How Brands Can Forge Authentic Connections With Consumers Around Social Issues

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Kathryn Friedrich / RYOT Studio

The following guest post is by Kathryn Friedrich, Chief Business Officer of RYOT Studio, Oath’s next-generation creative studio.

People are more empowered than ever to speak up on issues that matter to them, and the causes they care passionately about. This has opened up exciting opportunities for brands to engage in authentic dialogue with consumers that goes beyond the product and builds a stronger and more emotional connection.

While many brands may hesitate to jump into conversations around social issues, consumers actually want—and expect—the brands they love to support them, too, in the causes they care about. In fact, our recent Brand Love Index study we did with Kantar found that more than half of consumers (62%) are looking to brands to speak up around issues related to equality and diversity. Specifically, 59% of millennials think it’s important that a brand supports women in leadership and closing the gender pay gap.

And it’s not just diversity and equality where consumers desire hearing from brands: 61% of millennials expect companies to support the environment, especially those verticals with the ability to make a direct impact like automotive (65%), CPG (74%) and tech (76%).

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It’s clear that brands have an opportunity to speak up and use their voice to engage and support consumers on social issues near and dear to their hearts. But doing so authentically is the biggest challenge. That’s where content marketing comes in as an incredibly impactful way for brands to help champion the causes consumers care most about, in a genuine manner. Brands can use content marketing to communicate a more complex and meaningful message with text, video, multiple images and more.

Brands should be reassured to know that consumers don’t turn a blind eye to branded content. In fact, 61% of consumers don’t mind if the content they see is branded, as long as it’s good quality—content that’s original, actionable, informative, thought provoking and visually appealing. Content also needs to be personalized and tailored to fit consumers’ interests, whether it’s entertaining, educational or socially conscious. These attributes make content marketing the ideal vehicle to connect with consumers around social issues and causes.

Take TIAA, a mission-driven company providing financial services in the academic, research, medical, cultural and government fields. To commemorate its centennial, TIAA launched the TIAA Difference Maker 100 program and will award 10 people with $10,000 for the nonprofit where they’re working to make a difference. The program is being amplified by a branded content series that includes video and editorial showcasing the heartfelt stories of “difference makers” around the U.S. who strive to make positive impacts in their own communities.

Brands who want to deepen their connection with consumers should follow TIAA’s lead. Instead of only celebrating its major milestone within the company, TIAA used an important moment as an opportunity to champion causes close to its customers’ hearts and shine a spotlight on those making a difference in their own ways.

Another great example is the Stella Artois and National Geographic “Buy A Lady A Drink” campaign where, for every Limited-Edition Chalice sold, Stella Artois helped Water.org provide five years of clean water for one person in the developing world. Through an integrated, multi-channel campaign that included custom content on NG.com, Stella Artois helped spark awareness, advocacy, and conversation about global water shortages with consumers around the globe.

Brands who want to develop authentic connections with consumers should look to these types of immersive, branded experiences as a core part of their marketing strategy. Whether you’re advocating for a specific issue or showing your support for consumers who do, content marketing is a powerful way to not only authentically deliver your message, but build a lasting connection.


Kathryn Friedrich is Chief Business Officer of RYOT Studio, Oath’s next-generation creative studio, where immersive media, emerging technology and radical storytelling collide.

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