What does it mean to do something “like a girl”?
That was a premise of an ad for feminine hygiene products, that went on to become the third most popular YouTube ad of the past decade.
Always, the brand behind the sensation, presented the ad as an audition, where young women are asked to perform tasks “like a girl” – run like a girl, fight like a girl. Aware of social expectations, the young women adhered to stereotypes, presenting weak characters, who cared more about how their hair looked than about winning the race.
But when young girls were asked to perform the same tasks, they fought hard and ran fast. The characters they presented had unequivocal personal power.
According to research, many of these girls’ confidence will be challenged as they go into junior high and start their teenage years journey. That happens to be the same time girls start using feminine hygiene products – something they’ll keep on doing for several decades.
By linking the two milestones together, Always empowers girls not to give up their power as they step into adolescence. As a result, Always created positive emotions in both their new prospective customers and the adults who’ll be introducing them to these products… without pitching their product once.
Called “cause marketing”, using brand voice to advocate for social issues can make a big difference in the world.
If you have built an engaged audience, you might be able to recruit the power of the masses for something like building schools for kids in Ghana, who didn’t have a way to gain education beforehand.
According to Good Scout Group, over 70% of consumers made a donation to charity at in-store points of sales. Imagine if your next 105 customers each donated $10 at checkout. Together, they’ll be able to save a girl from sexual slavery.
But cause marketing doesn’t only help people in need. It helps your bottom line, too.
Customers Care About Social Responsibility
According to Forbes, even back in 2010, over 88% of consumers thoughts companies should make an effort to improve society and the environment while taking care of business results.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has grown more important, with 90% of US consumers willing to switch providers to one that’s advocating for a cause, assuming that price, quality of product and quality of service are pretty much the same, according to the 2015 Cone Communications/Ebiquity Global CSR Study.
Employees Care About Social Responsibility
Back in that 2010 study reported by Forbes, 83% of employees said they would seriously consider leaving jobs with companies that abuse kids to create their products. 65% would seriously consider leaving if their employers caused environmental damage.
According to a 2014 Sparks & Honey research, 76% of the newest generation of employees – Gen Z, those born in 1995 and onward – are concerned about humanity’s impact on the planet. 60% want their jobs to make the world a better place, and over a quarter of them are already doing something about it by volunteering.
If you want to turn employees into brand advocates, this is something you can’t ignore.
Convinced, but not sure how to start? Here are a few ideas.
Represent Non-Stereotypical Audiences
The simplest way to stand up for issues is to seamlessly incorporate them in your content.
It’s easy to do this with visuals. Cheerios just told another story about a family eating cereal – no biggie. The one exception was that it gave representation to interracial families, which most brands tend to ignore. The amount of backlash and outpouring notes of gratitude Cheerios received showed how deep the need is to see more diverse representations in content marketing.
Wells Fargo’s commercial does something similar. The video’s official description on YouTube says, “A couple learns a new language to welcome a new addition to their family. See how Wells Fargo is always there to help you prepare financially for life’s biggest moments.”
The two details the copy doesn’t mention?
The couple is adopting a child, and the couple is lesbian.
By showing this family and not making a big deal about how “different” it is, Wells Fargo helps promote the notion that there are all kinds of families, and they’re all equally worthy and equally beautiful.
Tide’s commercial, which shows a dad playing with his daughter and doing laundry, communicates the exact same product messages it would have with a mom doing laundry. However, by placing a dad front and center of household choirs and childcare, Tide does its part in breaking the stereotypes household products have encouraged for decades by only showcasing moms.
The commercial empowers the female target audience to create more equality in their homes, and empowers men to take a more active role in their family lives despite traditional judgement.
You can do the same with your product.
Promoting technology? Show older generations using computers.
Promoting engineering courses or B2B software? Share case studies of women students or interview women professors or executives.
You don’t have to create a high-budget commercial to make a difference, either. Recently, I wrote a post for a client in the B2B space. The post’s opening focused on segmenting audience needs. The examples I gave? A woman going up the corporate C-suite ladder, and a stay at home dad who wants to start an online business.
Dig Deeper than Obvious Customer Pain Points
Everybody in marketing talks about customer pain points, because everyone in marketing knows that customers don’t buy a sofa because someone enjoyed creating a sofa. People buy sofas because they don’t have anywhere to sit and the floor is cold, or they want to express themselves by designing their homes.
But sometimes they replace their sofa because, as mentioned above, they want to do their part in creating a better world. Most people don’t believe they can change the whole world, but many know they can make a difference in their corner of the world.
Many Ben & Jerry’s customers are people like that. They know the ingredients are ethically sourced, fair trade certified and packaged in environmentally friendly materials. By choosing Ben & Jerry’s over other ice cream brands, customers feel like they make a difference.
So you can be sure that Ben & Jerry’s customers are open to this video about saving the planet by… salivating over Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
Dove – a brand with skin care, hair care and body care lines of products – also thought about the deeper desires of its target audience before developing content.
The Dove team dug deep, and filled its YouTube channel with videos promoting beauty confidence.
You’d think the connection is simple. The products’ target audience is women, and so many women have body issues. True – but Dove went deeper than that. As I explored on MarketingProfs, by supporting women in creating healthier relationships with their bodies, on which they use Dove products, Dove is creating better product experiences.
The amount and quality of content dedicated to body confidence, as Dove calls it, convey the feeling that the team behind this strategy actually wants to make a difference. At the same time, it’s a choice that makes sense business wise, because it’s centered around what their target audience needs, and it sends them the message that Dove cares about more than its bottom line.
But your cause marketing doesn’t have to about deep self perceptions or world issues. As I explained in this guide to YouTube stardom, sometimes it can be as simple as empowering a parent to take an hour of the day and put themselves first.
Give Customers More Credit than the Usual Industry Standard
Take a look around your industry. Do competitors stand up for your target audience? Do they communicate respectfully and celebrate the gifts only this target audience has? Or do they “write down” to audience members and don’t give them enough credit?
Let’s go back to feminine hygiene products. For years, commercials were pretty standard: You get your period and nothing changes. You dance around freely and joyfully. But if you’re a woman or have a woman in your life, you know reality can be different.
So here comes HelloFlo, a feminine care subscription package service, and does something different. As I explored on MarketingProfs, it talks to its target audience as the intelligent girls they are and shows how much it believes in their abilities by encouraging them to be their own sheroes (she-heroes).
And did you notice? HelloFlo used the first tip in this article, too. It took a step further and, unlike many other brand commercials, featured an African American as the star of the content. It didn’t make a big deal of it, but it did make sure the shestory (she-history) it creates was much more inclusive.
As effective as cause marketing is, it’ll only move your audience if they care enough about the issue. Cause marketing can’t replace quality content that’s centered around customer needs and helps customers overcome real challenges.
The best cause to market is the one that helps customers make a difference with your product, and improves their lives or their companies as they help make this world a better place.