« Back to Home Page

Sign up for the 3p daily dispatch:

How to Market a Return on Social Investment

| Friday October 1st, 2010 | 3 Comments

Triple Pundit recently teamed up with SoCap10 to explore the opportunity and challenge of impact investing. In partnership with Myoo Create, we put a call out to bloggers asking: What’s Next? How will social enterprise unlock the $120 billion market opportunity for impact investment?

Leading up to SoCap10 October 4th-6th, we’re featuring the best answers here. Enjoy!

By: Geri Stengel

Dr. Val Curtis wanted to save millions of lives in developing countries by teaching people to wash their hands regularly. To instill the hand-washing habit, Dr. Curtis turned to three major soap producers for help in marketing behavioral changes.

The resulting ads didn’t sell soap; they sold an association between “disgusting” and “toilets.” They sold a new habit: frequent hand-washing.

As a result of her work, more than 20 countries now have national hand-washing programs and one of the participating companies has pledged to get a billion people washing their hands by 2015.

Marketing works.

The social enterprise sector must use subtle, well-aimed marketing to educate investors. It has to change people’s habits so they regard impact investing as part of a balanced investment portfolio, which incudes stocks, bonds and money market. The campaign has to use language and images to shape new associations for investors and brokers:

*It’s not about a particular investment; it’s about the habit of investing in triple-bottom line projects.

*It’s not about “charity” with no return other than warm and fuzzy feelings. It’s about that old saw, “Doing well while doing good.”

*It’s not about selflessness; it’s about making the world better for your children.

*It’s not about “donors;” it’s about “investors.”

The sector must minimize fears by eliminating the unconscious link between “social good” and “no return.” Change that thought!

Market “return on social investment.” Market the idea that wise investing includes long-term sustainability.

Social media, blogs, resource libraries, podcasts, and information guides must be easy to find and provide factual answers to investors and financial advisors. That’s for the conscious part of the investment process.

But it’s the unconscious where we really have to get to work. As a first step, the sector must come together to focus on marketing the benefits of social impact investing, not the benefits of a particular, individual investment.

The “Drink Milk” campaign was aimed at overcoming the link between “milk” and “childish.” The hand-washing campaign mentioned earlier didn’t tell people how good the soap smelled; it targeted the perception that toilets, because they were indoors, were clean.

Augment the factual data about impact and returns with a marketing campaign that targets the emotional response, the unconscious bias financial advisors and investors have when they hear “impact investment.” Break the link between “impact investment” and “tree hugger,” between “impact investment” and “no gain.”

Build new habits that link “impact investment” with “long-term gains” and “balanced portfolio.”

Market the emotion, not just the return.


▼▼▼      3 Comments     ▼▼▼

Newsletter Signup
  • Rebecca

    “Market the emotion, not just the return.” Absolutely what we have to do – and so easily forgotten. Thanks!

  • http://www.ventureneer.com Geri Stengel

    Rebecca, how right you are. Make the message emotional and it will break through.

  • http://www.ventureneer.com Geri Stengel

    Yowzah! This is a tough one. I can’t help but think what the director of an after-school program told me: “We teach skills. We measure success if you learn something you can use.
    If you can balance your checkbook or recognize the importance of savings or recognize the rip-off of payday loans, if you can get a higher-paying job or do better in school or graduate or you decide that you want to do something other than be a professional football player … that is success.”

    It is success and it is hard to measure. How do you measure what didn’t happen? The kids who didn’t drop out of school or the ones who didn’t ruin their credit because they understood savings?

    The stories are important. So, too, are the numbers and the metrics. I absolutely welcome both the debate and its outcomes — GRIIS, IRIS, GIIN — because big investments need more than stories. If we want to attract large investment we, like businesses, must give them some facts as well as stories. Pension funds, mutual funds, and institutional investors have a fiduciary responsibility to invest wisely and that requires some metrics. If we want those big investors to regard social impact investment as a standard part of their portfolios, we have to show them the numbers as well as the stories.