“I’d love to change the world…but I don’t know what to do.”
Decades down the line, these lyrics written by British blues rock band Ten Years After still encapsulate the eager, beleaguered spirit of young people everywhere who want to make a difference but find themselves hamstrung by factors beyond their control. First comes the righteous determination: “I’d love to change the world.” Then comes the helplessness: “But I don’t know what to do.” When social media allows us to be absolutely aware of every single injustice taking place all over the world, it can seem like every time even one crisis is resolved, 30 more spring up to take its place. After a while, even the most ardent activists can feel a bit like weary plumbers.
But even though they were born into one of the most globally tumultuous eras in history, with a 24/7 media that never permits them to forget it, younger generations refuse to throw in the towel. In fact, Millennials and Gen Z may be on their way to becoming the most socially and politically active generations in history. Studies show that over 25% of 16 to 19 year olds already volunteer on a regular basis, while 87% of Millennials have donated to organizations that support a cause they are passionate about. Even if they don’t know how to change the world as a whole, these two generations are still extremely passionate about trying.
As video content marketers, your responsibility isn’t just to know your target audience as an abstract, but to actively engage with their wants, needs, and interests. If there is one thing that younger viewers actively despise, it’s inauthenticity. Remember, these are generation that have all but grown up knee-deep in “fake news” and Photoshop. They are naturally more wary about how deceiving appearances can be, which means that your brand or company will not be able to just con your way into their hearts with an uplifting Instagram post.
Instead, why not take the plunge and legitimately align yourself with a larger social cause?
Here are three fundamental steps to help your brand become a real part of a real movement.
1. Choose Your Cause
Authenticity is everything, which means that your most important step is going to be deciding on a movement or cause that genuinely speaks to the soul of your brand. There is a massive difference between just being charitable and actually becoming involved with a charity. If you want your brand to make a serious, lasting impression on Millennial and Gen Z audiences, then half-hearted vestigial donations or an afterthought like “checkout charity” are not going to cut it. You need total, dedicated alignment that can feed into original video marketing content.
To decide on what larger movement you want to associate with your brand, you may want to do a little soul searching. Make a list of all the values and core beliefs that you want your audience to most closely associate with your brand. The more specific you are, the more successful you’ll find. Every brand wants to be connected to ideals like “kindness” or “generosity” or “passion.” But that means you have more competition to make those ideals a unique part of your brand identity – plus, most of them are too vague to translate into principled action.
Dig deeper and find tangible connections that make sense. An incredible example of a brand that found their ideal movement is Dove, with campaigns like the Dove Self-Esteem Project. In response to years of criticism that their brand promoted unhealthy body images, Dove decided to make body positivity a cornerstone of their brand identity. Not only is that a highly-specific movement to attach themselves to, it also fits with their product. The message for young women is clear: “Use Dove and you support body positivity.”
What larger social movements might be a fit for your brand? If you are a restaurant chain or otherwise food-adjacent, think about taking a firm stand against child malnutrition. If you are some sort of travel-related company, maybe try encouraging ecotourism as an alternative to more popular destinations. There are endless options for specific, underrepresented movements that your brand can become a part of.
3. Create Your Content
From Warby Parker’s Buy-A-Pair, Give-A-Pair program (which works to help visual impairment around the world) to Cards Against Humanity Saves America (which protests the racist immigration policies of President Trump), brands across the country are using larger social movements to successfully promote their own products and services. These then act as the perfect springboard to create imaginative, highly-engaging video content aimed at Millennial and/or Gen Z audiences.
Below, take a look at how Always, a feminine hygiene brand, harnesses the issue of female representation for a stirring, powerful piece of video marketing content.
While forging a genuine connection to the movement of your choice is essential, your tone and attitude can vary in an array of ways. The Always commercial chose to approach their issue with a documentary-style, hyper-naturalistic perspective. They even interviewed children for an extra dose of naturalism. While Dove used a similar aesthetic, their video content was much more high concept. Watch below as a group of women use art to explore the gap between how they perceive themselves and how others do.
On the other hand, Cards Against Humanity went a totally comedic, over-the-top route that was a much better fit for their outrageous brand. As you watch their movement-adjacent video below, think about how a sincere, organic approach would have undermined their brand identity. Just because you are trying to be part of a larger social movement does not mean that you need to sacrifice whatever makes your brand unique.
So before you try to make video content connected to movement or cause, make double sure that your marketing campaign feels true to both the spirit of your brand and of the social issue that you are attempting to address. The Gen Z obsession with authenticity can cut both ways – they want you to be authentically involved with a movement, but also not throwing away your existing brand identity just to appease them.
3. Build Your Community
While movement marketing is still a relatively young field, certain unusual aspects of it have already become clear. This is not an approach to video content marketing that focuses on ROI, or selling individual limited-time offer products. In fact, the less you think about money when you work to connect your brand or company with a larger movement, the better. That’s because at the end of the day, movement marketing comes down to one solid goal: Building community.
Think back to those song lyrics: “I’d love to change the world…but I don’t know what to do.” As individuals, it’s true that young people frequently feel like they don’t know how to make a difference. But whenever they come together, their will is amplified and honed to a razor point. From the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, Millennials (and now, Gen Z) have demonstrated a revolutionary capacity for…well, revolution. But all of these movements also contained an element of community-building; they became sigils that united people, or a banner that they were able to march beneath together.
When American Express founded Small Business Saturday, they were attempting to boost their own profits. This is marketing, after all. But the result was a network of small businesses boosting one another and sharing in a collective endeavour. Small Business Saturday didn’t just encourage people to spend money on the weekend – it helped build a community, and your brand needs to do that too.
As you prepare to produce your video content in the coming months, try to reflect on what community you would love to see in the world. How can young people come together in a new way, for a new purpose? And how can your brand take a confident stance in that movement; how can you construct a home there?
Because Millennials and Gen Z are trying to change the world – and with this new perspective on making video marketing content, you can too.