As a marketer working in Memphis, I was often met with resistance from local leaders and business owners when it came to incorporating authentic local culture into our campaigns. Despite the fact that Memphis has a rich and diverse cultural scene, it seemed that many were only comfortable connecting with the city's most famous exports: Elvis Presley, Bar-B-Q, and the Memphis Tigers basketball team. It was as if the impact of other cultural phenomena, such as Three 6 Mafia, hot wings (or honey gold wings), and the dancing art form known as “Jookin”, had been completely overlooked, despite their global reach and influence. As someone who has always been passionate about the power of storytelling to connect people to their communities, it was disheartening to see how narrow-minded some individuals could be when it came to creating intentional and authentic marketing campaigns that empower an audience.
With more than a decade working on marketing and advertising campaigns across the country, I firmly believe that micro-targeted marketing campaigns have the potential to transform social impact for America's corporate and nonprofit leaders. In today's world, mass marketing is no longer effective in reaching target audiences. Instead, subcultures, local-centered messaging, and micro-influencer marketing are the keys to unlocking engagement and driving social impact.
Last year, I got to work on a website redevelopment project for a conservancy that is passionate about connecting with the outdoor community. One of the key goals of the project was to create a more user-friendly website that can better direct visitors to activities and information that they're interested in, such as paddling or hiking. Having web design or development skills were important obviously, but the key factor for this being a successful project was understanding and prioritizing the lifestyle of the subculture, outdoor enthusiasts.
One of the major advantages of micro-targeted marketing campaigns is the ability to focus on subcultures. By understanding the unique perspectives, values, and beliefs of specific subcultures, marketers can create messaging that resonates on a deeper level. This can be particularly important for social impact campaigns, as it allows organizations to connect with audiences in a more meaningful way and move people towards action.
During the beginning of the pandemic, I got to develop a covid awareness campaign in Memphis, TN. We developed a series of billboards that were strategically placed across the city, featuring a simple yet powerful message: "Stay Home Mane. Covid won't bluff." But our work didn't stop there. We also teamed up with a local apparel line to create shirts bearing the same message, and proceeds from the sales were donated to families in need. Within two days of the campaign, the billboards had been shared on social media by thousands of users including local elected officials, Academy Award winning film director, Craig Brewer, and Memphis rap legend Gangsta Boo. The campaign was a huge success, going viral in part because it was so authentic and true to the voice of the people of Memphis.
In addition to subcultures, local-centered messaging is also crucial for driving social impact. Local messaging allows organizations to speak to the specific needs and challenges of different communities. By understanding the local context, organizations can create messaging that feels more personal and relevant, which can lead to higher engagement and more impactful results. Pam Moore once said, “You can never go wrong by investing in communities and the human beings within them.”
Recently, I got to work on a campaign for a local community development financial institution (CDFI) to help provide affordable and accessible financial support to minority-owned businesses in the region. Through strategic planning and execution, we were able to highlight the CDFI's offerings and demonstrate the benefits to minority business owners. But what really set the campaign apart was the way in which we empowered minority business leaders to tell their own stories and share their successes with the CDFI. The approach of using micro-influencers helped to build trust and authenticity with the community and the results spoke for themselves - applications went from 7 a month to 7 a day.
Micro-influencer marketing is also a powerful tool for driving social impact. A report by Experticity showed that 82% of consumers reported that they were highly likely to follow a recommendation made by a "micro-influencer". They have smaller followings than traditional influencers, but they often have more engaged audiences. This can be particularly important for social impact campaigns, as it allows organizations to connect with audiences in a more authentic way. Additionally, micro-influencers often have a more niche audience, which can be advantageous for organizations looking to target specific demographics or communities.
According to a study by Horizon Media, 64% of Gen Z consumers want personalized experiences from brands. This highlights the importance of creating messaging that speaks directly to individual audiences.
To fully leverage the power of micro-targeted marketing campaigns, niche agencies, grassroots storytellers, and community-championed creatives (musicians, artists, poets, etc) must have a seat at the table. These individuals and organizations have a deep understanding of their communities and can help organizations create messaging that is authentic, impactful, and culturally relevant. By working with these stakeholders, corporations can create campaigns that truly create social impact.
In conclusion, we need more campaigns centered around hot wings and jooking. Ok, just kidding. But by focusing on subcultures, local messaging, and micro-influencer marketing, do-good brands and organizations can create personalized experiences that connect with audiences on a deeper level. As demonstrated through my experiences working on various campaigns, prioritizing the audience can lead to authentic and impactful messaging that drives real change.
Want to shift your marketing to actually connect with the communities around you? Connect with us today to see how we can help transform your organization for good.