Is Corporate Social Responsibility the New Advertising?
Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of social issues, and they’re making purchasing decisions based on a company’s philanthrophic activities. While corporate social responsibility has long been ignored, our collective social conscious, heightened by the tumultuous times in which we live, has caused brands to take notice.
Social advertising focuses on raising awareness and promoting social issues rather than on the practical or rational aspects of products. Social ads have a way of pulling at our heartstrings and lingering with us long after we’ve viewed them. They also inspire us to act, to do something about the social or environmental issues raised in the ads. Done properly, the ads have no resemblance to advertising.
American Greetings’ new Thanklist campaign is a great example of emotional appeal done well. The company behind the World’s Toughest Job campaign has developed five vignettes about an individual’s Thanklist, an initiative that challenges people to create a list of individuals they want to thank for helping shape their lives. The YouTube videos, created by two-time Oscar winner and documentary film maker, Barbara Kopple, are emotional and thought provoking.
American Greetings’ Thanklist is only one in a series of social ads that are fast becoming the norm. Brands are increasingly shying away from the traditional “buy our product” commercials and are crafting messages that are relevant to the lives of their consumers. Dove’s Real Beauty campaign has struck a cord with millions of consumers with its consistent messaging depicting female beauty in all its limitless incarnations, in all shapes, colors, ages, and sizes.
Subaru’s Love campaign makes use of short family vignettes to humanize the brand, while subtly promoting the car’s distinguishing attributes. The Always brand, a Proctor and Gamble Product, wants to change the negative connotations attached to the phrase “Like a girl.” Apple’s iPad Air campaign plays on our human need for self actualization and ambition, to leave this world a better place than when we entered it.
While the above examples were successful in resonating with its consumers, brands must note that in order for this kind of campaign to work, it must be relevant to their audience and must be consistent with who they are as a brand. Abercrombie & Fitch would have a difficult time selling a campaign centered on self-love, because it would be construed as hypocritical. It’s also important that brands don’t get so caught in the social message that they turn off consumers, like Nationwide did with its disastrous Super Bowl ad in early 2015. After all, main purpose of the ad is to engage consumers and subtly sell the product or service.
What are your thoughts on social issues in ads? Is this the new advertising? Sound off in the comments section, or tweet me @mo_yeen.