Make Marketing More Than Lip Service

In 2020, more than ever before, it’s essential that companies communicate their stance on important social and cultural issues of the day. Sometimes, that task lives with PR. Often, it remains in the realm of Comms. But increasingly, we see that effort cross over to Marketing.

From website ads to television commercials, typical revenue-driving efforts incorporate some kind of messaging about a company’s position on issues of the day, whether it’s the safety during the coronavirus pandemic or supporting racial equity during Black Lives Matter protests. Every June, people are familiar with seeing brands adopt rainbow coloring for LGBT Pride.

However, with everyone from swimsuit brands to car companies getting on board with the biggest topical themes of the moment, these heartfelt messages can sometimes come off as overly generic or empty promises. Especially when those messages disappear entirely from websites and mission statements once the health scare, or the movement, or the dedicated month come to an end. 

It’s almost something that a company has to do to land on the right side of current favor. They can be accused of saying the right things simply to get more cash from customers, and not because the company actually espouses those beliefs.

So how can a brand that means well relay those sentiments without looking like they’re only offering lip service?

Here are a few tips that can help you with meaningful marketing:

1) Be authentic, but step back. Some companies try to make a statement seem more genuine by making it all about themselves. Stating their own name over and over again doesn’t help convince the audience that the empathy is deeper; in fact, it has the opposite effect. Once you express support, concern, and empathy, it’s easier to let the message stand on its own than to turn it back to the company’s greatness.

2) Demonstrate past and future involvement. It helps if you can point to past participation in related social and cultural events when you make a claim that your company supports a cause. In what ways has your company previously demonstrated that the claim is true? However, you also can’t turn back time. It’s OK to admit that you haven’t done quite enough in the past to reflect how much you genuinely do care about a certain issue; the next step is to state what you are doing in the future to get more involved. What are the things you wish you’d already been doing? Have you reached out to those civic leaders and organizations yet? Of course, not all of this information belongs in a 30-second spot on the air. Create a space for this somewhere, like on a dedicated page on your website, and give audiences a chance to seek out more information if they’re interested. As to the point above, it eliminates the “me, me, me” aspect.

3) Commit to action items. It’s easy to say that you support a cause, but harder to take action. Look for action words: How are you supporting the cause? What are you actually doing? Are you committing to an explicit change within your company or making a donation? This point is one that’s good and important to try and convey in many long-form marketing formats, contrary to the point above. This is how people will know that you’re more than just empty promises.

In short: Express sympathy or solidarity. Express what you are doing. Then, step back. Don’t push sales. That’s for another channel and another campaign. As the joke about lip service in marketing goes: “Usually we’d say: ‘Buy a car.’ Today, we’re saying: ‘Please accept our condolences. And, please buy a car.’” (Obviously, don’t do that!)

To create meaningful marketing that can’t be confused with lip service, schedule a consultation with Mad 4 Marketing.

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