Brands are powerful influencers in today’s rapidly evolving world. Consumers consistently want to know how their favorite brands leverage their influence for the greater good.
Whether addressing racial injustices, championing human rights, or advocating for environmental stewardship, businesses are expected to positively impact society's long-term interests.
This influence presents both an exciting opportunity and a daunting challenge for businesses to be a part of societal well-being. One wrong move, or lack thereof, can lead to lasting repercussions and social backlash.
Despite this pressure, a societal marketing concept helps foster a positive brand image that aligns with consumer’s core values. Through societal marketing, businesses can strategically establish their positive impact on society, broaden their customer base, and ultimately enhance sales.
Societal marketing is a marketing concept that considers sustainable development, social responsibility, and ethical and environmental values. A societal marketing concept fulfills the desires and needs of a business’s target audience while also addressing social issues, taking environmental responsibility, and contributing to society's well-being.
This approach favors holistic marketing practices while looking at long-term impact and how to adapt to societal changes. Businesses with a societal marketing concept understand that their brand is only as powerful as their contribution to society.
While traditional marketing centers around increased sales, societal marketing holds ethical business practices as core principles and encourages two-way communication between themselves and their consumers.
Benefits for businesses
Societal marketing leads to multiple benefits for businesses. Consumers are increasingly aware of social and environmental issues and will align themselves with companies prioritizing societal well-being. Businesses can enhance their reputation, build customer trust, and create a positive impact by upholding a sustainable approach and implementing a solid social media marketing plan.
Enhanced brand image and reputation
When businesses utilize a societal marketing concept, they adapt corporate social responsibilities and ethical practices. As a company actively engages in initiatives that benefit society, it enhances its brand image and builds a strong reputation. Consumers are increasingly conscious of businesses’ ethical and social behaviors and will align themselves with companies with the same values.
Patagonia has embraced environmental sustainability as an outdoor adventure clothing and gear company. Their “Worn Wear” initiative encourages their target market to buy used Patagonia products instead of purchasing new ones. This societal marketing concept holds the company as environmentally conscious and socially responsible.
Increased customer loyalty and trust
A societal marketing concept builds trust and increases customer loyalty by demonstrating a broader commitment to addressing social welfare. Consumers are more likely to trust a brand that is genuinely interested in positively impacting society. As trust builds, customers continue to return and advocate for the business throughout their communities.
The human trait of believing in something bigger than oneself is prevalent in societal marketing. Customers will advocate for brands that share their core values. They will stick by businesses they see tackling social and environmental issues since it resonates with the innate human concept of doing good.
Positive impact on the bottom line
In a societal marketing concept, increased sales is not the primary goal. Yet, a social marketing concept can positively impact the bottom line in multiple ways. When businesses align themselves with society’s long-term interests, they attract a wider group of customers who believe in corporate social responsibility.
Furthermore, this expanded consumer group normally pays more money to a socially responsible company. Businesses also mitigate the risk of backlash or negative publicity by prioritizing societal concerns and protecting their brand name.
Incorporating societal marketing strategies into businesses’ branding helps strengthen the company’s identity while fostering a positive relationship with consumers and contributing to societal well-being. Throughout these societal marketing strategies, authenticity is key.
A strong social media marketing strategy is more powerful when combined with a company’s genuine commitment to contribute to positive societal change. Examples of societal marketing include campaigns from Ben & Jerry's, Dove Beauty, and The LEGO Company.
Align brand values with societal issues
Businesses can incorporate a societal marketing concept by identifying their core values and the social issues that align with them. This ensures the brand’s consistent and truthful alignment throughout its social marketing campaigns.
For example, Ben & Jerry’s has continuously aligned themselves with social, economic, and racial justice. They partner with human rights organizations, food suppliers that are environmentally conscious, and Fairtrade International to support local farmers across the globe. Ben & Jerry’s incorporates these values into their brand messaging, packaging, and product offerings.
Develop socially responsible campaigns
Another way for businesses to incorporate a societal marketing concept is to develop marketing campaigns that promote products, raise awareness, and contribute to human welfare and the broader society. These campaigns should demonstrate a genuine interest and action in establishing change to the societal status quo.
Another example of a societal marketing concept is Dove Beauty’s "Real Beauty" Campaign. By showcasing women with curves, diverse body shapes, and skin colors, Dove contributes to a more inclusive type of beauty and challenges the conventional forms that are common in today’s society.
The beauty and cosmetic company fully embraced the campaign by encouraging larger conversations about beauty standards, body image, and self-esteem.
Collaborate with community initiatives
Businesses can incorporate a societal marketing concept into their branding strategies by engaging with local communities. Partnerships and collaborations can help spotlight community needs and positively impact society.
The LEGO Group has made strides to establish itself as a socially responsible company and joined forces with UNICEF to support local communities and family support programs. At the forefront of this community initiative is incorporating play into children’s daily lives.
While societal marketing helps businesses establish their positive impact on society, potential obstacles exist, such as resistance to change and fear of losing money.
To address these concerns, businesses should evaluate the long-term benefits. Many societal marketing initiatives, such as sustainable development and energy measures, lead to cost savings over time.
Highlighting these potential advantages, educating employees and stakeholders, and creating a socially responsible work culture can help overcome initial resistance.
Another challenge of a societal marketing concept is consumer skepticism. Businesses must be careful not to greenwash themselves, which occurs when companies make false claims or exaggerate their support of social and environmental causes.
While teaming up with a non-profit organization through cause marketing can help boost corporate social responsibility, it may not be enough. Businesses should consistently provide transparent communication about the specific actions they are taking and their results.
Businesses are not immune from controversies even when initiating a societal marketing concept. Comprehensive crisis management plans that include stakeholder engagement, rapid communicative response, and specific feedback adjustments help businesses prepare and navigate potential controversies.
Consider Nike’s “For Once, Don’t Do It” campaign in 2020 after facing criticism for not sufficiently addressing racial injustice. The shoe company swiftly responded through the launch of this campaign that reconstructed its famous slogan. This message and a one-minute video enabled Nike to quickly address the controversy and establish the brand’s strong stance on the issue.
Key performance indicators (KPIs) help businesses measure the impact of their societal and social media marketing campaigns. Monitoring social media metrics, such as the number of likes, shares, comments, and overall engagement across different channels, is a great KPI to gauge the success of social media marketing.
Businesses can also measure impact through brand sentiment analysis, employee surveys, and customer retention metrics. A key part of societal marketing is working directly with local communities and providing tangible impact, enabling businesses to measure their societal improvements.
Further ways to evaluate the success of branding include perception surveys, customer feedback, and financial performance. Businesses can also compare their marketing efforts with competitors to understand how the brand stacks up regarding social impact and alignment with societal values.
Consider again the “For Once, Don’t Do It” campaign, which ultimately helped Nike boost their sales—according to a report by Ace Metric, 60% of respondents perceived their message as empowering.
However, social media presented backlash, with users highlighting the lack of diversity on Nike’s leadership team and the poor working conditions in their factories overseas. (Nike’s “For Once, Don’t Do It” Rallies Strong Support, But Not Without Controversy, 2020)
Tips for sustainable societal marketing
Societal marketing should be incorporated into the overall marketing strategy and not be treated as a standalone initiative. Businesses can ensure authenticity and a dedicated commitment to societal well-being by establishing clear goals aligned with core values. Continual engagement with customers also helps companies stay relevant to evolving trends and emerging societal issues.
Mailchimp is a valuable partner in helping businesses establish a concrete societal marketing concept. By leveraging social marketing tools, companies can create and send out newsletters or email campaigns highlighting community involvement, collaborative initiatives, and social responsibility efforts. Mailchimp’s segmentation features and analytics dashboard enable businesses to tailor messages to specific audiences based on their social interests and monitor campaigns.
Societal marketing is a sustainable approach for businesses to leverage their impact, engage with stakeholders, and expand their market reach. With evolving societal trends, it is important for companies to consistently evaluate and adapt their marketing strategy and maintain a long-term commitment to positive social change. This ultimately enables businesses to stay relevant, responsive, and trusted by their customers.