THE BLOG
04/28/2016 09:49 am ET

The "Truth" About Modern Cause Marketing

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By Stephanie Hill, EVP Strategy and Client Relations, Assembly

Just like promoting any consumer brand, starting a lasting conversation about a particular non-profit, cause or charity requires collaboration across all lines of marketing communications. The media landscape is in a state of constant evolution, and just like brand marketers, non-profits need to embrace evolving opportunities and techniques in order to be effective.  We’re learning much about this category through our work with Truth Initiative, the national public health organization that funds and directs the truth® campaign.

truth, the most successful and longest running youth smoking prevention campaign, has been targeting teenagers with provocative messaging since 2000. The campaign has been instrumental in decreasing the smoking rate among teenagers.  However, as youth media consumption and attitudes have changed, we have had to adjust and re-align in order to be both relevant and heard by our target teen audience. As a result of the constantly evolving media landscape we continuously take new and innovative approaches in order for truth’s messages to resonate with this generation. To ensure that we have an optimal chance of connecting with our target, we often heavily rely on new technologies. 

Driven by the desire to be interconnected at any given moment, teens have unwittingly upended traditional communication models. With the decentralization of content, conversation, and attention, social media has completely redefined how 'Generation Z' connects with the world around them. With this in mind, non-profits must redefine what social-marketing means; accepting that audiences do not see the digital landscape as a series of isolated 'strategies' or 'channels,' but instead as a whole ecosystem, with each piece adding unique and complementary value.

On social platforms, cultural relevancy is established or denied within seconds of being viewed, especially among young audiences.  Earning a seat at the table and keeping that seat is an ongoing challenge for any brand – including non-profits. Teens not only expect authentic interaction from brands across social platforms, but in today’s marketplace, they also crave a level of unprecedented personalization.  These factors combined have created a landscape where all brands are reliant on changing attitudes and behaviors—particularly amongst teens.

New and emerging social opportunities are also important; particularly ones that can build exposure and amplify the message in the social space as well as programs that are conversation-led, but not historically categorized as “social media.” 

truth leverages pop culture moments as a way to stay current, create buzz and drive extended conversation around the topic of tobacco. For truth, we have implemented numerous social-specific programs that complement the campaign’s holistic marketing approach.  This includes a “Twitter Trending Topic” and a “Twitter Moments” sponsorship. Both of which amplified the campaign’s presence surrounding a key launch period in support of a newly released message.  We have also leveraged Snapchat in multiple ways, including using their Geo-filter to locally target specific college campuses as well as using their Local Campus Live Story feature to place the truth message in hyper-relevant environments for our target.

Lastly, we’ve begun to push the envelope in terms of how we think about “social media.”  One key program that we created is via Twitch, a popular gaming destination among teens.  Although Twitch is not defined as a traditional social media platform, we are leveraging it around the truth brand and message to help spark conversations about the tobacco and joining the movement to end smoking for good.  In a recent example, we created a 4-hour long branded livestream on Twitch’s site.  The stream generated extensive live interactions and reactions among teens about our content, brand and topic. 

New technology opportunities are not limited solely to how we use and partner with media properties.  Advancing techniques equally apply to how we analyze data and thus optimize our efforts.  Many young audience targets are technologically savvy and move across screens and content at record speed.  To keep up with their pace, we must constantly stay on point to ensure connections at the right places and times.

Using truth again as an example, based on quantitative segmentation analysis, and ethnographic studies, we have a deeper understanding of our audience demographics as well as their attitudes and behaviors.  Subsequently, we are able to conduct a “bridging study,” a primary research study in which a few linkage questions are asked to fuse our audience segments with a syndicated database.  Once responses to the linkage questions are collected, these provide the basis for creating a series of predictive models that classify each respondent in the syndicated database to the respective audience segment, and thereby “bridging” the two data sources. This provides us with an in-depth picture of our target audience, which enables us to focus all of our efforts on channels, outlets and areas where our target is most receptive to the message we want them to receive.

Today, our access to data is greater than ever before. This data helps us make more informed decisions surrounding the where and what media we buy.  The challenge (and the opportunity) is to take advantage of this data. 

Our effort with truth has been so successful because we’ve been able to effectively leverage research as well as a new approach to social and technology. Our strategic insights have allowed us to use the strengths of each platform to help us connect and engage with our target audience. The integrated approach across all of our marketing communications efforts is helping us build the generation to end tobacco for good.