the best way for a brand to prove their “wokeness.” This is where influencers might come in. Not only can influencers be a great channel for promoting brand authenticity and accountability, but they can also establish personal connections over shared ethos.
For brands deciding to go this route, connect with an influencer who is already a credible thought leader or promoter of certain values. Identifying your own brand’s values is a great place to start. What do you stand for? What feelings do you want to resonate with potential customers? I’ve spoken with many marketers who want to emphasize inclusivity in their campaigns — that their brand is for everyone. Partnering with a diverse range of influencers is a positive way to indirectly promote such values and make customers feel included.
Value Marketing Vs. Product Marketing
As influencer marketing becomes a strategic channel for brands, more and more, values are front and center of campaigns rather than products. In fact, some of the most inspiring influencer campaigns lately have used the product to highlight brand values:
Diet Coke’s latest #unlabeled campaign has the company removing labels from its infamous soda cans to ignite a conversation about judgments. The campaign includes 16 unique influencers that aim to shed stigmas from a variety of issues from gender, mental health, disability and religion.
Lyft is a company with a strong corporate ethos. It has always been at the forefront of important social issues such as LGBTQ+ and gender equality. The brand’s recent campaign highlights Lyft drivers who are immigrants to the U.S., amplifying a discussion about current immigration policies.
The New Kid
Klean Kanteen is an environmentally conscious brand offering non-toxic, BPA-Free, reusable water bottles. It partners with many agri-travel influencers to spread its mission of sustainability. The brand ran a campaign for Plastic Free July, and through a “zero waste advocate” influencer, gave away reusable water bottles to three followers in order to promote the stop of single-use plastic.
Diet Coke, Lyft and Klean Kanteen are brands existing in different spaces, with different parameters and budgets impacting their marketing efforts. Yet, each brand has strategically used its product to advocate a greater message and to promote clear brand value.
Just Another Marketing Scheme?
Some have argued that this new era of socially conscious marketing is just another marketing scheme. This may be so. But is that a bad thing? Sometimes it is evident that brands are promoting a cause because it’s trendy, but corporate social responsibility (CSR) has led to more brands talking the talk and walking the walk. Sure, advocating a value is a great way to engage with potential consumers, but authenticity in supporting a cause is what will keep customers around.
Brands always have an agenda, and that typically means playing into the interests of consumers. But, if the interests now are most socially aware and humanitarian, why should we question that? Demand drives supply, and if consumers are demanding ethical brands, this will only be good for all of us.
This article first appeared in www.forbes.com
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