Creating a meaningful brand — one that fans can rally behind — is more than a marketing trend. Aligning a brand’s mission with a cause is becoming a smart business tactic, especially to those who market to millennials. According to a survey, 9 in 10 millennials would switch brands to ones associated with a cause, and 70% of millennials would pay more for a product to help make an impact. These consumers want to know their dollars are making a difference, and they want to believe in a brand.
The National Aquarium is more than a Baltimore staple — it is a brand that set out to make a difference and inspire change in the world. At a November AMA in the AM event, Emma Wesoloski, Director of Marketing Programs, and Nabila Chami, Director of Brand Strategy, of the National Aquarium spoke to attendees about mission-driven marketing and how to connect with your audience. While they used their own experiences and campaigns as examples, there are a few tips you can use to help your marketing make an impact.
This seems like a no-brainer, but it is important to align with a cause that is true to your brand. Many companies try to capitalize on a movement, but they aren’t always authentic in their execution. When you look at the mission statement for the National Aquarium, you’ll see an organization that is committed to education and inspiring conservation in others. They have positioned themselves to be thought leaders in their industry and have cultivated a culture that truly reflects their efforts in conservation, animal rescue, and more. Whether you visit their location, interact with them on social media, or see an ad, you know what they stand for and try to achieve.
Test and Listen
As important as the creative process is, it is important to test your campaigns and listen to the results. Before launching their campaign “The Water is Calling,” the National Aquarium tested a few campaign ideas with a focus group. Their data partner asked viewers:
- How much do you like it? (Favorability)
- Is it on brand? (Compatibility)
- Will it inspire action? (Actionability)
The team almost chose an illustrated campaign that the staff loved and had high hopes for, but it did not test well in favorability, especially when compared to “The Water is Calling” (a campaign that they loved as well). Their chosen campaign ended up being a success with 105,000,000 impressions and generated a 3% year-over-year increase in Aquarium attendance. Had they not tested and listened to the feedback, their campaign results may not have been as successful.
The National Aquarium is a member of the Aquarium Conservation Partnership, a program that works to reduce single use plastics and more. Their commitment inspired a campaign called #SeaChange in 2018. The campaign debuted on World Oceans Day in June and was designed to help inspire people to take action to protect our oceans. At Artscape, the National Aquarium showed up in a way that was authentic to Artscape and the Aquarium. There was a Sea Change action wall, a virtual reality experience, and a gigantic interactive octopus sculpture made out of plastic bags and restaurant cups. This unique experience allowed staff members to have short informal conversations with attendees and resulted in a 10,000 in person engagement (even in the rain). It’s great that we have social media, but it can be just as successful — and possibly more engaging — to get out there and meet with your fans.
Mission-driven marketing shouldn’t be a gimmick or a tool used simply to engage with your audience. Consumers are smart and know when a brand is taking advantage of a situation or movement. If you’re authentic, listen, and connect with your fans, you can inspire change in the world.