We aren’t typically sold a product, we are sold an idea, a lifestyle, a promise. Apple didn’t become one of the highest valued companies in the world by selling phones and computers. They sold the idea of connectivity, the lifestyle of owning a ‘luxury’ device, and a promise of being part of something bigger. Similarly, buying a house is rarely about the shell (unless you’re an avid DIY-er). People purchase properties based on the idea of their perfect home, the lifestyle they could lead living in that particular area, and a promise of a happier daily life in their own home.
Once upon a time, marketing agencies existed to solely sell services to business and help companies make a profit. Today, some marketing agencies have chosen to be a driving force for good, offering a wide range of services - from campaigns and social media management to digital strategies and product launches - and many are focusing on selling goods and services that are people - and planet-friendly.
As Media Bounty, (discussed below), puts it, “more than ever, brands need to understand their role in society and the problem(s) they are trying to fix.” What kind of things are marketing agencies of today trying to fix and what are people searching for in the companies they choose to work for, or do business with?
Three key considerations for customers are diversity, environmental sustainability, and wellbeing of employees. So, what do these mean and why are they important?
Diversity and inclusivity includes embracing differences in gender, religion, race, age, disability, linguistic differences, socio-economic status and cultural backgrounds. Diversity in the workplace is important and brings a variety of benefits. By employing individuals from a range of cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, your team will enjoy a range of talent, varying viewpoints and stronger ideas for your clients. Perhaps even more important is diversity in positions of leadership. Diversity in your workplace and in your communications demonstrates to your audience that you relate and understand their needs and desires. In fact, a study found that diverse images can help a brand’s reputation; Gen Z and millennials favour ads and product lines which highlight diversity; and audiences are likely to relate to content that represents them.
Diversity is proven to have a positive impact on investment and IPO, too:
“the success rate of acquisitions and IPOs was 11.5% lower, on average, for investments by partners with shared school backgrounds than for those by partners from different schools. The effect of shared ethnicity was even stronger, reducing an investment’s comparative success rate by 26.4% to 32.2%.”
Harvard Business Review
Campaign Magazine has even included diversity in their annual ranking reports (or ‘School Reports’), where agencies are ranked by various metrics. Agencies are now scored on the percentage of male and female employees, BAME employees, and diversity of those in leadership positions.
Climate change is making headlines, consumers are looking for environmentally friendly goods, and they are becoming more demanding of the companies they choose to buy from. From taking action on climate change, to making sure offices minimise waste and recycle correctly, sustainability is a hot topic.
According to IMD Business School, sustainability is a “business approach to creating long-term value by taking into consideration how the organisation operates in the ecological, social and economic environment”. There is also a business case for sustainability; companies which have a positive impact on the environment, employees and communities, do better financially than those which don’t - in other words, they can do good by doing good.
I’m not sure what’s ‘sustainable’ about someone holding a plant like this, but Google image search said it represents sustainability so here it is.
Wellbeing at work
What about wellbeing? Workplace wellbeing encompasses a range of factors including physical and mental health, a good working environment, and opportunities for personal and professional growth. Promoting wellbeing at work can result in significant benefits in terms of employee satisfaction, productivity, less illness and higher overall happiness. In creative companies, people, their ideas and their expertise, are the most important assets. It is logical that they should be taken care of. A burned out or overwhelmed employee is not a creative or productive employee. While not every company can install slides and game rooms in the building, they can all take steps to promote wellbeing. Be that through flexible working hours, a wellbeing programme, or simply by creating a positive purpose in your team’s work.
The agencies below are examples of creative companies with a conscience. They help organisations and nonprofits tackle important issues, promoting people- and planet-friendly communications within an industry criticised for encouraging overconsumption or greenwashing. This purpose stimulates a sense of pride in the work - utilising knowledge, skills and expertise to help make the world a better place.
Media Bounty are a Creative Social Media Agency with a conscience, made up of a team who passionately believes in developing their employees and protecting our planet. Multi-award winners, Media Bounty put ethical standards at the heart of its business philosophy.
For example, they developed a digital strategy to launch ‘The Meatless Farm’, a plant-based alternative to meat products. Meat consumption is linked to climate change and Brits are becoming more aware of this connection. With 22 million now considering themselves ‘flexitarian’ for health, ethical and environmental reasons, the digital strategy for The Meatless Farm focused on a simple swap to a plant-based meat alternative that didn’t compromise on the eating experience.
With every campaign, they donate to the World Land Trust (WLT), an international conservation charity working with local NGOs to protect rainforests across the world. Donations have helped to protect forest and preserve biodiversity from Belize to Borneo. On top of this they support the ‘Conscious Advertising Network’ - an organisation set up to stop advertising abuse; host a staff volunteering programme; and are powered by 100% renewable energy! If that wasn’t enough, they even offer brands useful tips to navigate through crises such as Covid-19 on social media (Hint: Don’t Be Silent)!
Digital Detox is a ‘humanity-led’ digital design and development agency on a mission to create a world where technology and humanity work in perfect harmony. Specialising in design, full-stack development, startup tech partnerships and digital transformation, everything they do revolves around people, the planet, and technology. Over 15 years they have built websites, dashboards, prototypes and frameworks, and have been a trusted partner in strategy, ideation, design and development for some incredible businesses.
Their portfolio includes creating a ‘Green Report’ for Vodafone, focusing on climate change, the company’s carbon footprint and their contribution towards digital pollution; strategising ways to empower staff and end-users to be more environmentally conscious in their behaviours, resources, choices, lifestyles and attitudes. They have also helped to make children’s education more accessible online with Oxford University Press. Transforming knowledge from books to digital platforms, they strategised and developed the Online Reading Buddy to give every child a virtual reading service and make learning fun!
They even developed a carbon accounting tool (Winston), which can be utilised by other businesses to become more sustainable. On top of this, they calculate their own carbon footprint and set targets for reduction each year!
And they demonstrate how to embrace diversity while doing all of this! 23 nationalities make up their 40-strong team, who’s knowledge and expertise are considered the company’s most important assets. With 25 languages between them, they are well-prepared to offer a unique experience to their clients and audiences. Such a variety of projects can only benefit from a wide variety of brilliant minds, each boasting unique experience and insight.
Brand Advance is a communications platform and business that connects brands with diverse audiences globally. Working across social and print media, they understand that the key to meaningful brand growth is diversity in media. Knowing how to boost brands, they support clients to see growth within diverse communities. Founded as the industry's first dedicated global diversity media network, Brand Advance offers a ‘single place to reach diversity at scale’ boasting experience with a range of audiences: BAME, LGBTQ+, GenZ, Disability, Religion, Age, Gender Empowerment.
The agency has the insights into diverse communities and understands the financial implications for getting your communications right (or wrong!). For example, the global LGBTQ+ community has $3.7 trillion purchasing power, however 72% think that the way they are represented in advertising is tokenistic. Interestingly, only 33% of advertisements feature women, even though women control up to 85% of consumer purchasing decisions - misguided marketing efforts towards a global market of $20 trillion.
Brand Advance’s purpose is to empower their customers to “embrace these fundamental changes in audience, lifestyle and media landscape, by serving these communities in a more creative and authentic way.” Examples include promoting L’Oreal Men Expert’s Barberclub Beard Oil across the UK’s LGBTQ+ community, or creating communications for the NHS promoting safer celebrations of Ramadan at home during the pandemic.
Zerofee is an ethical design agency, creating visual identity and design for print and digital media - but not for irresponsible brands or companies. Their portfolio is made up of organisations involved in positive social and environmental activities including Amnesty International, Greenpeace, and World Animal Protection.
For example, Zerofee created a ‘Wearing out Waste’ report for TRAID, a charity working to stop clothes from being thrown away. The fashion industry has major environmental and social impacts from design through to disposal. The charity converts clothing waste into resources to reduce the social and environmental impacts of clothing - such as promoting reuse of clothing, improving working conditions internationally, education on the environmental impacts of clothing, and how to make more sustainable choices.
The agency refuses to utilise their skills to support brands or companies that have a negative impact on the world we live in. Alongside commercial work, Zerofee engages in ‘Design Donation’, providing professional design to financially-challenged charities and good causes.
Greenhouse PR, a multi-award winning B-Corporation, recognises the power of communications to drive social and environmental change. Focusing on Brand Strategy, Public Relations, Media Relations, and Social Media, Greenhouse PR “create communications strategies and campaigns with impact, to scale the ideas, technologies, products and services that offer solutions to the big challenges we face.”
Greenhouse PR worked with Green Alliance and RSPB to unite businesses to call for a green recovery. They gained signatures from CEOs of over 60 brands including Iceland, The Body Shop, Ben & Jerry’s and Pukka Herbs, engaged celebrity influencers, and successfully reached influential audiences including decision-makers in Parliament, Whitehall and the media. The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) even responded to the open letter!
The agency also supports ethical companies to promote their purpose, such as Cafédirect and Triodos Bank. The benefits of Cafédirect’s unique business model, whereby smallholder farmers across the globe are supported in a time where pests, diseases and climate change cause issues in the coffee supply chain, was promoted. Triodos Bank’s “Change your bank, change the world” campaign aimed to encourage consumers to switch to this ethical bank, which only funds organisations that are creating positive social and environmental change. Greenhouse PR even engage in pro-bono work to support mission-driven NGOs and smaller social enterprises.
Above and beyond their support of conscious companies, Greenhouse PR created a New Green Radicals report, in association with BusinessGreen. This project included the outcomes of interviews with entrepreneurs, leaders and creators who are “reshaping history,” providing radical solutions to the climate crisis - including the likes of Toast Ale, OVO and LUSH. They want to “challenge the PR industry to use their skills and expertise to help clients to develop and scale climate solutions to help protect the planet for future generations”.
If marketing is a tool by which to promote an idea, a lifestyle or a promise, these agencies are showing how communications can be utilised to promote the idea of inclusivity in the media; a lifestyle where wellbeing is prioritised; and the promise of a better future - for people and the planet.
The new age of companies are pushing forward with a purpose. From social media campaigns to product launches, the above agencies demonstrate how marketing can be utilised to promote environmentally friendly and socially conscious companies, products and services.
Media Bounty talks about how brands need to understand their role in society; similarly, Greenhouse PR acknowledges that “as communicators, we have the power to inspire change.” These are considerations which could be taken on board by all agencies.