The following is a guest post from Scott Goodson, founder and chairman of StrawberryFrog. Opinions are the author's own.
On Saturday night I experienced "Joker." Americans have been warned that this movie could incite mass violence through a movement against those who control us. The movement spreads like wildfire, threatening the rich who just keep getting richer, evil people, corporations, news media and entertainment that are all part of the system that undermines him.
The dispossessed Joker, in response to the horrible conditions in which he lives, starts this movement by fighting back, and everyone is thrilled to join the frenzy. There was sympathy for his movement in the theater. The film ended with rapturous cheering. Many feel like we're living through a lot these days — mass shootings, college debt, greed and, to top it all off, a dying planet. Could a real "Joker Movement" happen in our city streets?
We're living in a time of movements, after all — you just have to open your news feed to know that. Depending on the day, you're apt to find stories of folks taking to the streets in Hong Kong, New York, Montreal, Australia, Japan — you name it. Last month, we had the school climate strike movement in Manhattan inspired by Greta Thunberg.
For those of us in business, it may seem as if all of this is transpiring in a separate realm well outside the corporate bubble. Unless the protesters are specifically targeting your business, it's natural to think, "This new era of activism makes for lively news, but has nothing to do with my company or brand." But social unrest is everybody's business.
Something significant has changed in our culture over the past few years. Blame it on politicians, news organizations or general restlessness or the new hyper-connectivity that enables us to instantly organize around causes and hot topics. It's likely some combination of all these factors, but the net result is that we, as business leaders, are now dealing with a populace that's more socially aware.
So how does a smart business respond in a time of greater activism? Start by defining your purpose. But while most companies stop here, now you need to activate that purpose.
To crystallize and spark a brand movement, you must do more than make donations. The company must become a bit of a Joker, an activist itself on behalf of something it believes in — something that also matters deeply to its customers. Movements start on the inside.
Here are questions every brand should consider today.
- What are you dissatisfied with?
What is the outrage in the category, in culture or in society that bothers you? What is the discontent? What's the burning need you see that no one is addressing? Hint: this is about something in culture, not product attributes. For example, you can be dissatisfied with not being able to afford healthcare.
- What's the enemy?
This is the crystallization of the villain. If we take the example above, then the enemy is the broken healthcare system. Knowing what a brand is against can give focus and energy to what the brand is for. I'm not talking about your competition here, but what wrong do you wish to fight against, which injustice or waste or inequality in the world do you consider your foe?
- What do you stand for?
Companies, organizations and brands igniting a movement need to take a stand for something. We could be for a new vision in healthcare. You can't build a sustainable movement with just an enemy, you must identify what you support. What enemy out there is relevant to your purpose or benefit?
- What actions can bring it all to life?
What actions can you take to showcase your movement? What moments can you own? Let your movement strategy drive your marketing plan and inspire your decisions, especially allocating budget and resources to support your movement and to avoid decay.
If you fail to respond to this cultural shift both internally and outside your company, you run the risk of being out of step with customers. Your company could end up looking like a "status quo" brand in a revolutionary world. And that's no joke.