What do you get when you combine a mission-driven founder, an authentic story, and a desire to do well by doing good? You get one of the most successful social enterprises in U.S. history: Patagonia.
Patagonia is often dubbed one of the world’s most impactful brands and it’s no surprise: the company is known for its commitment to environmental responsibility, and its mission is well-known.
But how does a brand like Patagonia attract and engage brand advocates? What gets people excited to spread the word about their company and products? And how can you borrow some of that ‘secret sauce’ to spark a movement around your cause?
The answer is simple: by connecting to consumers through social impact storytelling (and doing it really well).
There are about a million techniques for persuading people, but the most powerful one is storytelling. Storytelling is a universal way of passing on values and culture from one generation to the next. It can also raise awareness of issues in your community and around the world.
More specifically, social impact stories help us understand how our business operates, what we value as an organization, and how those values translate into actionable initiatives. These stories connect with our emotions and can inspire people to act – whether it’s buying products or becoming an advocate – to bring about change.
These days, consumers are more conscientious than ever about the impact of their purchases on the world.
In fact, a 2019 study revealed that 70% of consumers think that brands should take a public stand on social and political issues. But, half of consumers believe brands only take a stand for public relations or marketing purposes.
Consumers are searching for organizations that are actually addressing real-world issues. The problem is most social impact brands have a hard time reaching the masses. Social impact storytelling is a tool to change that—it catapults brands because it makes purpose tangible.
Patagonia’s mission to build the best product and leave the smallest footprint has built an engaged community that is as passionate about the business as they are. But it’s their amazing storytelling capabilities that’s allowed them to carve their name in history books.
The key lesson here is social impact stories are no longer “nice to have”—they’re imperative to your business success.
Here’s 3 ways you can tell social impact stories like Patagonia:
Your founder’s story is one of your most powerful assets. Patagonia Founder Yvon Chouinard is the perfect example.
Patagonia’s now-famous commitment to environmental activism started with Yvon’s passion for the outdoors. As a former Yosemite climbing guide, Yvon noticed the damage his climbing equipment was having on the rock faces. To try and prevent further damage he began making his own equipment. This effort to look after the environment would become a driving force behind who they are and what they do.
If your brand stands for something, the right people will align with it, because they can see themselves as part of its story. And when a founder’s story compels people, they are more likely to support his/her/their vision through purchases and donations. This is how brand advocates are born.
Let’s face it: Humans are inherently selfish. Not to mention, we are bombarded with thousands of brand messages per day.
To engage your community, you must appeal to their wants and desires.
Whether you’re writing a blog post, a donor email, or a pitch deck, is your message resonating with them? Are they really engaged? How can you know for sure? Enter the “So What” Test.
The “So What” Test is a technique to help you capture your audience’s attention and keep it. In other words, it helps you determine whether or not your message is something your readers will care about.
To nail this technique, simply review your messaging and ask yourself, “So what? How does this change or benefit my reader’s life?” What does it do for them?” If your writing doesn’t pass the “So What” Test, it’s time to revise it or restart from scratch, so you can deliver the most value to your audience.
A big part of any strategy is having a clear goal in mind, and asking consumers to help you achieve it.
In 2020, Patagonia launched a campaign that encourages the use of pre-owned outdoor products. The campaign had two goals: 1) to encourage customers to buy fewer new products and 2) boost demand for recycled and pre-owned products made sustainably. After announcing the ‘Buy Less, Demand More’ campaign, the company had its largest Worn Wear sales week in history.
Patagonia consistently invites customers to take tangible action by getting involved in environmentally conscious campaigns. And this isn’t just about pushing products; it’s about getting people to act on something they believe in. They want their customers to advocate for stronger environmental protections, which they believe will protect more land.
We can do better than simply asking customers to buy our stuff and be charitable—we can invite them to join us in our shared mission to change the world.
We live in a world where it is more important than ever to convey the purpose and the meaning behind your business. With so many brands and businesses vying for people’s attention, how can you differentiate yourself to win support and advocacy?
Social impact storytelling is one of the most critical skills in marketing today, and one that every brand should develop, refine, and apply. It can be a powerful tool to give voice to not only yourbrand but to a worthy cause.
Need help developing social impact stories for your brand ahead of #GivingTuesday? Sign up for Eight11 Agency’s free training, “6 Easy Steps to Launching A Story-Driven #GivingTuesday Campaign.”