Introducing: B Corps!

Last semester while creating a comprehensive business plan in my entrepreneurship course, my professor mentioned an organization called B Corp for those of us looking to connect our businesses to social responsibility. He quickly pulled up the website, gave us a little tour and then said, “Give it a deeper look later if you want” most students just shrugged it off and I was thinking about doing the same, but something about it intrigued me and I decided to explore their website further and I’m so glad I did!

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B Corp is a worldwide non-profit organization that connects and certifies a community of business that not only want to be the best in the world, but the best for the world. This diverse community of companies include more that 1,000 businesses, small and large, in over 33 countries across the globe. They all however, share the common goal of ‘turning our community into a global movement to redefine success in business’. B Corp works to empower these companies to solve social and environmental problems through their success, using business as a force for good.

Watching their clip shown below, I was glad to see one of their featured companies; Ben & Jerry’s which is based right here in Burlington, Vermont. Other local companies that are certified B Corps are Seventh Generation and Gardener’s Supply. In a time when the corporate social responsibility movement is really taking off, I’m so proud to live in a city where that ideal is not only valued but truly invested in.

Perhaps the most exciting part of exploring the B Corp website and getting to know more was finding their ‘Find A B Corp’ tab where you can search their global community of (1194 to be exact) companies by an industry category drop-down menu! How cool is that! My personal favorites are Marketing & Communications Services and Non-Profit Consulting & Fundraising. Between those two I found literally dozens of do-good companies I’d be ecstatic to intern or work for. There’s also a B Corps Job Board with posted internships and open positions.

I could go on and on about why B Corp is my new favorite thing, but it’s truly worth exploring for yourself!

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Telling The Stories of Strangers

10644592_854346767940591_3043726511089855422_n       I recently stumbled upon a fascinating little creation called The Dictionary Of Obscure Sorrows that I feel the need to share with the universe. According to the creator it’s “A compendium of invented words written by John Koenig. Each original definition aims to fill a hole in the language—to give a name to emotions we all might experience but don’t yet have a word for.” It sounds pretty wacky, and it is, but in the best way possible. As someone who’s very attuned to the subtleties of my (sometimes crazy) mind and emotions, this ‘dictionary’ is pure magic. It’s as if the author has taken all those thoughts and fears and joys and instances I’ve never quite been able to articulate, and created somehow perfectly articulated vocabularies for them. Like a quirky glossary that my mind never knew it was missing until it now. The best part was that as I read other viewers comments and feedback I was blown away thinking wow, who knew countless other strangers share the same random, personal contemplations I thought were only my own! Im not crazy/alone in this!

The author recently started creating a weekly video-series to visualize the abstractness of these newly created words. My favorite word/video of his is perhaps the strongest emotion I’ve had throughout my life but never been able to explain without fear of looking like a slightly insane person. It’s something that catches my attention everyday and intrigues me to the core. It’s what inspires me to travel, connect with new cultures, learn new languages and turn strangers into friends. And it’s newfound definition is apparently…Sonder.

sonder  – n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.

Now that I think about it, this is at the essence of why I chose marketing (specifically social cause marketing) as my preferred path. I am fascinated by the idea that everyone has a story to tell, each as vivid and complex as the next. I want to take my skills in marketing, which are in a way storytelling, and use that to tell the stories of socially responsible organizations and individuals around the world. I want to tell the stories of the artisan who crafted that bracelet on your wrist or of the farmer who harvested that banana in your cereal. I want to connect cultures and people who would have never been the wiser. At the very least I want to make you pause at the mind boggling fact that we’re all much more interconnected than it seems.

Lessons Learned in The World of Non-Profit Marketing

ff8a43a62469f938ef01f31fef1f58cdUpon starting my fair trade internship at the non-profit the Peace & Justice Center I wasn’t sure where it would take me and what roles I would settle into. With one week left of the experience I can say that a lot of the time was spent creatively marketing the organization in one way or another. When I say creatively I mean, for a lack of a better word cheaply. Being a non-profit the PJC has to utilize mainly free tools for marketing because we have a very limited budget. Fortunately, the wild world of social media offers countless opportunities to market creatively, of which I’ve gotten a ton of hands on experience with over the past semester. I’ve recently been marketing two events I’m putting on though the PJC. The first is the screening of a documentary called Banana Land which explores the truth behind the peel of the banana trade. The second is Burlington’s World Fair Trade Day Celebration on May 9th at the first outdoor farmers market of the season. Although both events are relatively different in logistics, the marketing strategy follows a fairly specific set of rules of success that I’ve created. Here I present (in no particular order) the 3 main lessons I’ve learned about the wild world of non-profit marketing.

Utilize Existing (and free!) Tools

Most non-profits have little to no marketing budget. The good news is there are countless social media and crowd-funding tools out there to generate awareness about your cause or event. Facebook continues to be the most valuable platform, most likely because of it’s mix of medias. It lets you present a wholesome image of your organization of specific program/event through pictures, text, event pages, friends and so on. Twitter is also a valuable tool to not only spread the word but to directly network and connect to other like minded and/or supportive organizations. After all, social cause marketing is about generating communication and positive change among communities, so why not market directly to them through their social media platforms?

Connect With Your Long Term Supporters

The PJC is a member-based non-profit that has been around since 1979 and in that time has connected to thousands of community members, friends, protesters and most of all supporters of our causes. It’s exciting to want to reach out to new prospects but it’s important to remember the value of long time loyal members and re-connect with them on current events. If they’ve been passionate about supporting past causes of the center, they are likely to want to continue learning and supporting new causes into the future. Similar to the 80/20 rule, it’s important to realize that although it’s tempting to market events to EVERYONE possible, it’s smart to pinpoint your loyal supporters who already have a meaningful connection to your organization.

Create a Call To Action

Non-profit marketing is unique in that you are marketing an idea, a cause. You aren’t selling a product with flashy ads, you’re presenting an ideal and why someone should support that value. It’s a tricky thing to do because it’s deeper than just convincing someone they need something or want something new in their lives. You’re convincing someone to give money, or time, or support to a cause that is for the most part external to their lives and that they get nothing from, in a material possession sense (as compared to normal consumerism marketing). In order to successfully do this, you must create a clear call to action. If your goal is to raise money, set a specific monetary goal or suggested donation amount and explain what it goes towards. If your goal is to create awareness or advocacy on a certain cause, clearly outline every aspect of the topic and what individuals can do to bring change. They want guidance, so give it to them.

This is only the tip of the iceberg into non-profit marketing, and I can already tell it’s a wacky world I’m entering into, but I’m loving it so far.

Social Marketing Explained

When I tell people I focus in social marketing it’s not uncommon to get that blank stare/grin look that conveys “I don’t quite know what that means but I’m just going to pretend I do”. Well fear not! I’d like to take the next few minutes of your life to explain in my own words (and some borrowed from professional sources) exactly what Social Marketing is all about.

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Change Marketing. Social Good Marketing. Cause Marketing. It’s all one in the same and the reason we have such an ambiguous array of definitions for Social Marketing is, in all honest, because we’re still defining and developing it within our culture and within the field of marketing. But with ambiguity comes opportunity, so I don’t know about you but I’m pretty excited about what’s to come! But I digress…lets start at the beginning…

A Brief History of Social Marketing:

The idea of social marketing was first explored in a G.D. Wiebe’s 1951 discussion of the question: “”Why can’t you sell brotherhood and rational thinking like you can sell soap?” The talk centered on the differences between marketing as a catalyst for consumerism and marketing as a catalyst for social benefit. 24 years later the term Social Marketing was coined by Philip Kotler and since then, through years of development and activity we have (kind of) solidified a definition.

As endorsed by the Boards of the International Social Marketing Association:

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Social Marketing is NOT Social Media Marketing:

Since the immense development of social media platforms since the early 2000s, a lot of people assume Social Marketing refers to social media. Not true. Although social marketing can utilize digital platforms to reach audiences, their focus is completely different than social media marketing. Social Media Marketing ties to the ideas of ‘social’ meaning the interactive digital platforms or ‘social media’ that make up our online lives.  Social Marketing in turn, sees ‘social’ in a more traditional sense relating to actual society and the connections that can be made and causes that can be marketed that can lead to social benefit in our culture.

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The Essence of Social Marketing:

There has been endless debate on a distinct definition, some of which include:

Social Good Marketing

Social Change Marketing

Behavior Change Communication

Change Marketing

Change Communications

Socially Responsible Marketing

However, no matter the wording, in my opinion Social Marketing at it’s core focuses on the following:

  • Working to educate the public on causes/socially responsible organizations/individuals who are creating positive change in our society
  • Providing a voice to these ‘do-gooders’ and a platform to amplify their socially beneficial efforts and share them in ways that they never could have done alone
  • To promote a switch from consumer driven materialism towards a more sustainable and globally responsible form of ‘spending’ whether that be through donating to socially responsible causes or conscious consumerism practices such as buying fair trade and ethically sourced products

Why I’m So Excited:

As I’m about to graduate from college with a Marketing degree I’m becoming more and more excited about the world of opportunities I’m entering into. I feel incredibly lucky to have received such a unique education in marketing at Champlain College and to have had so many valuable experiences interning and traveling over the last 4 years. I am confident that I can take these skills and experiences and use them to collaborate with amazing causes and organizations around the world to help share their stories.  The world of Social Marketing is a fascinating and inspiring realm that I can’t wait to explore further as I move forward in the future and to anyone interested as well, I hope this post has helped shed some light.

Check out my Professional Values Statement tab to see (in other, perhaps more concise words) more of what I’m talking about here.

The Story Behind One of My Favorite Fair Trade Brands

This winter, before I became the Fair Trade Intern at the Peace & Justice Center in Burlington, VT I was a volunteer in the fair trade shop connected to the center. I got to know the products of the artisans and brands we carry very well and wanted to tell the story behind one of my favorites, Matr Boomie. In our modern consumerism culture, I find that there is often a huge disconnect between the buyer and the origin of the products we have in our lives. We often forget that everything we buy has a story behind it, hands that created it and a life that it affected. This article from The Peace & Justice Center’s winter 2015 Newsletter highlights one fair trade company that is trying to play an active role in this movement of conscious consumerism, connecting consumer to creator in a just and sustainable way. I hope you enjoy.  *if text in the article is too small I suggest clicking on the image and zooming in 🙂

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A Small Scale Look at Big Data

This past week David Wynn, the senior product manager of MyWebGrocer, a Burlington, VT based digital software/online shopping/B2B marketing/everything under the sun company came to speak to my marketing class about Big Data.  As David was introducing himself and his role at MyWebGrocer I remember telling myself, ok just do your best to keep up with his techy jargon and and complex algorithm codes. But his presentation was far less complex than I thought it would be. In fact, Big Data in general is much more digestible and applicable that I would have ever imagined. Now that’s not to say that it isn’t big, and vast and multi-dimensional in many of its factors, there are countless areas I could dive into, softwares I could explain and vocab I could define but that would take days and eventually bore us both. I want to simplify the intimidating world of Big Data for you, much like David did for my class. I want to take the eye-opening information he shared, and compact it into a user friendly version that someone with even no marketing experience could understand.

So without further ado, I present Mel’s Small Scale Look at Big Data:

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BIG DATA: those are some hefty two words. How about we break them down, into three words to be exact (just trust me).

Relevance. Personalization. Optimization.

These three words are the essence of Big Data in the marketing world, they outline the what, the why and the how of this modern beast.

Lets start with Relevance. Through collecting monumental amounts of information and statistics on online shoppers, relevant value can be created out of all of that raw data. It’s turns spreadsheets into fortune tellers and excel lists into mind readers. Big Data can track what a consumer wants before they even know it. It sifts through masses of data and pinpoints the relevant info that can then be used for…you guessed it…Personalization.

Once relevant information on consumers shopping habits is collected, Big Data gets to work creating targeted, personalized marketing tactics to get that buyers attention. This is called ‘audience based targeting’. Have you ever been looking for days for the perfect pair of boots online, decided to take a break, scroll through Facebook and see an ad for the exact boots in your sidebar? Thats an example of personalized big data driven marketing. As you may or may not know, many of the main sites we visit on a daily basis share interconnecting databases that track out searches, so these shared ‘cookies’ can alert one site when it’s a good time to show a personalized ad to us.

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Lastly we have Optimization, the strong ending to Big Data. So we’ve found out what the consumer wants, we’ve served up personalized ads right to their favorite sites, but does it really lead them to buy the product in real life? According to David, it does. He says over 90% of the time, the consumer went out and bought the product advertised to them, in correlation to seeing the personalized ad on their screen. And considering he has millions of data points to base his projections off of, I’m going to trust him on that one.

So this has been a small scale look at one aspect of Big Data. There are many more to be explored, but for now I’ll let these examples digest.  Not as complex as it seems, right?