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What does socially conscious mean?

Or what is a socially conscious brand, and should mine be?

Socially conscious is still a relatively new term, thrown around over the last few years but catapulted to the top of brands’ priority lists since 2020.

What happened that year? Oh right, yeah… Covid made many of us connect in new ways, and this led to understanding more communities and social groups. Non-parents got a sharp look at how parents were fairing, juggling home school, childcare and work every time a mum or dad was interviewed for the news from their home office, beginning the segment, “sorry if there’s any background noise…”.

It's the era of understanding diversity in ethics, gender, sexuality, disability and more. It’s the era people actively feel under pressure to save the world, or at least reduce their impact on it.

That’s a lot of social acknowledgement to cover as a brand. So where on earth should we start?

A male model smiles against a beige background for a beauty shoot

First of all, it’s worth knowing that as brands, especially consumer ones, you’re not expected to do everything. Your job is primarily to provide your audience with the product or service you offer. Just don’t be a dick about it.

Consumers don’t want their favourite brands to be front and centre of social barrier-storming. They DO want to know that brands are on side, genuinely care, and are not involving themselves in a cause just for points on TikTok.

A few years ago, the term, ‘greenwashing’ bounced around a lot. It’s the last thing you want to be accused of as a brand – seemingly acting ethical for the sake of a trend. Being genuine is everything for socially conscious brands. Today’s consumers have a lot of information at their fingertips, and they can smell a profit-motivated cause a mile off.

So how do you become genuinely socially conscious?

Start by going right down to basics. Look at your brand values, your mission statement and your motivation for doing what you do. Can they be improved? Can you be more inclusive in who your target audience is? Crucially, who could be being left out, and under what terms?

Some examples to get you thinking here are skin, beauty and make-up brands which have moved away from the idea that their products are only used by women. The socially conscious brands in this area include a diverse range of models in their marketing. The same goes for gender-inclusive underwear brand, Carmen Liu. Their branding is off-the-scale good for this.

But if we dial things further back than the last few years, we can see that socially conscious work started before the rise of inclusivity. Pre-2020, the term was more widely used to mean generally anything that benefitted society. That’s why marketing agencies like Eski exist, and have managed hugely successful campaigns on topics like stopping smoking, domestic violence and sexual targeting of children online.

Basically, if you want to improve the world in some way, you are arguably socially conscious. If you’re actively doing something about it as a brand, even better. The tricky part is communicating that in an authentic way, that tells your audience of your intentions and motivations while positioning you in the right light.

If this is you, chat to me about a content plan that takes you from zero to socially conscious hero today.

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