Why authenticity is the key to marketing your social impact brand

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2019 is here and the podcast airwaves are abuzz with discussions about purpose-led business and social enterprise. Those organisations that have been embedding social and environmental initiatives all along are coming to the fore as leaders in business, while brands who don’t have a purpose beyond profit are quickly falling out of favour.

Purpose is on trend and I believe that’s exciting news for business. However, it also means that brands across the globe are looking to take advantage of the opportunity to market their social and environmental impact - often with a large sprinkling of greenwashing.

Today’s consumers are being targeted left, right, and centre with campaigns that focus on the ‘for-good’ aspects of brands. You only have to look at the shelves of your local supermarket to become overwhelmed by the sheer number of products claiming to be good for you and good for the planet. Some of these brands have simply jumped on the bandwagon, but there are many who are genuinely doing ethical business. The way to tell them apart is by digging a little deeper.

Truly for-good brands look good on the inside too

Truly socially and environmentally conscious brands are built on a solid foundation. They don’t just look good from the outside, they’ve embedded their overarching purpose and their values across the business. I believe this ‘embedding of good’ creates a distinct marketing and communications advantage, even against the big players with the big budgets. This advantage is authenticity.

It’s not easy to pull the wool over the eyes of savvy consumers. A quick internet search will quickly uncover the true heart behind a brand, and this is where your genuine social enterprise or eco-business has the chance to stand out. You can provide the depth of information that the ‘greenwashers’ can’t and this can make all the difference when it comes to influencing the decisions of potential buyers or supporters.

I like to think we’re entering an era of authentic marketing. What does this look like? It's marketing that is driven by vision, mission and values, and that uses real storytelling to build credible relationships.

Moving towards authentic, values driven marketing

Marketing yourself authentically begins with communicating your vision, mission and values. To build an engaged community of advocates for your brand or cause, your team and stakeholders need to know what you stand for and what you’re trying to achieve. No matter how ‘good’ your business is on the inside and no matter how much you live and breathe your purpose, without articulating this in a way that your audiences can understand, you will struggle to attract support.

Your vision, mission and values are the backbone of your brand and for this reason, it’s crucial to define them and use them as the basis for how you talk about your business. These statements communicate the big picture you’re working towards and what matters most to you as an organisation. They are how people understand ‘who you are’ and whether your brand aligns with their worldview.

Using storytelling to build trust

As a for-good brand you also need to demonstrate how your business practices align with your vision, mission and values. Truly authentic socially and environmentally focused companies can provide evidence of how they do business and the positive impact it creates. Telling real stories that give an insight into the inner workings of your business will help you to build trust and stand out to consumers and potential supporters.

You could:

  • Share where and how your products are made

  • Tell the stories of the people who make them

  • Profile the projects you’re working on in your community

  • Ask the people you support to share how you’ve made a difference for them

  • Profile your suppliers and highlight why you chose them

  • Ask your team members to share why they come to work everyday

  • Use statistical evidence to demonstrate the impact you’re creating

  • Go live on social media for a snapshot of what the average day looks like at your brand

  • And so much more!

In short, if you’re saying it, you should be able to back it up with a real example and this is what will separate your authentic brand from those who are simply trying to look like they’re ‘for-good.’

Embrace authenticity now

Global evidence points to the fact that ethical consumerism is here to stay and positioning your brand authentically now will give you an advantage in this new impact-focused world of business. Those that aren’t walking the talk are taking a huge reputational risk. The time for truly sustainable and beneficial business is here, and I believe a revolution of truly authentic marketing will follow.