People use social media to showcase what they care about with others. It's not enough to be a profile picture with interests anymore. People want to show their greater purpose. We saw this with the marriage equality campaign on Facebook only months ago when the Supreme Court ruled on gay marriage. Millions of profile pictures changed to symbols of equality. If people are doing this to their own profiles, it's only a matter of time until this kind of behavior extends to and is expected of brands.
The brands that are winning today, Nike and Warby Parker to name a couple, make their customers feel better about themselves after doing business with them. Doing business with these brands equates to making a statement about your values.
Consumers are Demanding More
In the early days of social media marketing building relationships with consumers met posting content and responding to consumer questions. Well, people are demanding more.
Julia Bluhm pressured Seventeen magazine to stop retouching images. Hasbro was forced to launch more gender-neutral Easy Bake Ovens. These are just a couple of the brands lucky enough to have consumers speak up when they aren't meeting expectations. There are many brands who just get abandoned and are never asked to do more or to change behavior.
People care, and they want to make a difference. Purchase decisions can help with that. The web has leveled the playing field and countless options for products are out there. The brands that stand for something are, however, not innumerable, so people will naturally turn to them over others.
Embrace Being More than a Product
The social web allows brands to really talk to their customers and communicate with them on shared passions. Communication is not just talking or posting messages. It's about marketing and existing with a shared purpose. What does your brand care about that your customers care about? This starts to get into some sticky territory, but that's because there's passion. A brand that doesn't push itself stands for nothing, which may be okay in the short-term but not the long-term.
People are now platforms. They stand for something, and they support the things that help them maintain that image. As consumers grow more socially aware and cause-driven, brands will need to evaluate what they're willing to symbolize.
We've seen brands take chances successfully. It doesn't have to be a grand gesture. Oreo did exactly what they needed to do when they posted a photo of a cookie with rainbow colored frosting. Point made. Good will earned. If a cookie can stand for something, anything can.