What Role Does Digital Marketing Play in Emphasizing Social Responsibility?

Did you know that up to 35 percent of employees are reconsidering their current jobs because their companies are not using social marketing to address societal issues?

If internal employees are feeling the pressure to take responsibility for social issues, imagine what consumers are feeling when they turn to brands and respond to marketing efforts.

That same introductory source states that 71 percent of consumers believe that companies have more responsibility than ever before to address social justice issues.

Like many brands today, your marketing team is likely trying to determine what role your advertising and messaging plays in social equality, progress, and charity. It’s a difficult path to pave, and one that many of us are still learning to follow.

Today, we want to talk about digital marketing and its future.

How does social marketing play a role in your brand’s identity? How do we showcase responsibility? Who do we target with our methods?

Let’s discuss.

Using Social Marketing to Brand Values on a Large Scale

Let’s first start with a topic most of us are already familiar with: promoting what’s important to our brand, including our overarching goals and missions.

It’s always been important to have firm brand values – and to share them with consumers. However, it’s now vital that you take firm, undeniable stances on topics of importance.

Image Source: LucidPress

People don’t just want to know what your values are – they want your goals and missions to align with theirs. That’s why clarity is so important.

Roughly 60 percent of consumers believe that brands should make it easier to see their values and positions on important issues at the point of sale. They don’t want to have to hunt for your stance on things they care about. They want to know what you think and who you support right away.

If you turn on the television or scroll through Instagram after reading this, you’ll likely realize that many big names are already working on highlighting their values in their marketing.

If you ask us, it’s about time you started following their lead.

For example, look at this advertisement from Old Navy – a clothing retailer.

Although the brand could easily have glossed over the social movements and arguments of today, it decided to do the exact opposite. The television commercial even gets a bit political with references to voting polls and statistics.

Old Navy has repeatedly shown us that it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in – taking a stance on social matters is something that any brand can do.

Don’t believe it? Take a look at our next example.

Image Source: Metro.co.uk

Ben and Jerry’s, a timeless, beloved ice cream brand, came out with a strong stance on the murder of George Floyd and the BLM movement. If you were on Twitter or Instagram when the brand spoke up, you likely saw a wave of applause for the company standing up in regard to such a controversial topic.

Image Source: BuzzFeed

However, it would be neglectful of us to say that all responses to this action were positive. B&J certainly received its fair share of negative feedback – but overall, the supporters seemed to outweigh the naysayers.

Fearful of scaring away customers with pointed marketing strategies? Consider that consumers’ most common emotional reactions to socially active brands were positive. Intrigued, impressed, and engaged emerged as the top three reported consumer reactions.

Most of the time, you’re actually going to pique consumer interest rather than steer them away.

Making an Impact

When was the last time your marketing efforts circled around charity or impactful actions? Taking social responsibility through digital marketing in 2020 isn’t just a matter of talking – it’s a matter of doing.

Most consumers (84 percent) said that it’s important that a company support charitable causes. Especially during a time like today’s, donating and making an impact in areas of need isn’t just encouraged – it’s expected.

Additionally, 71 percent of Millenials said they would actually pay more for a product if they knew some of the proceeds were going to charity.

Obviously, donating to charity and working to make a real impact is the right thing to do. Customer support and positivity just come as a bonus.

There are many ways to make a difference. Find the technique that best suits your brand’s personality and capabilities.

Image Source: Everlane

For instance, Everlane, a well-respected clothing brand, created an entire line of products dedicated to “Feeding America.” All of the profits from that collection go towards families in need during COVID-19. Consumers get to purchase an Everlane product and help the brand do good in one fell swoop.

Another option is to provide services to those in need rather than funds.

Image Source: DoorDash

For example, the food-delivery service DoorDash has taken leaps and bounds to help people get the food they need during the pandemic. They’ve also used their marketing platforms to provide advice, support, and relief to restaurants that are struggling because of COVID-19.

The goal of “making an impact” isn’t always to give money – but when you’re at a loss, donating to a reputable charity of your choice is a good route to take.

Image Source: AAAA

Recent research has indicated that, especially during this difficult time, consumers want to hear what brands are doing. Donating isn’t enough on its own – you need to reveal what you’re donating, the services you’re providing, how you’re responding to the pandemic or other current events, and what your future goals are.

Work on using your digital marketing strategies to reveal how you’re making an impact. If you can, enlist your followers and supporters in the campaign. Give them ways to donate through your company or learn more about what they can do on their own

If we know one thing, it’s that socially responsible, charitable brands will come out stronger after COVID-19 than brands that kept to themselves.

Differentiating Yourself From Competitors

Here’s the thing: everyone and their uncle is trying to “seem” socially responsible nowadays. To some extent, the cynics are right. Being loud and proud when it comes to your values a bit of a trend.

After the BLM movements of 2020, almost every brand seemed to “jump on the bandwagon.” As Amanda Mull pointed out in her article in The Atlantic:

“In the following days, hundreds of companies, sports teams, and celebrities followed suit with posts of their own, many of them nearly identical in their vague phrasing and awkward execution.”

That’s why you need to be careful about how you take social responsibility via your marketing. Copying other brands for the sake of doing something isn’t going to get you anywhere.

Consumers want to see you take ownership and differentiate yourself from your competitors. Your message must be authentic – both to your brand’s identity and your goals.

Take a look at the latest COVID-19 message from Adult Swim, the television channel.

Not only does it have strong messaging in regards to staying safe during the pandemic, but it also takes a memorable position on the issue.

Everyone is telling people to social distance and wear a mask, but Adult Swim gave their message a little pizazz. It’s unique – and a little bit cheeky. The video is undeniably reflective of the channel’s personality and messaging.

Image Source: Trivision Creative

Another great way to differentiate yourself is to take a S-T-R-O-N-G stance. Occasionally making a statement on racial inequality or posting a “blackout” square isn’t always enough.

“If you want to take action, you have to be anti-racist, which takes effort, resources, and time.

Posting a black square and nothing else can be construed as an empty, performative gesture, rather than a legitimate act of solidarity with those who are suffering right now.” – Brooke Marine, W Magazine

Consumers want to see your brand take a real position on policies, changes, and issues that matter to them. If you want to stand out against the competition, you need to make your voice heard above the chatter of millions of other brands.

We understand that taking these steps to differentiate yourself can be scary – and it feels risky to potentially alienate consumers who don’t agree with your stance.

Just keep in mind that most (64 percent of) consumers find brands that actively communicate their purpose more attractive. Even if they don’t agree, people want to hear what you think and where you stand. In most instances, taking some kind of stance is better than taking NO stance.

Appealing to New Audiences with Social Marketing

Image Source: Pexels

Inclusivity and equality are two extremely important elements in today’s society. When your brand is targeting specific audience members through digital marketing, it’s essential that you consider how inclusive this audience group really is.

If you’re not convinced, consider that more than half (57 percent) of Americans believe that companies need to address racism in their branding. We’re being called to taction – now.

Whether you’re taking a stance on Black Lives Matter or simply working to incorporate a larger pool of ethnicities and races in your advertising strategies, it’s vital that you focus on inclusivity.

Image Source: Fenty

Take a look at Fenty Beauty, Rhianna’s popular makeup brand. The product line has paved the way for other makeup brands to incorporate skin color inclusivity and diversity.

From the get-go, the brand’s top digital marketing strategy was to promote shades for every race. On the brand’s “About Us” page, Fenty states:

“Rihanna was inspired to create Fenty Beauty after years of experimenting with the best-of-the-best in beauty — and still seeing a void in the industry for products that performed across all skin types and tones.”

Not only has Fenty Beauty been heralded for its comprehensive line of skin shades, but it’s also been marked as a brand that is striving to make leaps toward racial equality in beauty.

Speaking of equality in beauty, another way to reach out to disadvantaged or previously ignored groups is to market to a wide range of weights and body types.

Image Source: Superfit Hero

Brands like Superfit Hero are taking responsibility for promoting body positivity and inclusivity for all. Their slogan, “Fitness Is for Every Body,” highlights their overall mission: to provide sportswear for women of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and backgrounds.

Inclusivity doesn’t just stop with our skin color and other physical attributes. In today’s society, it’s also important to market to people who lead lifestyles that might be “different” from the norm.

Image Source: Fujitsu

Although some brands have been accused of jumping on the Pride bandwagon simply to appeal to more customers, there’s intelligent marketing (and social responsibility) at the core of appealing to LGBT+ audiences.

We recommend striving to mimic Fujitsu, whose brand goals reflect the following statement:

“We will celebrate difference and ensure that people can succeed regardless of their personal identity, especially their gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, health, disability, and age.”

Whether your brand markets clothing, digital services, vehicles, or any product under the sun, ensure that you’re marketing with social responsibility.

Are you including groups of diverse audience members – or are you sticking to your old, narrowed target audiences?

Reach out to underserved, underrepresented groups as much as you can – both for the benefit of your own brand and for the good of our society as a whole.

In Conclusion

2020 has been a big year. Between discussions on social equality, dealing with a global pandemic, and witnessing massive political changes, we’ve all been forced to evaluate where we stand on certain societal concepts.

From a marketing standpoint, now is the time to understand exactly what role your brand – and its messaging – plays in these social discussions.

Take time to understand what your brand takes responsibility for and how you are standing up for your values. Use some of the examples in this piece, as well as marketing methods from other brands, to spark your inspiration.

At the same time, differentiate yourself from your competitors. Nobody likes a copycat.

Find what your brand is passionate about. Speak out. Give people a chance to support your brand for more than just its products and services.

It’s what your followers want – and what your brand needs to survive these chaotic times.

About Riley

Riley Heruska is a full-time writer at a E2M Solutions specializing in producing content in the realm of SEO, marketing, and features. Her passion lies in helping others through the use of written word, and she can often be found sharing her travels from around the world.