When most marketers are asked to create more socially conscious branding, they freeze. Yes, everyone would love the virality and organic growth of socially conscious brands, but the obvious places to align—global warming, oil spills, and social issues—are not spaces that marketers want to touch. After all, politicizing a brand does exactly one thing: cuts your audience in half down party lines. This isn’t something that any sane marketer would do; after all, how can half an audience create enough business to compensate for those lost?

The truth is that, except for rare occasions, they can’t. But, it doesn’t mean that the brand can’t operate on a socially conscious platform. It simply means that brands need to rethink the meaning of “socially conscious” as it applies to products. After all, the phrase “socially conscious” really only asks brands to position themselves as those that are conscious of the social—socially responsive, conscious of social values, community building… these things that online marketers are already very concerned about.

And ultimately, it all comes down to creating marketing transactions that encourage audiences to be social, to use a product socially and in a way that it creates meaningful value, to really get it moving. Remember Coke’s “Share a Coke With” campaign (link to blog post)? It wasn’t personalization that brought them a 2% increase in sales. It was social consciousness, and engineering a campaign that, basically, sold the sentiment and participation of Frank O’Hara’s poem “Having a Coke With You” (which you should definitely check out if you haven’t read/heard it before).


When creating socially conscious branding:

  • Consult with your social media manager: Your social media manager understands how information moves through your online community better than anyone in the office. Have a chat to review trends in your industry’s social space as well as social spaces that your product could impact.
  • Brainstorm with your product and customer success teams: Both of these teams know more about the usage (and the sometimes outlandish use cases) of your product. Understanding the different ways people use your product can give you insight as to what is valuable about your product beyond individual use.
  • Invite a third person into your brand-message: The majority of branded messages are all the same: you, the marketer, tries to anticipate an individual’s pain points and create messaging to solve it. However, recent studies in psychology indicate that reciprocity (and, in turn, transaction) has changed as the nature of relations change. Due to social media’s impact on how individuals share information with one another, studies find that sharing information that is shareable and encourages “pay it forward” behaviors is more likely to inspire action and enjoy organic longevity.
  • Create several possibilities and ask your customers: Once you’ve developed a branding message that’s in line with social trends, engages audiences in interesting ways, and invites at least one more person into the initial brand transaction, create another. Heck, create two more. And test them. The thing about social dynamics is that they rely 100% on authenticity; this kind of messaging can (and will) take hold, but only if it’s done in such a way that creates legitimate social experience/capital.

So next time you sit down to develop your next big brand campaign, or, god forbid, you’re asked to create something a little more “socially conscious” to grab hold of that organic, viral traffic, don’t panic. Remember that you don’t have to clean up an oil spill just to be socially valuable to your customers. With research, thought, and testing, you’ll have a campaign that brings you into your customer’s lives like you’ve never been before.

Do you have any tips on social marketing?