Is it enough to survive? Survival is okay. I mean, you get to breathe, right? Breathing is pretty good. Survival is SEO optimization and fishing for minnows. Survival is a Very Good tagline for a company or brand. People will say “What a nice tagline you have.” Survival is a chicken that does whatever you ask it to. Survival is chasing the next idea. Survival is something we have been running from since the first cave person thought that they didn’t want to do a job a rock could. Because we are human. Meaning is what separates us from the confines of our biology. Meaning is passion. Meaning ignites. Meaning is what overthrew nations and started picket lines and got us all fired up about something. We want to matter. We seek something to believe in. We want to be remembered. We want to have purpose. We live it. We breathe it. Now, more than ever. Advertising is for today, for survival. Movements are for believing in, for the future.
Why are movements for the future?
We’re living in the age of movements — you just have to pick up the newspaper to know that. In the age of movements, People hate advertising, don’t be advertising. Depending on what day it is, you’re apt to find front-page stories of folks taking to the streets standing for or against something, you name it. Every day there seems to be a new manifestation in the U.S throughout the winter, which is likely to grow stronger as the weather warms and politics continue to heat up.
A movement is like The Force in Star Wars, which can be used for good or for evil. Make no mistake it can be all powerful and move people in a fragmenting media environment.
Something significant has changed in our global culture over the past couple of years. Blame it on automation, technology, global economic pressures, general restlessness, or the new hyper-connectivity that enables people to instantly organize around causes and hot-topics. It’s probably some combination of all of these factors, but the net result is that we have populism, power with the people and movements.
Business leaders, are now dealing with a populace that is more socially engaged, more aware of what’s going on in the world, and hungrier and angrier to get involved and be heard on various issues.
Small wonder that the Uprising Podcast, centered on the rabble-rousers behind social as well as marketing and brand movements is gaining listeners. 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 movements makes for a lively Facebook feed, but has nothing to do with my company or brand.” But the new social unrest is everybody’s business, including yours and mine.
We know about the mini-uprisings in recent months against brands like United Airlines and the Wells Fargo. And we might say, “Well, they made bad decisions.” But in part, their mistake was not to realize that the world had changed around them. In this new world, their “customers” could easily become activists — either for or against them.
So how does a smart business respond in a time of heightened passions and greater activism? Rather than becoming more cautious or putting one’s head in the sand in hopes of avoiding any kind of backlash, I believe brands must connect with that passion and activism somehow. If you fail to respond to this shift in the culture, you run the risk of being out of step with your customers. Your company could end up looking like a “status quo” brand in a revolutionary world.
Better to join in the march at least in terms of understanding what your people care about and align with this by taking a stand with them. If movements are happening all around, then it’s safe to say that this is the new culture, the entertainment, the new happening that people – both young and old – are a part of. In the old days, brands aligned with TV shows to gain the audience, now the audience is standing up for what they care about and a lot of their passion and energy is directed to fighting for and against these ideas.
And as a result, your brand or business needs to somehow become involved in movements — or better yet, ignite one of your own.
If you ever wanted to change the world, well, now’s your chance. A brand movement needn’t be political. For our client Pampers, we helped launch a movement to inspire the joy of parenting. For other clients, we’ve launched movements that tried to bring about change in schools, more responsible consumption, imagination and free play for a children’s toy brand, the rescuing of shelter pets for a Dog food company with the motto ‘Long Live Pets’, and for Emirates Airline we launched ‘Hello Tomorrow’ a movement to make the world smaller in order to overcome misunderstandings and misconceptions.
And as I worked on my book about movement marketing, I encountered hundreds of brand movements, everything from a pet food company that launched an animal welfare initiative to a shoemaker that began a worldwide movement to put shoes on poor kids’ feet. In each case, a company rallied people around an idea that mattered, an idea on the rise in culture, enabling customers to become activists. In the process, the company demonstrated that it was engaged in people’s lives and cared about something more than just profits. On a recent trip to Tokyo, I saw a long line outside the urban cult brand Bape and an equally long line outside Tom’s Shoes. Caring is cool.
A movement is a brand’s best friend. This isn’t just a new spin on old CSR programs. It’s not about giving to a laundry list of charities. To crystallize and spark a brand movement, you must do more than make donations. The company must become make a stand on behalf of something it believes in — something that also matters deeply to its customers. Movements start on the inside. My movement-making firm has helped hundreds of brands and organizations across the world define a Cultural Movement strategy, which activates a brand purpose inside and outside the company.
As companies do this, there are lessons to be learned from social and political movements we’re reading about in the papers. Here are six worth keeping in mind:
1. Listen to what your people are crying out for. Believe in something bigger than your brand. With many social movements, leaders failed to pay attention to the restless rumblings that were out there. Don’t make that mistake with consumers. Insterad of spending all your time on your brand embrace empathy. Start by understanding what your consumers are passionate about, what they’re talking to each other about. If you listen closely, you may detect the rumble of an idea on the rise–and it might be one you can build a movement around.
2. Crystalize a big idea. If you want to help the world change the world, start by defining the change you want to make. This will include the behavior you want your consumers to have in relationship to your brand, and/or the social or cultural change you want to drive. This change should be relevant to your business challenge.
3. Build a community. Once you’ve decided to get behind an idea on the rise in culture or initiative, make a bold statement and create the platforms for your people to form and participate in your movement on your terms. Create platforms, tools, ideas that enable them to engage, grow and share.
4. Align with Gen z/millennial culture. The biggest hotel chain in the world is AirBNB, (software), the largest taxi company is Uber, an app; Podcasts are changing radio; and as the traditional retail world fails to new top line revenue, Amazon keeps on trucking (Amazon Prime is BTW another great movement underway). The world is changing rapidly and those driving the societal change, new habits and behaviors are Gen Z and Millenials. Of course all age groups propel movements – many say the Trump election was successful because older voters engaged vs younger voters compared to recent elections. I am not advocating forgetting baby boomers; rather the tendency for change is embraced primarily by the younger generation – as it’s always been throughout history. And by the way, even old people want to feel youthful.
5. Be emotional. Without passion there’s no purpose. Your idea has the potential to catch a wave of human energy and explode across boundaries and borders, gaining momentum along the way. Be emotive; stir people’s souls, breakthrough the wall of indifference. Don’t underestimate the power of your force.
6. Be your story. Humans throughout history are captured and compelled by story telling. Find a way to tell your story. If you can’t preach it from the pulpit, then make an anthem film, create a soul-stirring event, proclaim your manifesto digitally…however you think it best, out your story out there. This content can help spread your idea beyond your wildest dreams.
Scott Goodson is the author of the best selling book Uprising: How to Build Your Brand and Change the World by Sparking Cultural Movements, and founder and chairman of StrawberryFrog, the global cultural movement firm.