The Makings of a Mission

You already know a thing or two about why you want a Social Mission. Customers spend more, employees work harder, and you're drastically more likely to benefit from word-of-mouth. After all, if a customer has a chance to virtue-signal regarding their patronage of your righteous enterprise, it is indeed a win-win-win.

You may have already begun brainstorming. Perhaps your company has a social benefit worked into its core already, but you know there is more marketing to be tapped. Indeed, in my experience most non-profits, B-corps, and co-ops are sincerely wanting not for bigger budgets but more focused marketing efforts. No matter what your corporate structure, this article is designed to get you to focus on what really matters.

A Social Mission is a combination of how your business helps people as well as why you are in the business of serving others. The "how" is the actual manner than you benefit others, the "why" is the strategy for making this mission into something marketable.

How you Serve

As every successful capitalist knows, it is businesses' prerogative and obligation to serve the client and satisfy them better than the competition. This means that tied up in your business model is the how of your Social Mission. While you could benefit society as a whole by a portion of your time or money to charities, this is both unoriginal and not inherently part of your business's operations. Instead, I invite you to consider how your business operations themselves yield benefit to the three levels of the human sphere: self, others, and society. Without expanding beyond standard operations of a run-of-the-mill business, let us conceive a "how do you serve" angle for a bohemian coffee shop.

The people of the Bohemian Coffee Shoppe love coffee. But we also love people. We bear witness to acts of kindness and civility every single day, whether it is a patron grabbing a pastry for a homeless veteran or two strangers finding unexpected camaraderie over a cup of coffee when there simply aren't enough seats not to make friends. It is moments like this, when we can facilitate an authentic togetherness, that we feel most at home. After all, everyone who works at the Shoppe has a natural desire to improve our community (otherwise they wouldn't subject themselves to so much hustle and bustle!). For that reason, the people of the Shoppe would like to remind you that not only do we pay our employees 35% more than the national average, but 100% of your tips support our smiling workers. Think of it: for as little as a dollar, you can share a smile that can be seen by 1000's of people throughout the day. Why not make an investment in happiness?


Several important notes with this copy:

  • Nothing out-of-the-ordinary is happening at the shop. Several positive impacts are mentioned, yet they are not extraordinary. People come and go, some people smile, some people help others, others sit together and enjoy themselves. These are selectively positive experiences combined with impressions of success (i.e., busy-ness). The closest to being a true differentiator is the "35% more than the national average", which in fact could simply be due to local labor prices.

  • We took the banal and made it beautiful. A standard tipping system is not profound or revolutionary; the acts of kindness from customers are commonplace and outside of the business's control. What we have done is framed the entire business in such a way where these mundane features of a coffee shop are espoused as the virtues that they are, even if they are typically overlooked. This is basic and essential framing.


  • We are using anecdote over statistics. We could mention the thousands of people who come into the shop each year, the number of jobs created, or the incredible amount of money being taxed from the business to support social welfare programs. Instead, the only numbers are at the end to give a sense of credibility prior to a loose, open-ended proposition that implies that their tips are "an investment in happiness". This is an innuendo: the obvious implication is that a tip can result in thousands of people being happy (also suggesting busy-ness, success); in fact, coffee shoppe patrons are investing in their own happiness, purchasing themselves treats and euphoria-promoting stimulants. The statistics, in this case, allow us to introduce an idea (self-pleasure) that could otherwise be uncomfortable and rejected.
  • We used all three levels of human interest: self, others, and society. There is a personal element in the copy, using the first person, yet it never speaks directly to the consumer. We could allude more to the deliciousness of our pastries or the quality of the coffee, it is better to keep these claims subtle so as not to provoke resistance due to the obvious self-aggrandizing. Instead, our claims about the satisfaction of our customers are made indirectly: clients make friends spontaneously, are defined by generosity, and are investing in everyone's happiness. The focus on the employees, their pay, and their satisfaction is the explicit, key feature of the article. The happiness of the employees is extenuated to the point of being a societal force, emphasizing both the role of the employee and the patron in relation to the employee. The grandiose and broadest claim is reserved for the end, making it most memorable, and it carries a subtle moral obligation.
  • There is one clear goal (and many hidden ones, too). After reading the entire copy, it appears that the purpose is to petition you to deposit a dollar in the tip jar. This sense of closure allows the reader, perhaps someone standing in line to get a pastry, to quit reasoning through the advert, having found a clear conclusion. This is important because we have made some extraordinary claims in the midst of this advert: that our patrons are generous; that people cooperate and enjoy themselves here; that our employees love their work; and that "investing" in the coffee shoppe and its employees produces happiness. 

Organizational Commitment

Our first example features no compromises: it glamorizes the standard operations of a coffee shop, making its quotidian features more remarkable. Yet, assuming you're a decision-maker in your business, you have the power to make real changes to set you apart in the marketplace. 

You can offer your employees more benefits, you can pay them to do charity of their choosing, you can encourage employees start their own charities! Imagine: you could start a charitable off-shoot that your business contributes to, you could source your resources from marketably sustainable enterprises, or you can offer discounts to needy populations. 

Perhaps you can work the cause right into your business model. Do you relate well with a disenfranchised group? Maybe former convicts, those with disabilities, or impoverished populations. If you'd like to work with these people to improve their lives, perhaps you could employ them? You could train them, even certify them, to enhance their marketability as well as your own.

What's your relationship with your supply chain? If you have pleasant relations with your suppliers or exclusive relationships, it would benefit everyone to invest in their infrastructure. Maybe they want to go organic but can't cover the costs right now. Perhaps they could increase their wages above the national median. Some industries are prone to depletion or pollution of natural resources; those same companies can remediate to nature even grander than before. No matter the industry, suppliers have just as much flexibility in making marketable decisions as you do, but if you are the customer-facing end of the product you should be advocating for them. Customers increasingly concern themselves with societal (including environmental) issues, so the supply chain has ample opportunities for promoting your positive impact on the globe.

Setting and Surpassing Expectations

Unceasingly, I am amazed by how many compassionate business owners are already doing some of these things and failing to market it! Since 52% of global consumers don't think a company has a positive social impact unless they hear about and only 27% think companies make a significant impact on issues that they care about, you need to toot your horn! 

There is an upshot, of course. This means that the bar, in general, is set very low. Even a simple and unoriginal tactic could suffice to significantly propel your brand. Yet, the most effective mission both sets the client's expectations and then excels well beyond them. Since we want to be believed by our consumers, we can even tap into negative preexisting belief by alluding to the frustrations consumers experience, perhaps drawing attention to problems in the industry not salient to the end-user. For example, if you know that many of your competitors are outsourcing labor but you have many local workers, you could emphasize this nativism by stating that "so few workers in the tech industry use American workers, but we care about our local economy". Perhaps your industry has a nasty habit of dumping chemicals without accountability. You could say: "While many mining companies fail to account for cleanup costs and go insolvent (leaving a terrible burden on our planet and taxpayers alike), we have not only scheduled remediation well in advance, but we have contingency plans and regreening programs to assure that our sites are wildly better than when we found them."

While your particular branding will vary in order to be unique and recognizable, the basic tenets of a Social Mission tap into our innate human capacity to be compassionate. This is the same fuel that propels political candidates into office and world leaders (think: Ghandi, Mother Theresa) into power. While the politics of fear are strong and can be used, it is rarely applicable in marketing since the desire for a product or service is ideally based upon attraction, desire, craving, love, longing, etc. (It is no coincidence that sex sells!) Even in selling insurance, an industry where fear is a common propellant, there are negative longitudinal consequences associated with using negative motivation: specifically, customers associate discomfort with their insurance and (despite incredible barriers) an average of 14% change insurers each year. We all know that the costs of retaining a customer are drastically lower than finding new sales, yet this also translates into voluntary advocacy for your brand.

Why do They Care?

It is indeed the difference from their initial expectation and your new standard that creates enthusiasm. This difference, combined with topical issues of real concern to the consumer, results in a kind of intrigue that is much greater than a more simplistic value proposition.

The interest in the consumer must be direct, simple, and memorable. It is generally most effective when left as an open question.  The reason for the direct, simple, open question is so that the client themselves can fill in the answer that they do care, the same manner in which we all determine our opinions. Of course, the question should be balanced between being leading and being casual.

For environmental concerns, perhaps: "don't our children deserve a greener planet?". For ethical sourcing, how about: "We believe that every step of our business is our responsibility. Don't you?". For employee welfare: "When you work with us, we're family. Wouldn't you want the best for your folks?" For underprivileged populations: "They [veterans] kept us safe. Why not return the favor?" For ameliorating poverty, we might say: "Don't we all deserve a chance to live Better?"

Only the Beginning...

There is much more involved in the complex, moral branding of a company. This is only the beginning of the process and focused on copywriting. Of course, moral marketing means taking this mission and making it into a rich media: logos, websites, fliers, mailers, apps, etc. The message is what we've focused on so far, conveying that message is something that falls more squarely into the traditional domains of marketing, advertising, hypnosis, and communications science.

Just by reading this, you're delving into some deep stuff. You're really doing your homework. I'm so appreciative that you're willing to do some work to improve your business and our world all at once! In fact, I'd like to offer you a $15 discount on talking with me about Moral Marketing! Just use this code at checkout: 15MORALMARKETER101


Until then!