Anthea Kelsick is the Chief Marketing Officer of B Lab, the nonprofit organization behind the B Corp Certification that has grown a global movement of people using business as a force for good. B Lab is redefining success in business, beyond profit, to include impact on people and the planet. Their reach is spreading, with 2,800 Certified B Corporations in more than 150 countries today and many more on the way.
Before joining B Lab, Kelsick spent almost two decades honing her skills in marketing, branding, and advertising in the corporate sector. After becoming CMO, she led B Lab’s launch of the Vote Every Day campaign from concept through strategy and implementation.
JB Media Founder Justin Belleme invited Kelsick to be part of a panel of industry experts he put together to speak on the topic of marketing and branding for social impact organizations at the 2018 SOCAP conference in San Francisco. During the panel discussion, Kelsick shared her perspective on the unique challenges and opportunities of marketing for a brand that is creating impact and building a movement, including three observations she made during her time at B Lab that have shaped the way she approaches marketing in this space. Here is a transcript of a few of the insights she shared during the panel discussion.
On traditional corporate marketing versus impact marketing
In the impact space the fundamentals of marketing certainly still apply, but there are new challenges. I would say the biggest challenge is how to grow a brand while also growing a movement. At B Lab we are selling a suite of products around the certification and need to do traditional marketing activities like build awareness, acquisition, engagement, and advocacy. We also have to go beyond that to grow the B Corp movement, which goes beyond just driving a purchase, but rather into fundamentally changing behavior and mindsets.
There’s also the difference of scale. I’ve been doing branding, marketing, and advertising work for a decade now with giant brands, giant budgets, and giant teams. I now have a team of four and a much smaller budget, and few adjacent resources to tap into. So there’s also a need to get creative in how to fund the work and to build alliances and partnerships with those who can help amplify the message.
And so, I would say there are three things that have fundamentally shifted the way that I approach marketing in this space:
1. Build a call to action, not a value proposition
We launched Vote Every Day to call people to action around multiple messages. It’s a communication platform that has the flexibility to work across brands, across issue areas like climate impact or gender equity, as well as the longevity to be relevant for several years. And all while asking people to take small steps towards making a change in the world.
So as we developed the campaign, rather than focusing exclusively on the value proposition of B Corps as businesses with the highest standards of social and environmental impact, we wanted to show what that meant specifically for the person seeing the messages. Elections happen once every few years, but voting for your values doesn’t have to be limited to those moments. Every day can be election day, because we all have the opportunity to vote for our values by buying from, working for, or doing business with B Corps.
In the impact marketing space, selling the value proposition is not enough. You also have to sell behavior change; and when it comes to movement building, the fastest way to do that is by getting people to take action, small step by small step.
2. Engage other stakeholders to tell the story
The other mindset shift that is critical to marketing in the impact space is to open the tent and allow others to help you amplify your message. This is necessary for reach, but also often necessary to help supplement what are usually smaller budgets that can’t accomplish goals on their own accord.
At B Lab, we often look to the B Corps as the megaphones for stories of the movement. Whether it’s telling their own stories, or the story of the movement as is the case for Vote Every Day; it’s the B Corps themselves who have the authenticity and the reach to carry the message. We are also exploring partnerships with other organizations and entities within our ecosystem to help drive the story.
So a few questions to ask yourself: How do you engage all of your stakeholders in carrying the message? Whether it’s your investors or your investees, your community, employees within organizations around you—how do you actually allow others to take the message and tell it for you? There is power in engaging the collective voice to tell the story.
3. Amplify your message through partnerships
The final way that I’ve shifted my approach to marketing in the impact space is around the importance of partnerships. With small teams, small budgets, and with relatively compressed timelines, we have to rely on others to be able to help us. We also recognize that we as an organization have a lot of value in what we can offer in a partnership. So we have developed lots of partnerships with members of the B Corp community, with media platforms, events, other organizations, and beyond.
We are also exploring the development of alliances within our ecosystem of organizations who want to see business as a force for good. If we all have the same message, and can find ways to work together to share and amplify through our networks, we can exponentially grow the movement and truly drive behavior change.
This is one of a series of posts that feature insights from industry experts on the topic of marketing and branding for social impact organizations, taken from the session that JB Media Founder Justin Belleme curated and moderated at SOCAP18. If you lead a purpose-driven company and want to get more expert advice on social impact marketing, please read the other articles in this series:
- How Brands Can Work Together to Catalyze Social Change Movements: Wisdom from Anthea Kelsick of B Lab
- Discovering Your Brand’s Soul: Thomas Cumberbatch on How to Solve Your Identity Crisis
- Emily Allbritten of Athleta On Telling Your B-Corp Story with Authenticity and Heart
- How Top-Line Revenue Goals Drive Marketing: Advice from Heather Watkins of Better Impact Marketing
Watch the entire session focused on Marketing and Branding for Social Impact Organizations, recorded live at SOCAP18.