Fight for Love: Five Ways to Mobilize Millennials Behind Your Cause

by Liz Courtney, Business Development and Grant Griglak, Senior Strategist
Apr 30, 2018 12:30 PM ET

Fight for Love: Five Ways to Mobilize Millennials Behind Your Cause

For decades, the ASPCA has been advocating for better breeding practices and adoption for dogs with campaigns that focused on educating the public on where pet store dogs come from.

But over time, the influx of digital technology has completely transformed how people get dogs. And Millennials, the largest generation of dog lovers ever, are increasingly relying on online sources, which makes it difficult to track where our furry friends are coming from.

With profound differences in how Millennials shop, seek information and share content, how do you re-imagine your cause to reach, engage and inspire a new generation?

BBMG recently partnered with the ASPCA to concept and design a campaign to mobilize Millennials as the generation that can end puppy mills. The campaign needed to reach them with a new narrative that’s relevant, inspiring and actionable, because when the right thing to do becomes the cool thing to do, everyone wins.

For many nonprofits, what worked in the past might not work today given the onslaught of issues demanding our attention, growing feelings of divisiveness and changes in the tools and trends of communication. To change perceptions and put an end to cruel dog breeding practices, we needed to reframe the puppy mills issue in a way that was inviting and intuitive for Millennials to rally behind.

“With so many issues vying for our attention, many nonprofits think the answer is to scream louder, yet that’s just causing charity fatigue,” says BBMG’s creative director, Allison Ross. “The world is full of really scary things, and focusing solely on the scary stuff can cause people to put their blinders up, cover their ears and go ‘lalalalalalalala.’ What if instead of just amplifying the problems, we empowered people with an achievable solution, an emotional story and a deeply human way to talk, act, share and rally others to change culture together?”

Our research revealed a fundamental human insight: no matter how much or how little you understand about the complex issue of puppy mills, nearly everyone loves dogs. To change perceptions and motivate new behaviors, the emotional experience of love had to be our way in.

Building from this insight, Barred from Love is a campaign to end the cruel breeding practices of the commercial puppy industry (aka puppy mills) by engaging all dog lovers (not just those getting a dog) in the fight for love and against cruelty. By making our campaign message accessible and relevant to all, we can change hearts, minds and, ultimately, behavior. Through this work, we identified five strategies to engage Millennials behind your cause.

Five Strategies to Mobilize Millennials Behind Your Cause

1. Guilting Gen X → Info-taining Millennials
The previous generation may have been engaged through heavy, hard-hitting think pieces and educational documentaries to motivate through guilt, but Millennials are much more guilt-averse. To win with Millennials, creating sticky, shareable content that’s tailored for social media (think: Buzzfeed) helps remove barriers to engaging with your campaign message.

2. Hard-Hitting Facts → Hard-Hitting Feelings
The way to Millennials is through their hearts, not just their heads. Campaign content should always be underpinned with proper evidence, but should strike an emotional cord to inspire action and engagement. The strength of your campaign’s proof points won’t necessarily ensure success, but the strength of your storytelling will.

3. Undivided Attention → Attention-Deficit
There are many organizations competing for the attention of your audience. Even for the most complex issues, your campaign message and visual experience needs to be simplified in a way that’s eye-catching. For the ASPCA, we took an issue that’s typically discussed in terms of complex legislation and regulations and made it as simple as black and white.

4. Donation-Centric → Community-Centric
For many causes, the biggest barrier to action may be that not enough people know there’s a problem in the first place. To drive engagement, it’s important to change people’s perceptions and build community first. Then, you’ll have an avid group of supporters to call on to take an action, whether that’s shifting a purchase decision, supporting a petition or raising funds.

5. Do the Right Thing → Do the Cool Thing
No one wants to be lectured. Especially Millennials. Instead, connect the issue to what your audience already values and enlist ambassadors with social clout to show the way. For the Barred from Love campaign, nine-time Grammy-nominated artist and dog lover Sia voiced our launch video and her endorsement – and massive social media following – helped the campaign reach over a million views since the launch in March 2018.

Breakthrough cause marketing happens when it speaks the language of the audience, taps into their personal beliefs (like, I love puppies!) and sparks positive emotions to move them to action.

For more on our work with ASPCA, click here and check out our other nonprofit work and brand campaigns here.