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In a 2015 Global CSR Study, it was found that 90% of consumers would boycott a brand for poor business practices and 91% of them were expecting companies to operate responsibly and address a wide range of social and environmental issues. Just imagine the evolution of these numbers over the last 5 years.

In 2021, all brands are facing ethical, social, environmental and sanitary situations that are forcing them to review deeply their communication strategy and stay relevant in a very demanding environment: It is only the beginning of what consumers will expect from them in the future.
Many brands have committed and invested in various causes (environmental, social, ethical…). How should this be communicated through social media? How can it look authentic and thoughtful? In a constant flow of information and social media posts, it is of the utmost importance to stay away from a “traditional” marketing approach. Avoid product centric communication, be sustainable, transparent and put humans first. This is what is expected when addressing CSR topics for the younger generations.

What are the main goals when we talk about CSR engagements?

  1. raising awareness around a cause
  2. educating people to drive concern
  3. empowering communities that are already strongly engaged
  4. taking action to show the way to a wider audience

It can also be difficult to understand the space CSR has to take in your communication plan and how to execute it to gain trust from the new generation and ultimately trigger brand love. We think Instagram is the best platform to start today sharing CSR commitments. With a database of more than 1 billion users, 67% of these latter are between 18 and 29 years old. It’s impossible to talk about your initiatives to change the future if you are not targeting the relevant audiences.

Raise awareness around an issue & educate for more consideration.

When commiting to a cause, more than showcasing your actions, raise awareness on the cause you believe in first, on the reasons that made you choose that one, and share educational content about that cause. This will prove your sincere commitment and explain the deep connection it has with your brand. Building better storytelling.

When Kenzo collaborated with WWF back in September 2020, it made perfect sense. They created a capsule collection entirely made of organic cotton and for each item sold, donations would be made to WWF with the aim of doubling the numbers of wild tigers in 2022. Kenzo’s emblem and logo being a tiger, no other brand could have been better suited for this cause. They respected their brand DNA and took part in something meaningful for them and their audiences. When communicating on this collaboration, they took time to explain the how and why and their audience, clients engaged with the cause, and the brand.

Empower the communities.

Making your community part of the movement and making sure they can identify is essential. There are many ways to include the public in a movement through social media. During the lockdown we have been seeking for new ways to create connections with others despite being apart.

Involving the audiences in your commitment by creating contests or by encouraging people to repost the movement on Instagram will considerably strengthen your activation and its impact. Many brands or groups have been supporting medical forces around the world and some of them created dedicated digital activations encouraging people to take part. As an example Kering invited celebrities and their community to create a heart chain for nurses on Instagram Stories through the #heartchainfornurses that reached more than 6.4 million people and generated around 9.4 million impressions. Using your audience to reach your goals is the best way of gaining credibility and increasing awareness around it.

Take actions to help.

Communicating on helping others is good but proving you are actually doing it on a daily basis is better. More than creating contests or games, main actors take long term actions to best help and donate to causes. LVMH is one of the pioneers of this by creating on-going programs for young people or women empowerment such as LVMH Métiers d’Excellences proposing dedicated HR programs encouraging people to pursue their jobs and improve their skills. Acting over time can give you more legitimacy and make your audience loyal to your group or brand. We have seen a lot of brands taking advantage of what we can call “short-term crisis”. That has been the case with the movement “Black Lives Matters”. A lot of brands have been posting the famous full black picture on their account mentioning they were supporting and helping the cause, but we see that for most of them, no actions have been taken beyond that. Having a voice is the first step but taking action is what gives you authenticity and credibility or even prevents future damage on your brand image.

Who are the pioneers?

Gucci, a young but powerful activist.

Gucci is not the first brand to take actions in various causes but one of the first to start communicating about it with a strategy and make it part of their brand DNA and storytelling. From stopping to resort to real fur in their production process in 2017 to become a 100% committed brand on all aspects: animal defense, women empowerment, taking actions for communities, being eco-friendly, etc. Having a voice for everything and acting accordingly forced them to create a dedicated instagram account called @gucciequilibrium with the aim of educating their audiences on their on-going actions that generate positive changes for people and the planet. On this account, they share content less branded, less marketed but nevertheless well built to claim that they are changemakers. They count more than 25 000 followers with an engagement rate of 1.5% (a respectable score for a fashion brand account) and gathering a very international and engaged community.

Stella Mc Cartney, protagonist of fashion sustainability.

The Maison Stella Mc Cartney might not be the most creative in terms of CSR communication but was surely a protagonist of the ethic revolution within the fashion industry back in 2010 when we realized that change was coming, 10 years back. They were visionaries, today they are leaders and a model when talking about CSR. More focused on environmental preservation, animal welfare and fair-trade, they made sustainability part of their brand DNA that is based on a very strict and structured CSR policy. From 100% eco-friendly collections to using hybrid cars for professional journeys, they have a strong voice in this field and this is always part of their communication strategy on social media by always mentioning their positive environmental footprint in their captions. They made a long-term promise to the planet and proved to everyone that being sustainable does not retain you from being profitable.

Kering, acting for all.

Brands are committed but major groups can be too. That is the case of Kering that takes CSR very seriously and insists on rubbing this off on its portfolio of brands. They partner with nature explorer Instagram influencers to raise awareness among their community on the beauty and vulnerability of nature. They create online concerts on Instagram Live to donate to organizations that support environmental and social catastrophes, participate in cultural exhibitions and give importance to social commitments. With a 360° CSR communication plan they have a strong and credible voice over their audience that surely follows them for that reason on Instagram since 30% of their posts are commitment oriented.

We could talk about how digital communication has evolved over the years and who has been the most successful, but what really matters as of today, is how it will take over a majority of the space in communication strategies for each and for all. This change is inevitable. The recent crises we have been facing have done nothing but emphasize the fact that future generations are bored of traditional marketing approaches. Keeping up with changemaking brands at least is essential. And to expect stepping out of the crowd, innovating and being dedicated are the keys to success. It is really time to get started if you have not yet established a CSR strategy.