In a world full of capitalist enterprises and profit-driven big businesses, it’s refreshing to see more and more organisations joining the fight for social transformation. The next generation of business leaders are more committed than ever to creating positive social change through business initiatives and careful planning. But what is social impact?
In its simplest form, social impact is “making a difference.” From a business perspective, social impact is any positive change that is created for people and the planet, addressing a social issue or working to solve inequalities and injustices with a community. Achieving social impact is the result of a deliberate mission-driven approach to business that prioritises values and purpose to create a better world. Interested in joining the good fight? Let’s take a deep dive into all things social impact marketing.
What is social impact marketing?
Have you ever come across an organisation on social media that speaks out about important issues to help make a difference? Ever received a newsletter from a business sharing their steps towards sustainability? Then there’s a good chance these companies are committed to driving social impact and are demonstrating this through strategic marketing functions.
Social impact marketing is a strategy to creatively communicate an organisation’s commitment and role in driving positive social transformation. Whilst social impact marketing requires an element of vulnerability from organisations, having a value-driven approach to business has many long-term benefits.
How can social impact marketing help to tackle issues?
When organisations take a stand and utilise social impact marketing to take an active role in local and wider communities to promote positive change, they can help tackle some of the core social and cultural challenges. Purpose-led organisations can achieve this by:
Speaking out about current issues
By using their platform and voice as a force for good, businesses can use social media marketing as a way to speak out around current issues that are relevant to their sector and their organisational mission and goals.
Promote social or environmental causes
Sharing their commitment to social or environmental causes through carefully curated social impact marketing campaigns, can help businesses positively influence their users and encourage them to get on board with initiatives that do more good for people and the planet.
Positively affect behaviour through thought leadership
When audiences see their favourite brands taking a stance and promoting the need to drive positive social change, it can help to influence their behaviour and attitudes towards current social and cultural issues. Social impact marketing can act as a form of thought leadership, helping audiences to connect with your values and make a change for something that they’re passionate about.
Examples of social impact marketing
Social consciousness is on everyone’s mind. Here are some great examples of change-making social impact marketing campaigns that we’ve seen from some of the brands you know and love.
We’re starting strong with fan favourite sustainability experts, Patagonia. Whilst its core business function is an outdoor clothing retailer, Patagonia is known for its socially transformative marketing, promoting environmentalist and sustainable approaches to business. Over the years, Patagonia has worked to fulfil their corporate social responsibility and make a positive impact on the planet through various initiatives and collaborations with other corporations.
In particular, their ‘We’re All Screwed?’ campaign got us all thinking and delivered a creative and unique approach to social impact marketing. The campaign consisted of a reversible poem that when read from top to bottom warned audiences of the impending climate threat, but when read from the bottom up, the poem then offers readers a more positive outlook on the climate change issue (mind blowing). This carefully curated approach, not only showcases Patagonia’s values and what they care about through their marketing, but also provides encouragement for readers to join their fight and drive real impact.
Lush are a well renowned brand all throughout the world for their magnificently fragrant products, their shining customer service, but more importantly for their responsible approach to business and outspoken attitude towards social issues. Running a variety of campaigns, including support for LGBTQIA+ rights, Black Lives Matter and action against animal testing, Lush’s social media feeds are often dominated by their commitment to creating social change and solving real-world challenges.
In fact, their ‘What the Zuck’ campaign led to Lush signing out of their social media profiles in protest against the unsafe environment of social media and the online world. Before ceasing to post on their platforms, Lush released a series of posts from the campaign sharing thought provoking statistics and encouraging audiences to join them in their fight to promote tech for good and create safer online spaces.
Ben and Jerry’s
Global ice cream brand Ben and Jerry’s is an excellent example of marketing done right. Not only are they great at creating products with memorable names, but they are well known for their social and environmentally responsible mission. Ben and Jerry’s take a stand on controversial issues and are famous for their activism on progressive causes, including LGBTQ+ rights and the rights and dignity of refugees.
More recently, Ben and Jerry’s UK jumped on the viral ‘Ins and Outs for 2024’ trend, capitalising on the opportunity to share some of the stuff that they care about and their social impact mission. The Instagram post highlighted their commitment to supporting refugee rights with ‘Introducing safe routes for people seeking safety in the UK’ as one of their ‘ins’ and ‘harmful policies that don’t protect people seeking safety’ as one of their ‘outs.’ Here, we’ve seen a true masterclass as to how your organisation can increase your social impact, whilst staying true to your brand and staying on top of current trends.
Added value social impact
In our organisations, we all have the ability to create a positive impact on local and wider communities through the projects and initiatives that we deliver on a day-to-day basis. Added value social impact can help you do just that, whilst having great long-time benefits for the success of your organisation. A great example of social impact in this form is the growing community of B Corporations across the globe.
For an organisation to become B Corp certified, they must demonstrate their commitment and responsibility for meeting high standards of social and environmental impact across a core set of value-driven standards. Despite the rigorous assessment and challenging certification process, B Corporations are helping to reinvent capitalism and place empathy and impact at the heart of business. Aside from helping to change the world for the better, B Corp certification has many positive outcomes for your organisation, such as building trust and credibility with customers and attracting and retaining employees who share your value-driven approach.
If you’d like to know more about B Corp and if it’s the right fit for your business, take a look at our very own journey to becoming certified. (A huge milestone that we’ll never stop talking about).
Bringing social impact to your brand’s marketing
Now you know everything there is to know about social impact (you’re so welcome), here are 5 quick ways that you can start to add social impact into your marketing.
Research, research, research
In order to successfully incorporate social impact marketing into your organisation, it’s important to get to know your target audience. By working to understand the needs and values of your audiences and what they want from your organisation, you can authentically align your marketing mission with them.
Contributing valuable time and resources to developing clearly defined goals and intentions around your social impact and correctly communicating these to your target audiences are pivotal to your success in social transformation. They are also a result of strategic, insights-driven research, helping you to develop holistic and empathetic approaches to your business that do more good for people and the planet.
Shout about the things you care about
If you want to make a difference and help to tackle the big social and environmental challenges, then you need to speak up on the issues that matter to you most. But that doesn’t necessarily mean shouting about anything and everything. When you’re choosing to speak out about social issues, it needs to come from a place of authenticity that encapsulates your organisation’s mission and culture. Choose causes and issues that are important and relevant to your brand and that your audience can relate to.
When you’re choosing to use your platform as a force for good, it’s also important to consider and maintain respect for your stakeholders and share your mission with the intention to educate and not degrade (think purposeful punk).
Collect evidence and data to support your mission
In your mission to do more social good, you need to gain the support of your target audiences to join you on your journey to transformation. But to gain this support, you need to first establish a strong reputation and show your commitment to the causes that you support. Collecting evidence and data to support your claims can help to enhance your social impact marketing efforts and show how your day-to-day work relates to your organisation’s advocacy on a wider scale.
If you’re on your journey to B Corp certification or a seasoned social transformer, then you may demonstrate this through in-depth social impact reports. Alternatively, if you’re new to the game, you can still add social impact to your marketing and share your organisation’s commitment to making a positive difference, in a much more lo-fi way. Running a short and simple social media campaign to highlight some of your key achievements and how your organisation has promoted positive change is a great way to achieve this.
Transparency is key
With more and more organisations joining the social impact movement and the face of business changing for the better, customers are becoming more likely to support businesses that align with their mission and values. Due to this, there is a growing need for organisations to provide more honesty and transparency around social and environmental projects and causes.
If you want to add more social impact to your marketing, it’s important to practise transparency and be open and honest about the impact your organisation is having and communicate any challenges and limitations that you might be having in your journey to support social transformation.
By adding this element of vulnerability into your storytelling, you can set realistic marketing goals around the impact you’d like to achieve, elevate your marketing functions and also drive positive interest to your organisation and your cause by various stakeholders. Honesty is the best policy.
Utilise storytelling to share your vision
Utilising effective storytelling is pivotal to bringing added social impact into your day-to-day marketing functions. Through successful storytelling, you have the ability to evoke emotions, capture attention and inspire people to join your social causes. Infusing your social media platforms, newsletters and blog posts with impactful and carefully crafted messaging that is reflective of your socially transformative organisational values is key. It can demonstrate your commitment to making a positive difference and attracting socially conscious stakeholders and inspire people to take action for the stuff that you care about.
Social impact storytelling should go beyond simply churning out messages and should harness the power of starting important conversations, inviting your audiences to be a part of something bigger and inspiring action. Powerful and authentic storytelling allows you to do just that. Your story isn’t just another tool in the marketing toolbox, it’s the foundation of what aligns your organisation and your mission to do more good.
So, in short, an organisation’s social impact refers to the good things that they do to make a positive difference for people and the planet. Incorporating social impact into marketing allows organisations to authentically communicate their commitment and role in driving impact around social and environmental issues. Here are five quick ways to add social impact into your brand’s marketing:
- Research, research, research
- Shout about the things you care about
- Collect evidence and data that supports your mission
- Be transparent about your journey
- Utilise storytelling to share your cause
Resources we think you might find useful
If you’re ready to discover more about social impact marketing, take a look at some of these helpful resources:
This article from Harvard Business Review explores how marketing aligns with mission
Our very own 2023 B Corp Social Impact Report demonstrates the work we’ve done to drive positive social and environmental impact.
B Corp’s helpful guide around the positive effects that small businesses can have on people and the planet.
Ready to do something incredible?
If you’re ready to start changing the world through added social impact, but you’re not sure how to get there, we can help. Get in touch and we’ll connect you to our incredible network of partners, who can support you in your journey to do more good.
If you’re looking for more helpful resources and insights to help you become more purpose-driven then follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn. To be the first to hear about all things Matchstick Creative, sign up to our monthly newsletter.