Overview

Look for inspiration, not instruction

Insights
June 14, 2022

Written by Jennifer Johnson, Director, Client Strategy & Success

Examples should serve as inspiration not instruction. When we see a brand, NGO or agency do something, oftentimes our immediate reaction is to copy. Do exactly what they do. We see this in so many areas of advertising and marketing… I mean has anyone seen billboards for attorneys or real estate agents. I know you know what I'm talking about. Those billboards that all look the same. Insert headshot and 1-800-I will fight for you.

Social impact marketing is no exception. It feels safer to copy. To try and piggyback off of others. I get it. I’ve worked in marketing for over 15 years, so I also get that copying still gets results. It feels safe, you don’t have to invest as much, and you still see (some) results.

But what you’re also doing is creating brand confusion. In a sea of same, your brand or NGO or cause doesn’t stand out. You aren’t creating the unique brand affinity and engagement that you need for real impact.

This is a hard one to follow but it makes such a huge difference if you’re trying to push for impact and grow as a brand/organization (and who isn’t?!). You’re pushing to make a significant impact on society. On the environment. On racial inequality. On food insecurity. On access to clean water. On healthcare. These causes are significant and require significant action.

The type of action that drives significant impact requires taking risks. Know your audience and know your brand and what you're trying to do. Then empower your marketing teams and agencies to create something new, something fresh. Something that can't be guaranteed. Because, here's the truth, the work we do can never be guaranteed. There usually isn’t a direct, immediate ROI in campaigns that push the envelope. Remember, not everything that can be measured is worth it and not everything that can't be measured isn't worth it.

Think about brands that are trailblazers and incredibly successful. They don't do what everyone else does. They invest in innovation and they pay their people and their agencies to bring ideas that no one else is doing. Or remixed ideas that authentically align with their brand. The American Express “sponsorship” of the US Women’s Open is a great recent remix example. I put sponsorship in quotes because they didn’t just do what most brands do with a sports sponsorship. They’re working with six top female golfers (in line with what’s been done) BUT they’re pairing each of them with a local female-owned small business and featuring the small business logo on the golfer’s clothing instead of the AmEx logo. On top of that, they’re sponsoring the Open’s Food Village and bringing in female-owned food trucks.

A lot of this isn’t directly measurable—but talk about making an impact. Driving their business forward, living their brand purpose and making a positive impact on female athletes and female entrepreneurs.

Look for inspiration, not instruction. Inspiration to remix. A remix that is uniquely yours. A remix that will make your audience turn off auto pilot and pay attention.

If you’d like to chat about what this could mean for your social impact brand, let’s connect