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The Millennial Link Between Digital Marketing and Social Impact

Digital marketing and social impact are both transformative ideas in their respective fields. We’ve written about the continued evolution of strategic vs. responsive impact, and how social impact is creating new ecosystems as it disrupts industriesre-engages new ideas and revolutionizes businesses. Digital marketing, with its viral content and measurable ROI, is creating similar ripples in the field of marketing.

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 3.43.40 PMTraditionally, a company’s marketing mix is defined by 4 “P’s”: Product, Price, Place and Promotion. Digital marketing, adds a fifth and powerful P: People. In a digitally connected world, the internet allows people to become channels via peer-to-peer sharing. For example, Adage publishes Viral Video Charts, ranking the most-viewed brand videos per month. In May of 2016, Knorr’s #LoveAtFirstTaste video received over 31 million views, making it the # 1 viral video that month. Even more interesting is the fact that there were four new entries by well-known brands on the top 10 list, indicating that competition is fierce and that the incumbents have recognized the need to embrace digital.

Just as social impact is changing the finance and healthcare fields (amongst others), digital marketing is disrupting the advertising world. Today, companies are switching ad spend from traditional marketing campaigns to digital. The tipping point might have been the Oreo “dunk in the dark” tweet. In 2013 during the Super Bowl XLVII power outage, the sandwich cookie’s social media team jumped on the cultural moment and tweeted an ad that read “Power Out? No problem” with a starkly-lit image of a solitary Oreo and the caption: “You can still dunk in the dark.” The message caught on almost immediately, getting nearly 15,000 retweets and more than 20,000 likes on Facebook. The ad was also posted on Tumblr with the note “Oreo won the Super Bowl blackout.” Where companies paid upwards of $4 million for ad spots during the game, Oreo’s digital success was free.

Where social impact is typically difficult to measure, digital marketing allows for concrete ROI calculations. On the consumer front, marketers have access to specific data on individuals, allowing them to serve up advertising and content targeted with mathematical accuracy. And because every click on the internet is measurable, digital marketing agencies such as can create dashboards with numbers of Instagram clicks segmented by age group, or quantify Facebook sentiment by gender. This precise ROI drives the new business currencies of awareness by conscious consumers with unprecedented voice.

The common link between the digital media and social impact are of course, the Millennials. Not only are they demanding more social impact and change, they are the creators and consumers of digital media. That may help explain why some of the top digital marketing content today encapsulates both worlds. The #icebucketchallenge was the biggest hashtag campaign of 2014, created to raise money and awareness for the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) by pouring a bucket of freezing water over one’s head. With over 2.4 million videos shared on Facebook and 2.2 million mentions on Twitter, the online support translated into more than $100 million in donations. Similarly, Virgin Mobile captured the hearts of Millennials everywhere with their #mealforameal campaign. Recognizing that pictures of food are the second-most posted content on social media (after selfies), the company donated a meal every time the hashtag was used. Through the life of the campaign, Virgin Mobile donated 400,000 meals in exchange for the attention of Millennials.

Digital marketing holds promise to transform the marketing world and reposition cause marketing as a social marketing tool. At DU, we are working with our clients to consider the intersection between social and digital: come and see how we can work together!

Maggie & Hector

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