In today’s unpredictable social climate, companies are faced with the decision, or rather responsibility to send messages through marketing and advertising. Individuals are exposed to anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 advertisements each day, and with over 200 billion dollars to be spent on advertising this year alone it is up to a company to fuel the flames of societal conversation. Today, brands have the capability to make positive social changes, and further the conversation of challenging topics.

Many brands have seen the benefits from creating a powerful message around a social concern. Take for example Aerie, an American Eagle Outfitters lingerie brand. In 2014 the brand created a campaign around natural beauty and stopped retouching all photos. One Aerie Model, Iskar Lawrence explained, “It’s not about flaws or curves, it’s what’s beneath the skin. Our real truths. Our real selves. Our real beauty. Sales increased by 18%.

While the rewards from a successful campaign or advertisement are impressive, there is a risk of extreme backlash, lost brand reputation, and diminished sales.

Recently, Dove released a three second long advertisement. For those of you who haven’t’ already seen the ad, it depicts a black woman removing a brown shirt transforming into a white woman with a beige shirt seemingly after using Dove soap. Consumers immediately reacted to the images with outrage. The vast majority of the 1000 responses agreed that the ad was offensive and even racist, and numerous consumers agreed to switch brands.

Dove’s good intention to show the beauty of all skin tones was diminished in just three seconds. Dove’s entire long-term messaging of “real beauty” was damaged by a single Facebook GIF.

So when the risks to engage in social matters are high and negative feedback is inevitable, what’s the point? Well consumers today expect the brands they love to use their platforms to send messages about critical social dialogues. Consumers interact with brands like living breathing individuals, and consumers will support brands choosing to amplify their voices.

Companies need to tactfully plan the message they want to send, and then double and triple check. A powerful idea can only go as far as the execution. Now it’s time for us to learn from other’s mistakes and instead, get it right.

Start by consulting with a professional firm. A professional firm, with experience in delivering a socially impactful message can give guidance and navigate the potential pitfalls.

Unfortunately, the market won’t judge your message by the intent – they will make their decision based on how the message resonates with them.  Using a focus group to get feedback from target audiences can help ensure your intent translates into end impact.   We are often too close to the intended message and thus blind to outside interpretation.

Here are a few commercials that did more than just get it right.


Procter and Gamble: The Talk —

Cheerios Super Bowl 2014 Ad —

Honey Maid: This is Wholesome —

Always #LikeAGirl —

Coca-Cola: It’s Beautiful —