When is it time to leverage your purpose instead of your product?
Burt's Bees has built a passionate consumer base through a full-circle commitment to sustainability. Since their conception, they have remained consistent to their founding principle; “Nature has the best answers”. They have made a pledge to achieving sustainable growth ever since.
Philanthropic causes have always held positive business association. However, now these movements have been popularised and culturally ingrained on social media due to a (near) universal acknowledgement that we need to act now to save the planet. Beyond the obvious positive of helping rescue the Earth, brands must now incorporate these movements to remain relevant. Specifically for millennial and post-millennial consumers within the US, their thirst to buy into something greater than the brand itself is significantly affecting how marketers are approaching digital strategy.
For Burt’s Bees they are ideally placed to capitalise on their position and celebrate their sustainable heritage. While others are jumping on the trend, they have been forging it. Since 2010, they haven’t produced any landfill waste from either their offices or manufacturing facilities. Over half of their products are 100% natural ingredients, whilst the rest are 99%. On a surface level, 58% of US all consumers (Natural Marketing Institute) consider environmental impacts when purchasing a product. Furthermore, 87% of millennials (Deloitte) no longer believe financial metrics to be a sufficient measure of success.
In a rudimentary sense, younger and emerging audiences are more likely to align themselves with a purpose beyond a product.
Introducing Burt’s Bees product-free, purpose-driven “World Earth Month” campaign...
The Desire for Humanitarian and Social Causes
It is not a new idea that, as a brand, aligning with a movement outside of your basic sales plan creates opportunity. Similarly for influencers on a smaller scale, attaching your image to an external belief system offers longevity via potential cultural relevance. However, this trend has shifted from defining cultural moments to driving humanitarian action. According to MagnaGlobal, 63% of consumers now believe brands should give back to the community and 61% voicing they should support social issues that benefit all. For instance, Nike’s continued social investment in women soccer players put the brand in pole position for exposure during the Women's World Cup - fostering association with championing equality and their social branding. Indeed, The Drum noted earlier this week; “Nike is leading the conversation around the US’s current success in the world of women’s soccer after the team cinched its fourth World Cup title”. Statistically, this was backed by a study from international social media analytics firm Talkwalker.
However, and this is particularly true of collaborations that lean towards environmentalism, the modern consumer is savvy. The access to information has never been more transparent, both via the internet or through social channels. Brands are easily be caught out if they do not follow through with their claims. For humanitarian investment, think Patagonia; the brand announced their $10 million tax savings in the post Trump era would be donated straight into programs to help fight climate change. Although a move too grandiose for the majority of brands, it represents a commitment to their narrative.
Moving a Narrative into Social
Social influence gives brands an opportunity to create intimate dialogues with their consumers like never before. Advocation via trusted networks - influencers and their communities - has a greater effect than traditional broadcast in our current trending culture. As Whalar’s recent neurological study revealed, influencer ads are 87% more emotive than television ads.
With intimacy comes exposure. Brands involvement in social causes on Instagram requires synonyms relationships. For influencer marketing; the brand, the movement and the influencer must all be able to effectively translate the reasons behind their involvement in the collaboration. For Burt’s Bees, each influencer needed to be prepared to defend both the brand's commitment to sustainability and the role of “World Earth Month”.
Examples of Influencer-Consumer debate.
Our wrap video mentions the placing of influencers into separate categories to mitigate this. By overlaying additional elements on top of our regular matchmaking, we maximised each creators strengths by leveraging the core of their passions within sustainability.
Although commissioning beautiful content is crucial in social performance, the Burt’s Bees campaign moved beyond aesthetics. The comment section examples demonstrate a reliance on creators being able to articulate a socio-political viewpoint on the importance of social activations such as “World Earth Month”.
Although Instagram initially, and probably will always be, a visual-first platform, the additional engagements through the comment section cannot be undervalued…. Especially when they are more than 3-5 words and an emoji. Connecting with creators who have a clear messaging with their personal branding allowed this collaboration to have a shared direction across the board, without having the anchor of a product.
The Brand's Perspective
Post campaign, Studio spoke with Burt's Bees Brand Stewardship & Influence Manager, Gabrielle Laurent. For a brand whose narrative is so organically ingrained within their marketing strategy, I was curious to know their in-house perspective on a product free campaign and why they chose influencers to carry their narrative.
We wanted to educate our fans about key issues impacting the environment and inspire a shift towards healthier everyday habits. All of us depend on nature for so much and this includes our products, so we feel a strong responsibility to respect and preserve it.
[On using influencers] To some extent, all of us are trying to make changes to live more sustainably and often, its other people (our communities) that inspire these shifts in behavior. We wanted the people living these practices to offer novel tips and perspectives that might resonate with our audience and inspire them to do better.
Whalar has been a tremendous partner in connecting our brand with authentic creators who live and breathe the message we’re trying to share. Being able to work with creators from around the world brought great dimension to our campaign and reinforced these are whole-planet issues we face and we must each do our part to make a collective impact.
The Creative Industries as a Whole can be the Force for Change
A recent article from The Drum, used the “Extinction Rebellion” movement to echo the requirement for across the board for action behind purpose. Solitaire Townsend, co-Founder of Futerra, states: “Creatives, especially young talent, are opting out of destruction. They are powerful communicators themselves, so they know spin when they see it. Declaring your agency purpose without disclosing proof simply won’t cut it anymore.”
Similarly, a recent study from Neilson marked an 11% increase in sustainable coffee sales in the US last year as an affirmation that, “No matter what, sustainability is no longer a niche play: your bottom-line and brand growth depend on it.” Although coffee sales may seem trivial in comparison to stopping climate change, it demonstrates that if a product has a sustainable mission, it becomes instantly more attractive and can shift daily consumer habits.
The thirst for sustainability is clear, as is the need for brands to build their social strategy around a cause they can identify with. For Burt’s Bees the campaign's success was rooted in social performance, as exposing both their internal message and the movement “World Earth Month”, was the sole aim of the collaboration. Its engagement rate of 6.08%, garnering 13 million impressions in the process, and valuable commentary amongst consumers that served in shifting perception of what digital influencing can offer. We’ve come a long way.
So to answer the initial question; Burt’s Bees' solid foundation as a sustainable brand gives them the creative freedom to focus on their value system within their digital strategy. Not all brands can do this straight away. However, investing in a movement that relates to your narrative, and your consumers, can quickly build digital momentum and is essential to endorsing the purpose behind your product. So, when to do it? The answer is now.
Banner content courtesy of @africanboheme from our Burt's Bees collaboration