BrandingCharity MarketingCreative Campaigns

7 tips for turning your charity campaign into a social movement

04 . 03 . 20



They’ve been at it for years. Ever since 2008’s financial crash, which saw public trust toward brands plummet, they’ve been subtly shapeshifting their marketing methods. Out went the more traditional, product-led marketing to be replaced with a shiny new brand image, centred around socially conscious campaigns and movements, which seem to grow in scope and ambition every year. In fairness, many of these campaigns come from a genuinely fantastic place, managing to push forward real change in the world. Others, we have to admit, don’t.

No matter how successful, every brand seems to have identified its importance. From banking giants successfully preaching inclusion and tolerance to sandwich makers not-so-successfully latching on to the Pride movement, every consumer-facing brand under the sun seems to be aligning itself with certain social causes, and even attempting to create their own.

It’s all making the world a better place, but it has consequences. While these corporate brands have been able to splash their envious marketing budgets on unmissable campaigns, in essence built to generate more consumer sales, they’ve created a din that can be difficult for the real change makers – the charities – to shout over. If you’re a charity looking to build your awareness through marketing, this can be a concern, but worry not…



The fact is, no matter what their motives, some of these campaigns do great good for deserving causes. They don’t simply raise brand awareness, they shift perceptions, encouraging the public to interact, rethink and weigh in along the way. For you as a charity, that’s a fine combination.

And we should know. As part of our ‘Move Me’ programme – where we offer 50 hours of pro bono marketing expertise to a charity or cause that moves us the most – we’ve supported a number of charities over the last few years. Drawing from that experience, we wanted to highlight a few of the things we’ve learned, drawing from some of the best brand-led social movement campaigns around.

So here are 7 ways you can turn certain campaign techniques to your advantage…



clip image001

When looking for a face to put to their campaign, many brands or charities go straight to a celebrity or well-known influencer – but that needn’t always be the case. In the last ten years bigger brands have begun capitalising on the public’s love of authenticity. Nothing beats a truly inspiring real-life story, and by finding those that apply to your charity and the cause it represents, you can foster interest and interaction. Perhaps the best example of a brand doing this well is Dove’s ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’, which began in 2004. At a time where beauty industry campaigns centred around an idealistic and unrealistic representation of the female body, the campaign starred ‘real’ women of all body types, aiming to change the way all of us think about beauty.

The movement was universally admired, and continues to challenge the way we think about women’s bodies to this day, so why not take a leaf out of Dove’s book? Your charity is bound to be brimming with inspiring authentic stories, so when looking for a face for your campaign, be sure to start by looking internally.



clip image001

Social movement campaigns are not always plain sailing. There can be a lot of controversy surrounding brands that speak out for something they believe in, but when done right, bravery pays off. Take Nike’s recent ‘Believe in Something’ campaign starring overtly political role models such as Colin Kaepernick and Caster Semenya. They were people who had fought against what many saw as injustice, but not everyone agreed. There were many negative public responses too, with some members of the public so incensed as to vow never to wear Nike again. And the result of that? Huge exposure, great brand awareness and a sense – among a majority of the population – of a brand on the right side of history.

So, when looking to build your cause, never shy away from controversy. Certain people might not like what you have to say, but creating debate around real issues and placing your cause in the public eye can do wonders from an awareness point of view.



Something both of the above campaigns have in common is their photography: both decided to put people at front and centre of their creative, encouraging them to adopt similar poses throughout their executions. One step further is to centre your campaign around one specific gesture, adopting it consistently with a range of executions and in so doing giving it a hugely recognisable image. This can not only make a campaign stand out, but encourage the public to join in on social channels, furthering your campaign for you.

It’s hardly a social movement, but a great example of how these things can spread is Usain Bolt’s instantly recognisable ‘Lightning Bolt’ celebration, which managed to capture the world’s imagination for an entire decade across the sprinter’s glittering career. Its shareability and the simplicity with which people were able to replicate it were a dream for driving awareness – so much so that brands are still capitalising on it to this day.

So why not consider a gesture for your charity? Gather a range of people who are truly representative of the audience you’re trying to reach – no matter how broad that might be – and unite them by the holding of a certain gesture or pose. If you can execute it with authenticity, your audience will no doubt get involved.



Picture 2

We humans are social and tribal creatures, and all the more likely to engage with a campaign if it drums up a sense of togetherness. Campaigns that generate unity and allow people to come together around a particular cause within a certain geographical or societal space can really capture the imagination.

HSBC’s recent ‘We Are Not An Island’ is an excellent example of this kind of campaign done right. They used location-specific executions to play on local pride within many of the UK’s cities while simultaneously preaching about global unity. The campaign created a sense of togetherness that the brand felt was much needed in our modern times.

When creating your charity campaign, then, it can be hugely beneficial to adopt this approach and tone. Consider what the general public can relate to around your cause and reach them by speaking about how this cause unites them. In this instance, highlighting a certain locality – no matter how large that may be – can greatly influence this sense of unity. By making people feel involved, you can instil them with a sense of responsibility for the cause.



Picture 3

Everyone likes a good hashtag. Well, maybe not everyone, but there’s no denying it works. If the title of your campaign can be successfully made into a hashtag then you could very quickly find it in the fast lane toward shareability. One excellent example is the hugely inspiring ‘#ThisGirlCan’ campaign, which made use of hashtags not only with its title but with a number of other headlines, placing them at front and centre of the campaign. It’s one that has inspired women everywhere to get involved with exercise, and that – like many of our examples – is still going strong today.

So if you’re looking for a way to bring an interactive element into your movement, perhaps giving it a hashtag-friendly title could do the trick. It makes everything you do digital-friendly, but these days it can sit well in the real world, too.




It’s not just the big corporations that need to worry about their branding. Brand consistency is absolutely crucial, and can increase revenues by 23%. A mistake many charities make (understandably with the pressures faced) is operating inconsistent or dated branding across their different audience touchpoints, which can put potential parties off.

Imagine someone sees your charity during a fundraiser. It’s a cause they believe in, and they’re drawn in by the dedication of your ambassadors. They decide to look you up online. When they visit your site, however, they’re met with a dated, unusable website that doesn’t represent what your brand is at all. It’s bound to turn them away from getting involved.

It’s crucial to cultivate a visual identity and tone of voice that chime with your audience, radiating the kind of charity you are. If you’re warm, relatable and gentle, your branding should show that. Equally, if you’re bold, brash and grounded upon activism, it should show that too. If it doesn’t embody the cause you’re championing, it doesn’t do you any favours.



Picture 4

What do ‘Believe in Something’, ‘Don’t Buy This Jacket’ and ‘Choose Beautiful‘ have in common? They’re all campaigns that have captured the public imagination, and a big part of that lies with their titles: they’re actionable. They speak immediately to the audience and tell them directly to do something.

Titling your campaign in this manner is a fantastic way to kick-start your cause. Tell them to Dive In, or #StandUp, or Kick Out. In doing so, you can inspire them into joining your cause, and start building that movement you’re working toward.




So that’s that. Seven things you can do to breathe life into your charity campaign and give it the best possible chance of becoming the kind of full-scale social movement that moves the masses. Now all that’s left to be done is get out there and start moving. The big brands might be bigger, but that doesn’t mean you can’t shout louder. Go get ‘em.

Looking for more charity marketing advice? Or perhaps you want to build a ground-breaking new campaign? Whatever it is, we’re always up for a chat. Email our Director Renaye at for more information.