Trend watching has been a part of good business for awhile now, but leveraging trends to inspire a brand's mission and communications initiatives in the age of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, among other rising stars in the social media sphere, is in its infancy.
I've been thinking about that since my Fun Theory post. Right here, right now, more than ever, doing good has never been more popular or easier to do because of the mass adoption of social media platforms by people of all ages, and yet, I have to wonder, from where all this good is coming, and where it's going. Is doing good the new black, like skinny jeans in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, or is this the time to find where you or your brand can make the biggest impact not just on popular culture, but the world?
There are hundreds, even thousands, of causes to support -- Free Tibet, Darfur, Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, the (Red) initiatives, Live Strong...I dare not try and list them all for fear of leaving any out, but you get the idea. We are all called upon to act, to shout for those who can not, to give some part of ourselves, be it our time, our money, our vote, to effect change in positive and meaningful ways every day. Unless you or a family member have been personally affected by a certain issue, it's hard sometimes to know behind which ones to throw your support. Facebook even has "Causes" apps that make it so easy to say you support a cause, one could argue that it's become little more than profile filler. Though, it leads to my point: the causes -- even something as seemingly simple as doing good -- that you or companies choose to support say A LOT more about you and them than simply jumping on the cause bandwagon.
I don't think deciding what causes to support is going to get any easier either. Since the rise of Twitter's popularity, I have never seen news spread so fast. From the moment I saw profile icons turn green in solidarity with Iranian people, mine included, I knew that the good news was that good news (and bad) would now spread faster than it ever had in history.
The cream that has risen to the top of the Twitterverse so far include @DrewFromTV, Drew Carey's effort to go down in the record books in his attempt to rid the world of cancer, @AlexsLemonade, aided (no pun intended) by Twilight/New Moon cast member and Twitter veteran @PeterFacinelli, and @charitywater, the Twitter profile for the Born in September campaign, a charity that I myself joined to try and raise money to build wells that will bring fresh water to people in developing nations. I'm keeping an eye (and a heart) on these and others as they maneuver the Twitter frontier to expand their message.
In the world of television advertising, I've already mentioned Volkswagen's Fun Theory. However, Liberty Mutual's Responsibility Project is also an effort that definitely deserves more than a passing glance. If any of you have seen the "pay it forward" commercials they have been running since 2006, then you know that no company continues to run the same campaign for three years unless that campaign is showing a return on investment. And after I saw that NBC partnered with Liberty Mutual by having a handful of their hottest stars write and direct commercials based on the "do the right thing" aesthetic, I had to investigate.
I was skeptical. I don't have anything against NBC, or even businesses leveraging celebrities to help raise a cause's, or a brand's, profile. It's how a brand does it that defines whether it's a cheap tactic or makes an authentic connection. However, the commercials are actually quite good, and stay on message. In fact, Liberty Mutual has even taken the Responsibility Project even further online by having one area of the web site, "Stories" dedicated to thoughtful discussion on everything from real people sharing how someone made a difference in their life, and another area, "Point of View" that opens the floodgates on topics from Texting While Walking, Compassionate Release of Prisoners, to Grunting during a Tennis Match, and let's visitors use it as a forum for debate.
"When people do the right thing they call it being responsible. When a company does it, they call it Liberty Mutual."
These are extremely bold moves and claims, made even bolder when you consider that they come from an insurance company.
Finally (but not finite-ly) I present to you The GOOD 100. If you're not familiar with GOOD, it "is a collaboration of individuals, businesses, and non-profits pushing the world forward." The GOOD 100 is a list of game changers -- big ideas, some presented in radical ways, that could change the way we live. Flavorwire has pulled some great selections from the list here.
So, is doing the right thing more than a fad? What are the opportunities that await in the social and traditional media spheres for those who dare to change the world or even their corner of it? What does it say about you if you show that you care. What does it say about you or your brand if you decide not to show it?