A Hard Call for a Softer Side to Advertising

Social sustainability can be a key differentiator and motivator in our sharing economy. In consumer markets, TOMS built its message upon redefining “Buy One-Get One” as “Buy One-Give One” – and 35 million children around the world (and counting) – and by giving its customers a mission.

Build an emotional connection to your brand.

Change the world, one pair of shoes at a time.

Every individual has an opportunity through education.

We are not data, we are human beings.

One primary take-away from &Then 2015, a DMA event, last week in Boston is that effective advertising today is most certainly about strategy, creativity and results – all over this year’s International ECHO Awards. But let’s add another key ingredient: Social sustainability can be a key differentiator and motivator in our sharing economy.

I’m not talking about some modicum of a social responsibility tie-in … “Buy our product and we’ll plant a tree.”

But rather that, in an economy filled with attention deficit, good advertising, effective advertising, must make us pause and consider. The table stakes for engagement happen when we trust and connect to emotions in ourselves.

In consumer markets, TOMS built its message upon redefining “Buy One-Get One” as “Buy One-Give One” – and 35 million children around the world (and counting) – and by giving its customers a mission. While TOMS has moved its social responsibility mission beyond shoes to eyewear, water and other projects, I choose TOMS precisely because of its giving back along with its very comfortable shoes.

Singer John Legend has his handlers, most certainly, but when you heard his call to action for education reform, justice reform and minority business leadership – therein lays substance and authenticity behind his own storytelling in music. He may not sing about those subjects, but his celebrity is leveraged strictly for those causes that motivate him to act, that have defined his life, in how he was raised and how he sees the world as it is and what it can be through positive change.

Even look at this year’s winning crop of ECHOs. Many campaigns used emotion to tell compelling stories — with breath-taking results. Skoda’s Guardians of Winter, Uniforms for the Dedicated’s Rag Bag, Huggies and Volkswagen’s Eyes on the Road are just a few examples of campaigns that took individuals on an emotional journey of one sort or another – and made you think twice. You literally spend a moment walking life in someone else’s shoes, and realize it could be your own.

Suffice to say, these motivators are hardly new to advertising, it’s just great to see them in employed in data-driven campaigns and breaking through cacophony. What is new is that, as brands seek to connect with target audiences, truly making the world a better place to be is more meaningful today than ever.

Author: Chet Dalzell

Marketing Sustainably: A blog posting questions, opportunities, concerns and observations on sustainability in marketing. Chet Dalzell has 25 years of public relations management and expertise in service to leading brands in consumer, donor, patient and business-to-business markets, and in the field of integrated marketing. He serves on the ANA International ECHO Awards Board of Governors, as an adviser to the Direct Marketing Club of New York, and is senior director, communications and industry relations, with the Digital Advertising Alliance. Chet loves UConn Basketball (men's and women's) and Nebraska Football (that's just men, at this point), too! 

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