Monday, April 16, 2012

Ad Hoc Activism

I’ve been noodling on an idea of a trend lately, but have been searching for the “right” words to describe it.  It may be a bit controversial, but what truly disruptive thoughts aren’t. So here it goes. I’m currently calling it Ad Hoc Activism. This is the activity that surrounds cause related movements such as: The Occupy Movement, Treyvon Martin, 2011 Japan Tsunami, 2011 Egypt National Police Day Protest and many others.
I don’t want to use this space to talk about the causes themselves, but response to the causes. (Personally, being a big-mouth myself, I love when people stand for what they believe and even moreso when positive actions happen from a collective outpouring.)
Yet, where are the brands at in this activism? I know when it comes to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), there is a large risk at aligning the brands with certain movements and many prefer the easier to digest events semi-related to their brand just to play it safe. Cliches are true for a reason, and as they say; with great risk, comes great rewards.  
I prefer to think in terms of risk management vs. risk minimization when treading outside the box.
Give yourself time to ask, although the movement may be temporary, is the core idea a part of the brand’s dimensionality? Will it help me connect with my consumers in a new way? Will it provide sustaining “street cred” so you won’t resemble pompous media personalities and reality television celebrities? If yes, roll up your sleeves and walk next to your customers. Be a girl scout and have a contingency plan ready to go just in case.
Ad hoc activism might seem like a fleeting opportunity, but when done in concordance with a brand management plan, it can only increase loyalty. I bet the first soft drink most people tasted after the Berlin Wall crashed down had a huge impact on their global sales. (hint)
All last week I wondered what would have happened if FUBU designed and manufactured a sweatshirt specifically for the Treyvon Martin marches, or if the Ameriprise partnered with the Occupy movement to educate people on accumulating wealth and how it is traditionally handed down over generations. If REI taught urban camping workshops? What if Coca-Cola air lifted bottles of Dasani to Japan and re-designed the bottle to raise awareness?
Somewhat related is this article on Uprisings from Fast Company by Scott Goodson. He wrote a book that I’ll have the pleasure of adding to my super long list.

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