Brands Risk Butchering Goodwill by Cause-bragging

photo by KukZaa

photo by KukZaa

Remember when brands used to jump on social media just to shamelessly promote themselves? Of course you do, chances are some of you are still guilty of that now (we need to talk). Brands jumped onto platforms en masse without realising that the operative word is SOCIAL media. Instead they assumed the position of the high school braggart who had one-way ‘conversation’ with you about how great they are while you fantasised about punching them in the face. The ones who didn’t realise that social media is a value exchange are probably the same ones making this next mistake more than other brands....

Don’t kill your goodwill by bragging about contributing to a good cause! It’s a well documented fact that millennials are more attracted to brands that support good causes. We are driven by our values and in stark contradiction to what the media might tell you, we are a highly altruistic generation. Like many things to do with millennial marketing however, there is a very fine, delicate line between successful execution and catastrophic failure.

This delicate line was highlighted with the recent Hurricane Harvey tragedy. A brand made a generous disaster relief contribution and posted about it on social media channels. It was a positive initiative and they seem to have executed it without significant backlash. Still I couldn’t help but see just how close they flew to the sun at least in the context of a Gen Y audience. Contributing to a good cause is one thing but reaching too hard for credit is a dangerous move that can earn you a punch in the face from millennials. You don’t want to be that guy on social media that crafts a status update on social media every time they give a homeless person a dollar for the accolades. To get the balance right, brands need to master the art of the humblebrag.


Millennials have a finely tuned authenticity radar and can smell bullshit a mile away. It was alarming to me just how risky this particular post was and how the slightest shift in copy-writing could have sent them into a very bad place. The moral of the story is to be very careful when taking credit for supporting causes, one millimetre in the wrong direction and you’re in a lot of trouble. It’s ok to make note of it but make it more about the cause than acknowledging your brand and what you did. Let your PR team do the heavy lifting if you want to get credit where credit is due. The optics of the praise coming from external sources are much better than giving yourself too vigorous a pat on the back.

Of course coming from a millennial in the flesh, if your heart wasn’t really in supporting the cause anyway then you deserve to have it blow up in your face!

- Emanuel

Oliver Minnett