Spreading awareness is more than just writing a catchy slogan, building a landing page, and posting hashtags on social media. To reach the right people, you need to come up with an effective cause marketing plan.
So how do you do that? Here are eight advocacy campaigns that took the world by storm, and what you can take away from them.
In 2006, social activist Tarana Burke launched the Me Too movement to create a space for survivors of sexual harassment and assault to heal from their trauma.
More than a decade after, in 2017, numerous women came forward to expose their experience of sexual abuse involving Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Actress Alyssa Milano posted a tweet encouraging other survivors to tweet the hashtag #MeToo, as a way for the world to see the magnitude of sexual abuse as a problem.
Within 24 hours, more than 4.7 million people used the #MeToo hashtag in more than 12 million posts. One year and several harrowing stories later, #MeToo brought down powerful figures in entertainment, media, politics, and tech. The campaign had revealed the global scale of the issue.
Takeaway: Leverage social media
Social media allows people to connect, share, and relate to one another. It gives a voice to individuals and played an integral role to the Me Too Movement.
Through social media, people have become aware of how pervasive sexual assault and harassment is in society. The solidarity of survivors towards holding their abusers accountable through social media posts made the issue trend and go viral on numerous platforms.
Hope is a short film made by the International Committee of the Red Cross. It sends a message about the attack of hospitals and health workers in war-torn areas.
ICRC created the campaign to raise awareness about the problem and to engage people in the conversation. The aim was to reach those who were responsible to avoid these attacks.
And raise awareness it did. The campaign caught the world’s attention, and then rightfully won a Grand Prix award during the 2018 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
Takeaway: Appeal to emotions and tug heartstrings
The common thread in advocacy is the emotions behind the cause. And this campaign tugged at the emotions (and heartstrings) of the viewer with its cause.
By featuring a heartbreaking story about the effects of war on public places and private individuals, viewers became empathetic — and felt compelled to take action.
HeForShe is a global campaign organized by the UN Women that aims to encourage all genders — including men — to step up in fighting for gender equality.
Actress and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson took the lead, with her groundbreaking speech during the launch of the campaign. That speech became viral on social media and drove a surge of followers in HeForShe’s online platforms. Within 24 hours, there was an 82% increase in followers on Twitter, a 305% increase in Facebook, and a 3,500% increase in Instagram.
Word spread even further when celebrities, government leaders, executives, and other public figures flocked to social media, holding a sign with the tagline.
Takeaway: Work with influencers
The campaign leveraged the power of influencers — celebrities, public officials, executive leaders, and the like — to push the advocacy forward.
With their huge following, influencers hold a lot of power in changing people’s mindsets and influencing their decisions. They also amplify the reach for your advocacy campaign.
Reclame Aqui is a Brazilian site known for being the go-to resource for the reputation of various companies.
They took their purpose to the next level by launching Corruption Detector, a facial recognition app that allows users to take photos of political figures and check if they have records of corruption cases.
Released before Brazil’s 2018 general elections, Corruption Detector became a significant help for the country’s voter population. With the app’s comprehensive database of politicians and their records of corruption (or non-corruption), voters now have an easier way to choose the right candidates to vote for.
With its huge impact, Corruption Detector garnered more than 400,000 downloads within its first week, becoming the number one downloaded app in Brazil. It also garnered 120 million engagements online. This all happened with zero media investments.
Takeaway: Present a solution to the problem
The key to the success of Corruption Detector is it being a straightforward solution to the corruption issue in Brazil. And anti-corruption advocates have had enough. Instead of calling out corrupt officials online, they went ahead and created an app to address the problem.
While you’re not likely to have funds to create an app, think about how you can come up with simple solutions for bite-sized problems within your cause. The simplicity would compel people to listen and take action.
Palau Pledge is a campaign launched by Palau to raise awareness on the environmental impact of tourism on their island nation. Before visitors enter Palau, they have to sign a pledge stamped on their passports, vowing to “preserve and protect [Palau’s] beautiful and unique island home.”
Behind the campaign were numerous steps of hard work. This included permanent changes to their immigration policy, and website and ad promotion. Further, they put up signage’s around the nation and made visitors watch an in-flight film before landing on the island.
International leaders, organizations, and media outlets commended Palau Pledge — including the United Nations. The campaign also earned 1.7 billion media impressions, with zero media budget. As of writing, 143,412 pledges have been taken through Palau Pledge’s website.
Takeaway: Use signature campaigns
A signature campaign is both a concrete and symbolic way for people to pledge support for a cause. It keeps people psychologically committed to it.
Palau Pledge used a signature campaign to promote its cause and gather supporters. The tourists of Palau have pledged their support for the cause — with signatures they signed on their stamped passports.
Evert_45 features the story of Evert, a fictional young boy on a journey to find his brother in hiding after escaping a German camp during World War II. His story is based on real stories that happened during the war.
What’s special about this campaign was how Evert’s story was told through Youtube vlogs and Instagram posts, as though it was happening. This made the events of World War II completely relatable to the younger generation.
The campaign was a collaboration of:
- KPN (Dutch telecom brand)
- The National Committee for 4 and 5 May (Remembrance Day and Liberation Day)
- The Dutch Resistance Museum
- Dr. Joost Rosendaal of Radboud University
Their efforts have earned the attention of the Dutch community, especially the youth. Three weeks after the launch of the campaign, 70% of the Dutch youths have watched it. Evert_45 will also be included in the curricula of schools throughout the Netherlands.
Takeaway: Get to know your audience
Evert_45 was meant to reach the young generation. The campaign understood how youths communicated and related with one another — sharing tidbits about their lives on Youtube and Instagram.
With that, the campaign turned a fictional historical boy into an actual person who posted on Instagram and Youtube – and Dutch youths could not help but relate while thinking about how things would be if they were living through the war.
Launched by Water is Life, an organization committed to addressing the global water crisis, Hashtag Killer hijacked #FirstWorldProblems. Social media users use the hashtag #FirstWorldProblems to complain about trivial problems (like phone chargers that won’t reach the bed and neighbours that block the wifi).
The campaign then turned it around by collecting tweets about “first world problems” and letting people of Haiti read and respond to them.
The campaign caught the attention of media outlets and turned conversations in social media around. Now, people use the hashtag not to complain about simple problems, but to spread the cause of Water is Life and to encourage others to donate. Upon launch, clean water good for 1 million days were donated to people in need.
Takeaway: Leverage pop culture and popular hashtags
Pop culture references drive attention and engagement online — simply because they’re already popular, in the first place.
By using a pop culture reference (hashtag) in their campaign, Hashtag Killer rides in the wave of its popularity and makes their presence known to its followers. That’s an instant access to an already huge audience.
Dead Whale is a campaign organized by Greenpeace Philippines, featuring a 73-foot art installation of a dead whale made entirely of plastic. Launched on the same day of the ASEAN Summit on Coastal and Marine Development last 2017, the campaign urged world leaders to take measures to eradicate plastic pollution and the harm it causes to marine life.
The response to the campaign became immediately impactful worldwide, reaching more than 100 countries in less than 24 hours. In three weeks, it earned more than 100 million impressions on social media and filled out headlines of local and international media outlets. More importantly, world leaders heeded the call, including the issue in a proposal for the next ASEAN Leaders Summit.
Takeaway: Take your campaign offline
The internet is an essential tool to raise awareness about important issues. However, these concerns are not happening in the digital space, but outside that — in the actual world. Dead Whale brings a chilling effect with their campaign because it is situated in a real-world setting, making their audience personally feel what the issue is.
Advocacy campaigns do not necessarily need to be on the internet. People will still be able to take pictures and videos, and share them on social media. Likewise, media coverage.
The Bottom Line
Through creative marketing strategies, these advocacy campaigns effectively turned the world’s attention towards their causes. Get inspired with these campaigns and see your advocacy and cause beat the ordinary!