We have been working in the nexus of marketing and social impact before it was a thing. It was in the late 1990s when everyone stayed in their corner. If you wanted to make money, start a company. If you wanted to do good, start a non-profit.
Watching the two worlds collide these past 20-ish years has been illuminating. Marketers have flown a bit too close to the sun at times trying to use social causes for their gain — and Pepsi is only the latest example. Nonetheless, those of us in the social impact space shouldn't snicker too much from the high-handed, cheap seats. There is a lot we can learn from marketers.
The main thing to learn is the hardest thing to accept. When trying to communicate to people, its not about you as much as it is about them. Marketers know this. They are working very hard to make you feel something, and then attribute that feeling to their product. Whether its advertising, experiential, digital, social — they are looking to elevate you knowing full well that they will get the credit.
The social impact world feels the world differently. There is so much to fix out there, and we need to tell everyone whats wrong. That is important, no doubt, but it starts to add to the pile of things of what is wrong with the world. What is in it for me? Who is helping the helpers?
We believe that this approach to social impact engagement is key. The impact has to be real, but the social has to be there too. We have been creating experiences that give as much to the people doing and the brands funding them as it does to those receiving the good work. It is why they have always worked.