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C h r i s t i n a H e r r m a n n

M i c h a e l W h i t t e n

M a r i k a W i g g a n

L a y n e W i l s o n

Social Movements & How Brands Can Authentically Participate

Movement Growth Cycle

Time Before understanding how a brand can participate in a social movement, it is first critical to understand how movements develop and grow over time. In this model, the spiral’s center represents the core principles of a movement, while the red markers represent a movement’s participants. Their proximity to the center represents the level of proper participation within the movement as defined at the inception. In early stages, most participants are close to the movement’s core and to each other. In later stages once the movement has reached cultural traction in the mainstream, the overwhelming majority of participants live at the edge and participate in deviant ways. When this occurs, the movement has become dangerously diluted from its founding practices, beliefs, and mentalities. New fracture movements can be expected to form here from such participants as well.

Models of Movements The two most common and basic forms of movements are single belief and multi-faceted. Single belief movements are based around one core concept, behavior, or mentality. Multi-faceted movements, such as Burning Man, have a system of concepts, behaviors, or mentalities. With these movements, participants may choose to focus on one specific aspect as opposed to the entire system. As you could imagine, these movements are at the greatest risk for fracturing and deviation.

Single Belief


Participant Motivation

Singular Belief Ex. Pro-Life

Collective. ProductBased

Motivated by belief in the cause and the likelihood that its goals are attainable.

Ex. MacHeads

Types of Movements MultiFaceted

Social. Motivated by the positive perception held by those outside the tribe towards those inside.

Ex. Gay Pride

Reward. Shared Experience Ex. 9/11

Motivated by the personal rewards such as money or new friends.

for brands who want to play.

Rules of Engagement


Know your core competency.



Give the movement and its participants something of value.

4. 5. 7.

Your ultimate goal must not be profit.

Understand the movement’s life stage.

Make participation actionable.


Have a long-term vision.

Your vision should be inherent to your product. And vice versa.


9. 10.

Utilize the movement’s media.

Do NOT jump on the social movement bandwagon. Include social creators in your brand.

Glossary Accountabilibuddy (n.) -- Coined to describe the symbolic partnership to which a brand and a movement should aspire. In this relationship, the movement holds the brand accountable for translating shared values into action. The brand holds the movement accountable to those shared values also, acting as a shareholder in the movement’s success. Campaign vs. Movement -- A campaign lives in the short-term whereas a movement has a longterm vision. Deviant Acts (n.) -- Digressions a movement takes from original principles and beliefs. These digressions may be internal (ex. Bu rning Man inviting brand participation), or external (ex. bootlegging or Bu rning Man appearing in Second Life).

Ever Engaged (n.) -- Creators who start a movement simply by externalizing their values. They are unlikely to leave the movement, because it is not an impersonal creation but rather the realization of deeply held ethos. See also movement creators. Koyaanisqatsi (n.) -- Hopi term, m e a n i n g l i t e r a l l y “l i f e disintegrating” or “a state of life that calls for another way of living.” Nested within this idea is the promise of rebirth into a different form. For our purposes, used to illustrate the sparking, evolution and eventual re-absorption of a movement. Love Em & Leave Em’s (n.) -Creators who spark the movement but lose interest once it gains cult u ral tractio n. They are compulsive creators who will go on to create again. See also movement creators. Movement Creators (n.) -- Those whose initial idea and commitment provide the impetus for a movement. They come in two flavors: Love Em & Leave Em’s, and The Ever Engaged.

Social Movements  

VCU Brandcenter Student Project

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