The following is a guest post Ted Sabarese, the former creative director at Chobani and current creative lead at MMC.
I support local farms. I'm passionate about protecting photographers' copyrights. I believe in environmentalism, supporting veterans and tighter gun legislation. I'm also a sneakerhead and a total foodie.
Like most people, I don't have a singular purpose. So why do brands still think they have to stand for just one thing? And why do they think taking a stand on anything has to be done through a complicated, expensive CSR campaign?
It doesn't have to be. Below, I break down why:
Smart brands invest in micro-movements
Burger King is killing it with its PSA-like campaigns, tackling issues ranging from bullying to net neutrality. REI launched a seemingly overnight website revamp to protest Trump's plan to eliminate millions of acres of protected land in Utah. Whirlpool's Care Counts initiative helps thousands of underprivileged kids perform better in school.
Notice that not one these campaigns represent a corporate-wide CSR initiative. They're lightweight, nimble initiatives designed to reaffirm the brand's commitment to a higher purpose and, in turn, build brand love.
The strategy isn't just smart; it's essential. In their recently published book, "Good is the New Cool," Bobby Jones and Afdhel Aziz said it best: "Brands that are not solving problems in the world are going to be replaced by brands who are."
In the last decade, I've counseled countless brands on how and why to invest in micro-movements. Every time I say my spiel, I always seem to come back to these three mantras:
1.) Stop thinking big. Think small
"Wait, are you asking us to retool our entire CSR platform?"
I've had many clients bemoan this to me when I bring up any purpose-driven creative idea. They imagine a Gap (RED)-level CSR initiative that takes years to develop, requires multiple stakeholders and demands insane budgets.
Coming up with a big, transformative, purpose-driven creative idea — the stuff that makes brands matter — doesn't have to be such a big, scary endeavor. In fact, investing in a micro-movement means you don't have to think big at all. Think about how your product or service can serve a population, and start somewhere.
Whirlpool's Care Counts campaign, for example, started as a small pilot program in Fairfield, California back in 2015. Today, the program has expanded to countless cities, generated millions of dollars worth of press coverage and has resulted in marked increases in consumer purchase intent and positive social sentiment.
2.) If you're going to do it, be authentic
Burger King's mission statement is "To offer reasonably priced quality food, served quickly, in attractive, clean surroundings." How, may I ask, does this mission relate to their campaign designed to change public opinion about net neutrality? The point is, it doesn't matter.
Over time, Burger King has solidified an authentically weird and wacky brand voice. From their off-the-wall "Subservient Chicken" campaign in 2001, to their dry humor and pitch-perfect cultural commentary on Twitter — all of these things have earned them the right to be weird, wacky and controversial in anything they do. In fact, fans expect it.
So in December, when the FCC made the decision to repeal laws to protect net neutrality, Burger King knew it was a moment in time where they could authentically insert themselves in the conversation. It was weird, yes. But it made sense. It was authentic.
3.) Tone is everything
But just because you've earned the right to engage in a micro-movement, doesn't mean you don't have to be hyper-aware of the tone in which you make your case.
Take Groupon's Super Bowl spot, for example. In a world where mom and pop shops are struggling to survive, Groupon made a smart decision to use their 30 seconds of airtime to encourage people to support local businesses.
My only hangup was the tone. In my opinion, the slapstick-style humor may have inadvertently overshadowed such an important message.
I dream of a world where every brand would devote as much time on launching micro-movement campaigns as they did on micro-targeting audiences with all those perfunctory ads designed to "convert." And with so much going on in the world, I think now is as good a time as any to jump in and actually say something.