Sometime in the past few years, marketers decided to refer to our work not as what it is, but according to its end goal. Now we see movements, not campaigns, and viral videos – not just videos. If I start calling myself “skinny rich gal” will I become that? I suppose naming yourself, or your program, the change you want to be is a step towards becoming it; a fake-it-til-you-make-it type thing.
However, there are risks. If I never become skinny and rich, it can be awkward for a big-boned non-profit staff member to walk around with such a moniker. Plus, it’s simply disingenuous. Can you call something a movement if no one has moved on it yet? It’s hard to begin with a misrepresentation to a consumer who you then ask to join something as grandiose and seemingly effort-laden as a movement. When I think of movements, I think of tons of people and heaps of social change coupled with watershed moments and whole shifts in being (see: African – American Civil Rights Movement). Under this definition, how many movements can there really be and have I joined one by simply submitting an email address?
With that in mind, let’s explore some current ‘movements’:
“Our movement is building a world where women everywhere have the tools to inspire each other and the girls in their lives.”
Join the movement by = Signing up for email alerts and submitting advice for a 13 year-old girl who needs an older woman role model.
Movement members = Thousands of women who have submitted hundreds of stories and advice.
What do members get in return for joining? = Support for women’s self-esteem and a good body image. Members also get an opportunity to connect to younger generations, which speaks to a ‘movement’ that is cross-generational.
“To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide” (These guys are ‘movement’ pioneers, starting their movement on MySpace in 2006.)
Join the movement by = Supporting mental health organizations and buying t-shirts (among many other actions).
Movement members = TWOLHA’s social graph is over 1 million teens deep.
What you get in return = You belong to a group that supports mental health and you get cool t-shirts.
“The One to One movement is about people making everyday choices that improve the lives of children” (TOMS is so into the movement language they even coined this month “Movember.”)
Join the movement by = When you buy a pair of TOMS shoes, a pair of shoes also goes to a child in need.
Movement members = Over a million pairs have been bought and distributed to kids.
What you get in return = a great pair of shoes AND you get to help kid in need.
All of the above seemingly have a lot of people behind them, but are they truly movements or just really great campaigns? I wonder – when they first started out, was the movement language in there? If not, is that the way to do it – wait for the groundswell to happen first and then move to the movement talk?
In the age of the Internet where transparency is demanded, I think we should no longer try to hide behind an inflated lexicon. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for making things sound more exciting – but there is a difference between good copywriting and misnomers.
I ask questions because I don’t have the answers. So – I have no definitive statements on the movement movement yet. All I know is I feel obliged to say so because I want to offer the whole truth, in the present, and work from there.