As Brands Try to Sell “Woke,” Customers Wise Up

As social and political resistance movements make daily headlines, is there room for a brand in that conversation? A few companies have tried to make social awareness a focal point of ads or messaging, but have come off doing more damage than good.

Today’s consumers actually prize social responsibility — but not as a selling point. Sadly, some companies haven’t learned that lesson.

Recently, Pepsi and Lyft have tried to position themselves as socially-aware brands, but the pitches have backfired. Pepsi used Kendall Jenner as the catalyst of a fake resistance rally, calming tensions between the people and the police by delivering a Pepsi to an officer. Lyft has been trying to distance itself from its tumultuous competitor Uber, as cofounder John Zimmer called his company “woke.”

Pepsi quickly pulled its ad, but not before a wave of outrage from social media, and the ensuing mocking memes. The commercial was incredibly tone-deaf, making light of tense conflicts with the police. Lyft’s Zimmer saw his comments laughed off, as consumers pointed out that they don’t treat drivers much better than Uber. Customers are able to see right through these types of efforts.

By trying to look socially responsible, these companies have actually hurt themselves and barged into a conversation not meant for them.

Consumers don’t want social responsibility to be part of an ad campaign. They want to buy from companies that actively practice it — and not just in front of a camera.

Instead of showcasing your “wokeness” in an ad or staging a fake resistance rally just for product placement, brands can actually gain superfans by enacting more responsible practices.

A study by Nielsen shows that consumers will respond to true, authentic awareness with their wallets. In that survey, 66 percent of those polled said they’d be willing to spend more on products that come from companies committed to a positive social and environmental impact.

Here are a few ways brands can practice social responsibility (and not come under fire on Twitter):

Make it part of your mission

One of the key tenets of companies such as Salesforce, Patagonia and Adobe is charitable efforts. They encourage their employees to donate to charity and spend hours during volunteer work, often giving them a reward for doing so. This is a common and very effective way to practice corporate social responsibility without contacting an ad agency.

Highlight charitable practices

TOMS Shoes has become a popular brand, especially among Millennials, for their One for One program. For each pair of shoes purchased, TOMS donates a pair to someone in need of footwear. Brands big and small can find a way to tie sales to charitable giving, positioning themselves as the socially conscious choice through action, not advertising. TOMS’ philanthropic business model has become so industry-leading that other brands such as Warby Parker have emulated their One for One program.

Green up the office

The most basic way to become a socially responsible brand is to bring environmentally conscious practices in house. Whether it’s doing what you can to become a paperless office or ensuring that employees all through the supply chain are paid and treated fairly, find out how you can improve within your walls by looking into programs such as becoming a certified B Corporation.

Champion a cause close to consumers’ hearts

As you learn more about your customer base, you’ll find that they have causes near and dear to their hearts. For local brands, it could be cleaning up a local lake. For bigger brands (such as Target), it’s helping schools. When you use your name, money and workforce to be a champion of this cause, it will only strengthen the bond between your company and your customers.
It won’t be cheap or easy, but truly taking the steps toward corporate social responsibility will be worth it. Today’s consumers prefer to spend their money with companies dedicated to making the world (or local area) a better place. They’re savvy enough to see through a glitzy ad campaign, knowing which companies truly walk the walk.

By Justin L.

What Twitter’s Changes Mean For Your Business

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Don’t be afraid of Twitter’s latest changes — they actually help you say more in a tweet.

Twitter recently updated how it counts out the 140-character maximum within a tweet. Now, @names and media attachments will not count against the limit. This is a huge help for businesses, who can now respond to questions on Twitter more efficiently.

These changes are rolling out over the next few months, so if that cat GIF still takes away from your character limit today, try again later.

Twitter will also allow you to re-tweet yourself and the company has simplified the way in which a reply can be seen more publicly, but the changes to the 140-character limit are the most relevant to marketing.

Twitter has been working to provide more value within the 140-character frame. Earlier this year, rumors swirled about Twitter bumping the character limit all the way up 10,000 — possibly as a way to combat blogging platforms like Medium and WordPress. CEO Jack Dorsey even entertained the possibility of making 140-character tweets a thing of the past.

Why is this an issue? Try reaching out to your (least) favorite airline, especially if you have a longer username.

Odds are, if your query is more advanced, you’ll get a multi-tweet reply or a response filled with abbreviations, making it look like a text message from your Gen Z intern.


Shortening words like “please” and “flights” were necessary to get that tweet out, but it looks weird coming from an established brand like Delta.

While these changes don’t solve the problem completely (and to be fair, many companies use direct messages for longer interactions), it allows the 140 characters you choose to matter more.

If you’re still looking for a way to get the most out of those 140 characters, try using Twitter’s video feature to add a personal response to a customer question. While you can still respond via text, the 30-second video allotment is a way to surprise and delight customers while humanizing your brand.

Even better, once these changes go into effect, the video won’t eat up characters.

This is something that change evangelist Brian Fanzo does occasionally, as a way to enhance responses.

Soon, when you respond to someone like @NoahSyndergaard or @KimKardashian (or one of your well-named customers), the character count will start with your first letter, not their handle.

By Justin Lafferty

3 Ways Cannabis Brands Can Use Social Media Marketing

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Unlike your favorite local coffee shop or restaurant, cannabis brands and medical marijuana dispensaries can’t freely advertise their awesome deals on Facebook or show off the newest hot products on Twitter.

But social media still plays a major role in how those in the cannabis industry grow their business.

Here are three ways cannabis companies can spark up their social media marketing — a platform that can be tricky to navigate.

  1. Have a plan A, B, C, D, E…

Since social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram operate on federal law, many medical marijuana-based pages are quickly shut down. Even if you’re based in a state where marijuana is legal, your social following can easily go up in smoke.

Dixie Elixirs, a Denver-based producer of legal cannabis products, saw its Facebook page shut down in February — with 11,000 fans vanishing. Joe Hodas, the company’s marketing director, told Fortune Magazine that Dixie followed Facebook’s terms of service and did not post publicly about products.

One solution: Multiple pages and accounts. Mona Zhang, editor of cannabis industry newsletter Word on the Tree, said that a common solution is for business owners to be prepared for a shutdown at any time by creating several social accounts.

  1. Lock it up

Zhang said that many businesses are looking at social networks where you can have a private presence. Instagram is a major one for medical marijuana shops, where they can engage with patients and customers but set their account to private.

While doing this still could put the business at risk of a shut down, it helps ensure that only those who want marijuana-related content will be able to see it.

Many cannabis brands on Instagram (such as Bloom Farms) still mix in product-based posts with more engaging content about the local community or the industry. However, Zhang warned that posting product photos can be risky.

Ephemeral social networks, such as Snapchat or Periscope, where content disappears after 24 hours, could be another way to spread awareness without leaving a permanent footprint.

For businesses who still want to have a public face on social media, Zhang said that posting news and educational material about medical marijuana while engaging with local enthusiasts is a way to legally grow awareness of your business on social.

  1. Seek marijuana-friendly networks

Silicon Valley has taken note of the legalization movement.

Earlier this year, prominent early Facebook investor Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund contributed to a $75 million round of funding in Privateer Holdings, a cannabis-centric private equity firm.

There are a growing number of cannabis-friendly social networks that industry leaders are flocking to. MassRoots, a social network for cannabis users and companies, was founded in 2013 and boasts more than 775,000 users. The company, listed on NASDAQ as MSRT, is continually growing and plans to launch targeted advertising this quarter.

There’s also Duby, which is more like a hybrid of Instagram and Klout for the marijuana community — available on iPhones and Androids. Other apps and networks, such as Social High and Leafly, are valuable resources for dispensaries and patients.

While they lack the wide reach Facebook or Twitter offers, these platforms allow businesses to connect with those who can legally buy their products.

By Justin Lafferty

Need PR to grow your cannabis brand? We’re happy to help. Contact us today.