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The Shorty Guide to Social Good: A Shorty Awards Interview

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This is a Shorty Awards interview with Charles Best of DonorsChoose.org, Jessica Lauretti of HuffPost RYOT, Hannah Kreiswirth of Area 17 and Shivika Sinha from Alex and Ani.

Brands and organizations have dramatically increased their engagement in social good efforts over the past few years. Whether through internal Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, consumer facing campaigns or non-profit partnerships, companies are turning their focus towards how to give back in the most impactful way.

Here at the Shorty Awards, where we recognize the best of social media, we’ve witnessed this trend first-hand via continued growth in social good entries making it the most popular category in the 2016 Shorty Awards. Entrants included The American Red Cross, LEGO, Doctors Without Borders, YouTube, The Ad Council, The Climate Reality Project, UN Women’s HeForShe, JetBlue, Razorfish, National Geographic, Mars, 360i, Citi and Havas.

Inspired by that trend we’ve launched the Shorty Social Good Awards, to honor these social good initiatives that brands, agencies & non-profits are taking on to make our world a better place. With entries open now through August 31, we caught up with a few of the Real Time Academy members responsible for judging the competition to provide some insight on marketing in this new socially responsible landscape.

Shorty Awards: Why do you think CSR and cause-marketing has become so popular recently?

Jessica Lauretti, Head of Editorial Development, HuffPost RYOT
“CSR and cause-marketing have become popular recently for a few reasons. The first is that there is a new era of brand transparency with the tech and social media revolutions and consumers more than ever expect brands to be socially conscious and drivers of social change. And with the rise of content marketing, brands need to be publishers and influencers as well as being a brand…

Additionally, I think you are seeing marketers focus on the millennial generation who have shown a sharp shift away from the previous generations brand of consumerism and exhibit a focus on a ‘purpose-driven’ life and experiential lifestyle over possessions. I think more and more we will see that people don’t buy things over here in one silo and act on their values over there in another. The future is about the integration and intersection of values based services and consumerism.”

Charles Best, Founder, DonorsChoose.org
“Many of today’s consumers view the brands and products they buy as a reflection of their values. There are so many options today, whether you’re buying shampoo, or a car, or a new pair of shoes, and cause marketing gives brands a chance to connect with their customers on a much more personal level. At the same time, the bar for effective cause marketing is rising. Consumers don’t only want to see a big donation; they want to see impact and how the needle’s moving.”

Shivika Sinha, Director of Digital Marketing, Alex and Ani
“CSR and cause-marketing have become popular due to the economic rise of millennials, social media and urgent debates about humanitarian crises. In a BCG U.S. Consumer Report, millennials reported themselves as uniquely environmentally and socially conscious. In a global Nielson survey, 73% of millennial respondents said they are willing to pay more for sustainable goods. As digitally savvy consumers, they have unparalleled access to information about humanity’s greatest issues. This, coupled hotly debated social, economic and environmental issues in our political landscape, has made social and eco-consciousness important to their generation. However, while millennials over-index in their willingness to pay more for brands that are social and eco-conscious, they’re not alone. Nielson reports that in 2015, sales of consumer goods from brands with a commitment to sustainability grew over 4% while those without such a commitment grew less than 1%. Debates around climate change, immigration, human rights and racial equality are at the forefront of media and technology, allowing consumers to engage. Organic textiles and ingredients, recyclable packing, demand for transparent supply chains and other indicators of conscious consumerism are increasing. As a result, a desire and willingness to use purchasing power to make an impact continues to rise.”

Shorty Awards: How does one market to the conscious consumer?

Hannah Kreiswirth, Global Managing Director, AREA 17
“Consumers and, moreover, users of the internet today aren’t looking for a flashy ad campaign or something (solely) to entertain them. Rather, they are seeking a curated and more personal experience. They are looking for something that feels connected to them by connecting to what they care about, consciously or unconsciously…By thinking only of the conscious consumer as those more self-aware or overtly so would be missing the largest market of conscious consumers: the average consumer. These consumers want the same high quality products and entertaining campaigns, but now expect them to come with a backbone. They want to buy from companies that speak to them like people and transparently share what drives not only their marketing, but their business or initiatives. In short: they want the Teslas, the Patagonias, the Everlanes, the Nikes and the Toms; they want the companies that invent and reinvent themselves for today’s world and understand that infusing social good into their business is not only a responsibility, but need be implicit in running a successful business, campaign or product in 2016 and beyond. And, they’re going to start holding brands accountable to it by way of their purchasing. With the power of social media behind them, consumers now not only are more aware, but they have much more of a choice, and they’ll choose the brands that match with their expectations and lifestyles: high end, high performance, and with heads held high.”

Jessica Lauretti, Head of Editorial Development, HuffPost RYOT
“I think the most important tactics to employ are ones that exhibit authenticity, impact and experience. Marketers need to think less about traditional ad buys and more about experiences and projects that self generate user content. Campaigns that promote grass roots participation and placing everyday people at the core of the narrative and experience. Also, it’s important to include some kind of proof of concept that what they are doing is actually yielding tangible results.”

Shorty Awards: How can you tell when a brand is being authentic about a social good initiative as opposed to just doing it to look good?

Charles Best, Founder, DonorsChoose.org
“Look for brands that have done their homework, and are connecting with the beneficiaries they aim to support. The most successful companies will tell you why they’re supporting a cause, how it aligns with their brand, and what progress they’ve made. Effective CSR campaigns need to be forward looking with an eye toward the big picture.”

Shivika Sinha, Director of Digital Marketing, Alex and Ani
“It’s important to differentiate brands that are jumping on the social good bandwagon from those who are committed to using their business as a force for good. The brands who care about their social and environmental impact are those that mitigate it within their business systems and culture. Ethical and sustainable supply chains are key indicators of brands that strive for social impact. From organic ingredients to the use of recycled or upcycled materials, conscious brands are aware of their environmental footprint. They’ll ensure their manufacturing and transportation practices include best practices in mitigating pollution. Finally, they aim for fair and living wages paid to those who work on the finished product. Companies who care about their impact will also ensure they build a mindful culture. They’ll encourage their employees to volunteer or donate to important causes. Finally, truly socially conscious brands will put their own money where their values are by giving a portion of their profits back to a cause. Social good initiatives are authentic when they come from organizations, people and ideas that permeate social and eco-conscious values.”

Shorty Awards: What makes a campaign successful? What, if any, pitfalls should be avoided?

Hannah Kreiswirth, Global Managing Director, AREA 17
“The one thing I would suggest avoiding is slapping your brand all over it. Logo-driven marketing is a way of the past— it’s important to move away from sponsorship and towards engagement. If you engage people in your campaign, your brand will find its way to the forefront, but authentically, and through your consumers. Not only does overt branding focus on your commitment to yourself over the social lens, it also shows a lack of confidence or understanding of the importance and power of working within the social good space. It’s important to espouse your brand with the message and impact goals and to not overtake the campaign with your brand. Instead, build a campaign that puts the social issue at the forefront, implicitly ‘branding’ you. Plus, branding it so much more than a logo or colors, it’s your brand promise, and your social practices should be core to that, not just your marketing.”

Shorty Awards: What qualities will you be looking for in entries (for the Social Good Awards)?

Jessica Lauretti, Head of Editorial Development, HuffPost RYOT
“I’ll be looking for excellence in creativity and execution, innovative use of social media as a platform, and how well the work is integrated to the mission of the brand.”

Charles Best, Founder, DonorsChoose.org
“I’m excited to highlight organizations that work toward their goals with great focus. The best nonprofits have a ruthless commitment to their mission, and the best brand partners help nonprofits achieve that mission without straying from the course. When these partnerships form, the impact is real and the stories write themselves.”

Shivika Sinha, Director of Digital Marketing, Alex and Ani
“There are several factors that make a winning entry including: insight, empathy, authenticity, differentiation, creative and innovation. Powerful marketing begins with a consumer insight. It taps into a something unique within the reality of an individual or community. It uses this knowledge to connect with its audience and leverages empathy as a key tool in accomplishing its goal. Without empathy, the insight doesn’t mobilize its audience. Authenticity is also critical to success. I’m also looking for ideas that are clearly unique and differentiated. It needs to stand out among the crowd. Also, the expression of the idea via powerful creative execution is paramount. Finally, good marketing taps into technology in a refreshing way. An innovative use of technology or social media are important in a successful entry.”

Hannah Kreiswirth, Global Managing Director, AREA 17
“In entries I will be looking for fresh, authentic and relevant ideas. I’m looking for campaigns, programs and products that understand the world they live within and have designed something to truly make me feel that resonance and opportunity. I don’t mean that I want to cry when I happen on it, but rather that I want to feel the connection to humanity. Other than your interest in the bottom line (which is OK too), I want to know what and who drove the project — whether that’s stories of transformation, an innovative business model, or an unlikely and complementary partnership — put that at the forefront; focus us on the why, and let your impact show the how.”

Shorty Social Good Awards are now open for entries with the regular deadline approaching on Wednesday, August 31. Click here to learn more and enter your company’s latest social good initiatives.




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