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Daniel Stanley – Cohere Partners

Welcome back to part 2 of this brilliant blog series by Hubber, Daniel Stanley, where he shares new ways of thinking and approaching marketing when building a social impact brand. (If you haven’t read part one yet, you can do so here.)

 

Let your core support build your brand for you

We hear it again and again in this age of social media: word of mouth is the most effective form of promotion you can have. You’d do well to find a brand that isn’t chasing the perfect combination of seemingly organic ‘buzz’ whilst maintaining their specific messaging, be it sponsoring ‘influencers’, ‘viral’ videos (often with massive advertising budgets), or other dubious means.

The reality however, is that these approaches, as well as unconvincing ‘native’ advertising, are really just attempts to create the appearance of organic, natural interest – but all of that attention has been bought.

The result is deeply inauthentic and ‘fake’ – in this age of hyper-vigilant, modern audiences.

Of course a handful of companies do exist that, knowing the potential benefit, have cultivated organic audience growth and enthusiasm by using genuinely authentic approaches and making the most of the resources and capabilities of a business. To achieve this requires a fundamentally different way of thinking.

 

GiffGaff is a unique mobile phone company.

Unprecedented power has been given to its most passionate supporters. Customer deals, technical priorities and even pricing are largely controlled by the customers of the company, who can discuss and vote on different proposals using an online forum. This exclusive amount of control and influence has caused GiffGaff to grow a passionate and committed fan-base, allowing them to compete in a crowded and intensely competitive market against rivals with much bigger budgets.

 

Now imagine such an approach but supercharged by the audience and business sharing a social mission. The mobilising power of a social movement, twinned with the personal benefit of a quality brand.

To achieve this is possible. First, we must ensure that values are properly understood and the language used to articulate them is carefully formulated, followed by the provision of real, practical opportunities for involvement that strengthen the desired relationship.

Understandably, this can be a real challenge for businesses. Essentially, letting go of their control and power and inviting your customers into a completely co-creative relationship, as opposed to positioning them as recipients of your distribution. Moreover, the direction and decisions of your business will also be subject to their influence.

This depth of involvement in your activities and operations will not be of interest to every customer. But if your professed cause is to change the world – and you have the impact to back up such claims – there will be a sizeable number of people out there who care passionately about the same cause. You’ll find these people are willing to commit their time, energy (and even expertise) to help drive this, if asked in the right way.

 

What a massive opportunity this presents to social purpose brands.

Many social purpose brands have done quite well so far using conventional methods. But I believe they are inherently selling themselves short by sticking to these techniques.

The unique characteristics they possess increase their potential to succeed if they take advantage of them. The competitive advantage that they could gain over non-social brands, in turn persuading more companies that a core social mission makes business sense, could have a great impact on our collective future.

So how to do it? Well as a new way of operating, it’s anything but easy. And each business will have its differences that will have an impact on the best approach to take. But there are a few common points to start from.

 

An understanding of social values and how they work is a good place to begin.

In that context it’s then crucial to consider how you can best frame the language of what you are offering, to achieve the open and invitational aspect that can entice people to engage with it – and not to trigger any unhelpful associations. Speaking powerfully to values always needs proper preparation.

Finally, you need to create the substantive, practical ways in which your audience can help create and spread your brand. These don’t need to always be full technical platforms like GiffGaff’s forum – they can start from the relatively simple and straightforward, like holding a member event where people can review proposed new products before release, or a competition to design some element of a new campaign.

What’s crucial is at their heart they have a genuine commitment to letting customers have the power. The sooner you can prove to them that they have this influence, the sooner they will feel the drive to tell others about what you are doing.

And the sooner that you can see the impact of truly crowd-powered social business.

Haven’t read part one? Go read it here.