What is Movement Marketing?

You don’t have to be an advertising executive to see how things have changed in the world of advertising and marketing. In his book, Uprising: How to Build a Brand and Change the World by Sparking Cultural Movements, author Scott Goodson explains how marketing and advertising have evolved from crassly hawking wares to consciously promoting a social movement. Goodson explains the difference: “Companies and brands must learn to stop talking about themselves and to join in a conversation that is about anything and everything but their product.” Goodson describes the importance of attracting attention without being obvious or manipulative: “There’s a fine line between associating with a rising idea and trying to co-opt it or turn it into a banal sales pitch.”

What is Movement Marketing

From 25 years of industry experience, Goodson crafted the concept of “Movement Marketing” as a new way to build a brand. As the founder of marketing and advertising agency StrawberryFrog with offices in New York, Amsterdam and Sao Paulo, Goodson has started his very own movement. He has been a guest speaker at Cambridge University, Columbia Business School, and recently spoke at a TEDx event with the theme, “Mass Movement Mania.” In addition to writing a column for Forbes, Goodson passionately sets out to help businesses and industries engage with movement marketing by speaking at business and marketing conferences around the world.

On uprisingmovements.com Goodson provides precise instructions for teaching people how to create a movement. One section of his website, “Learn Cultural Movements” examines the following question: “How can brands use Cultural Movements to their benefit if it’s not about the product? First and foremost, Cultural Movements are about ideas on the rise in culture, about emotion, cultural cache, and creativity – they do not start with products. But what is clever about them is that people will automatically ‘buy into’ the brand by being part of its Cultural Movement. Because a Cultural Movement should always be intelligently connected with the product and what it stands for. Products will always naturally link into a Cultural Movement if it’s done right. So you won’t have any need to actually talk about them much at all.”

Movement Marketing Sparks Revolution

Uprising: How to Build a Brand and Change the World by Sparking Cultural Movements” could definitely be one of the best business books for entrepreneurs. Generally, it’s a good read for creating great leaders because it’s about the larger picture and making the world a better place.

“So, how can movement marketing work for your organization? One way is by positioning one’s business alongside a burgeoning movement. Author Goodson describes how businesses and communities can join forces to “do good by doing well.” One example is of social entrepreneur Blake Mycoskie, founder of Toms shoes who has donated more than a million shoes to children with his buy-a-pair, donate-a-pair business concept. Goodson also describes how Apple started out fighting for the underdog, Dove used regular women’s physiques in their “real beauty” campaign and how Dan Savage brought attention to the mistreatment of gays by creating a movement for suicidal gay teenagers called, “It Gets Better.” These relatable, real life examples make Goodson’s book an especially good guide for navigating movement marketing.

Another example of movement marketing is Derek Sivers’ groundbreaking TED Talk, “How to Start a Movement.” In Sivers’ compelling, yet simple example, he shows how a movement gets started, by using footage of young people at an outdoor concert and how a single dancer is able to get nearly everyone on their feet. The movement isn’t about the lone dancer, Sivers says. It’s about the second person who participates and how this participation changes the “lone nut into a leader.”

What do the Civil Rights Movement, Burning Man, and American Colonists have in Common?

We’re currently witnessing the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. King’s words galvanized the Civil Rights Movement. The power of an idea—equality for everyone regardless of color—led to the Civil Rights Act, a new law giving African Americans the same opportunities in education and work and, of course, the right to vote. One person’s poignant speech helped kick off an entire movement. So, what does it take to create a movement and why are some successful while others fall short?

The website for the documentary “Spark: A Burning Man Story” explains how a movement can ignite from a simple idea: “Each year, 60,000 people from around the globe gather in a dusty windswept Nevada desert to build a temporary city, collaborating on large-scale art and partying for a week before burning a giant effigy in a ritual frenzy. Rooted in principles of self-expression, self-reliance and community effort, Burning Man has grown famous for stirring ordinary people to shed their nine-to-five existence and act on their dreams.” Burning man was founded over 25 years ago by a few people with the idea of encouraging people to follow their dreams and grew into a social movement that has spread to 30 countries.

Social movements are not new. In 1776, Thomas Paine wrote a booklet called “Common Sense” that ultimately created the United States by encouraging American Colonists to revolt against the British. In a country with only two million literate citizens, half a million copies of his booklet circulated and Paine chose to publish his tome under “anonymous.” Paine chose to remain anonymous because he wrote from the standpoint of a universal mission, “the influence of reason and principle,” not based on the desires of a single person.

Five “Movement Marketing” Observations from “Uprising”

Scott Goodson’s observations are applicable to most businesses and provide a window into the concept of “Movement Marketing.” Consider how the following five ideas might work in your business:

  • Discerning what people care about is far more valuable than trying to influence them.
  • The Internet and social media enable collective action, changing the way movements form and develop.
  • As traditional marketing becomes less effective, “movement marketing” provides a powerful connection with consumers.
  • “Restlessness” – a “sense of dissatisfaction” with an aspect of the social environment – spawns movements and uprisings.
  • Early advocates form the core of an emerging movement by backing an “alternative idea” to resolve an existing problem. Help shape that idea and provide resources to facilitate connections and action. Interact with people not as individuals but as parts of an interrelated group.”
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