As the marketing community continues to welcome new and emerging technologies, conversations are built around the benefits and integral role each will play in a brand’s strategic objectives.
We are witnessing developments around audio-only marketing, data privacy, the future of video and so many other emerging solutions. But there’s a key emergence or a notable practice now highlighted that I want to shed some light on – Social Impact.
Social Impact, or in the traditional sense – “Corporate Social Responsibility” is becoming a new “currency” that’s generated through a brand’s ethos and consumer purchasing decisions.
Spending a dollar is becoming so important, as people have begun spending with companies that stand for a social cause. Not only are companies now amplifying their core values and putting them into practice, but there is a growing appointment of talents into roles that are specifically tasked with managing social impact, external engagement and community building.
Why it’s now more important than ever
Social Impact is moving away from simply identifying a one-off project and executing it in the name of tax exemption. This is becoming a movement that garners consumer support into a community, where companies welcome innovative ways of solving societal issues through lasting contribution, conversations and creating meaningful opportunities.
One of the key shifts in purchasing power we need to acknowledge is the importance of Gen Z – this group is very smart, innovative and fearless and will soon account for more than the $143 billion spending power.
Sagicor Group, a full service financial institution in Jamaica established a foundation to drive social change. They continue to raise millions of dollars which go towards children homes, hospitals, scholarships and other initiatives.
The organisation is seen throughout the year forming external partnerships that are meeting the different community needs, while mobilising their staff members to support and engage in several projects.
[Photo Credit: Sagicor Foundation Jamaica]
Performative Marketing is being called out
We’ve witnessed several brands scrambling at the sight of any movement on the rise of social change. And just as they promote, they are called out. Some companies who decide to stand for a cause due to the wave of “impact” are performing, as there would’ve already been a blueprint to respond to the causes they “care about”.
Social Impact being promoted internally, generally leads to a brand being equipped to handle an external version. This is where building an internal culture of goodwill plays a key role, as the leadership of the organisation is at the helm of defining the vision. The C-Suite must lead by example and take the same interest they have in the company’s profit and make that applicable to its social impact initiatives.
The Executive VP and Chief External Engagement Officer at Target, Laysha Ward, is an example of what this leadership should embody. Take a stroll on Laysha’s LinkedIn and it’s decorated with the various social impact initiatives being promoted by her brand.
[Content Source: Laysha Ward]
Why you should pay attention to this new “currency”?
Consumer behaviour will continue to evolve and so will their purpose of purchasing. Consumers want more than what a brand markets itself to be – they want impact and the feeling of community. They want to feel a part of your social media activations and relate to the different ad placements your marketing team promotes – they want to be your advocates. So why pass on this very valuable asset?
Start by establishing what exactly are your core focal points – and no, not the usual pillars listed on your website or in the staff handbook – actual principles you want to put into practice.
Do you want to promote a greener environment? Do you want to contribute to digital literacy in the remote parts of your country? Do you want to speak up against gender-based violence? It’s important to identify initiatives you are willing to support and establish how the brand will firmly position its stance – and to also prepare for possible "backlash".
Like many international organisations, Pride Month is usually in focus as brands go above and beyond to showcase their allyship. Scotiabank, through its Caribbean-based market, Trinidad & Tobago, used the month to celebrate the LGBTQ Community - a first in corporate (as far as I know).
Social impact should remove the corporate cataracts some brands see before arriving at the actual changes. Some partnerships will be uncomfortable, but daring to be different is a part of the soul of wanting to develop communities.
Invest in the right talent to lead social impact – this will establish the degree of interest the company has in driving change. Do not leave it up to your marketing team to focus on CSR initiatives, while also figuring out how to market the brand. Do it properly and do it well. Get a dedicated team to foster and build on the community engagement and projects.
Regional Tech giants, Digicel, established a foundation in 4 of its markets (Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Haiti & Papua New Guinea) to focus on community development. They have a CEO that manages the organisation, making the focus 100% on its core principles established - and most importantly, their very own company Chairman (Dennis O'Brien) is the Patron.
[Photo Credit: Digicel Jamaica Foundation ]
It’s a crucial time to revisit your brand’s community impact mandate and start implementing how it will incorporate its most valuable asset (consumers) into its general mission.
Identify the different initiatives in line with the brand’s general objectives and use that to establish goodwill and impact. Not everything is monetary – showing up and speaking out adds to the currency.
Oh, and remember social impact is about the community - not you. So be mindful of how your sponsorships can be perceived if it's a little OD. Some community builders dedicate their time and livelihood to their initiatives and your support should complement - not take away.