What can brands do if they really want to support a social cause? Marketers need to be thoughtful about how to make a positive impact if we don’t want to come across as tone-deaf. Today, we’re going to share three big tools for building social enterprises that are sure to help you change the world for the better.

“The easiest way to think about innovation is really this: How are you building for the user? Not for your assumptions about the user. Not for the ideas you came up with. It’s about really going back to the user, understanding them, and designing a solution for them.”
-Michelle Arrazcaeta, Senior Creative Strategy & Design Research Consultant

In this episode of Growing Brands, you’ll learn how to build a powerful social enterprise by developing a strong brand framework, creating a process for innovation, and learning to co-create with your customers.

Plus, our guest is Senior Creative Strategy & Design Research Consultant, Michelle Arrazcaeta, who’s going to share three very important branding concepts for social enterprises that will make you a much more user-focused marketer.

But first, download our free worksheet for branding social enterprises here:

Social Enterprise Branding Worksheet
Download the free guide here.

What’s a Social Enterprise?

First, what does it take to be a social enterprise? No, having social media accounts and tweeting your political beliefs doesn’t quite count.

Although the real definition is a bit broad, the Social Enterprise Alliance uses the following definition: “Organizations that address a basic unmet need or solve a social or environmental problem through a market-driven approach.”

They go on to list three main models for social enterprises:

  • Opportunity Employment: Organizations that employ people who have significant barriers to mainstream employment. (Examples include Goodwill Industries, Greyston Bakery & Nisolo.)
  • Transformative Products or Services: organizations that create social or environmental impact through innovative products and services. (Examples include Benetech, Growing Sound & Soles4Souls.)
  • Donate Back: organizations that contribute a portion of their profits to nonprofits that address basic unmet needs. (Examples include Everly, The Thx Co. & Songs Against Slavery.)

Is it better to make a difference through employment? Product and services? Or through donations?

The answer is, it depends. Luckily, we have a few tactics available to us to help us decide.

3 Tools for Developing Social Brands

Brands don’t just get woke overnight. It takes time, experience, and focus to understand the nature of a cultural issue or taboo well enough to help make a difference.

But there are tools that we can use to get there. From what we’ve seen, there are three major concepts that can amplify the impact of social enterprises:

  • Brand Frameworks: Frameworks help brands know who their customers really are and what the brand is supposed to do for them.
  • Innovation-as-a-Process: True innovation simply means solving problems for consumers better than we’re doing today and can be learned by building more user-centered practices into every part of the business.
  • Co-Creation: Once brands learn to focus on customers, they can start to co-create with them. The more people that participate, the bigger the potential for advancing the cause.

Get one or all three wrong and you may come across tone-deaf. Get them right, and you could potentially change the world.

The Ideal Path for Social Enterprises

If you want to make sure you’re proverbially giving the world a Coke, and not a Pepsi, you’re going to need a plan.

For that, we reached out to Michelle Arrazcaeta, an Senior Creative Strategy & Design Research Consultant and member of Badassery. This is what she said...


Watch the interview to see Michelle answer these questions:

  • What are the top considerations social enterprises should make when putting together a brand strategy?
  • Innovation is often seen as serendipitous; how can social enterprises create programs that innovate with a purpose?
  • How can co-creation with consumers help brands tackle complex or culturally taboo issues?

Social Enterprises, In Closing

If you liked this episode then take a few seconds to follow or subscribe to this channel. Or head over to brandata.com to download our branding tips checklist for social enterprises.

Ok, it’s your turn…

What social causes are most important to your brand? How are you leveraging your brand framework, innovation, and co-creation to make the biggest impact?

Let me know by leaving a comment real quick before you leave.

Transcript from our interview with Michelle Arrazcaeta:

Innovation is often seen as maybe serendipitous or not intentional. How can social enterprises create programs that innovate with real purpose? Yeah, I love this question. I love getting that question because my perspective is innovation is not serendipitous at all. It is not a matter of luck. It is very much a practice. This practice is really about helping an organization understand how to channel the creative minds that are in everybody. Everybody has a creative spirit and creative ways of thinking. But it's really how do you channel that creativity to solve problems for the organization. Whether it's problems that are holding you back from growth, problems that are about the future like where can we go. It can be any sort of business problem. But it's really about helping you figure out how to do that. And there are a bunch of different methods out there. There's different names and different processes, but the kind of main way to, or the easiest way to think about innovation is really how are you building for the user. Not for your assumptions on the user, not for the ideas that you came up with like, "Oh my God, I wanna do this idea." But it's really going back to the user, understanding their needs, their experiences, what they're going through and designing a solution for them. So it's really taking us out of the picture and focusing on the user and the audience and really designing for them. Because that will allow you to be able to create solutions that solve those problems 'cause you're addressing the problem. Yeah, I like that. So it almost ends up being a process of co-creation with your users. And which is a really powerful tool in a sense. How can this co-creation help consumers and brands tackle complex or culturally taboo issues together? Yeah, I love that question too because I a big fan of tackling complex or taboo problems. 'Cause I think that's the type of work that can actually make an impact on the world and on society and on culture. The way I think about it is co-creation is bringing your audience into your process. Not just interviewing them and getting the insights and then walking away and saying, "Okay, we can figure this out as a team." Co-creation is bringing them along the entire process. Interviewing them, getting them into that ideation session, brainstorming with them. Because they're gonna have insights from their lived experience. They're gonna have insight into some implicit biases that we have. And they're gonna be able to say, "Oh, that doesn't really sit well with me," because it communicates this thing. And you're like, "Oh, I hadn't thought about it "that way before." And so it really will open your eyes to their experiences and their points of view. And it also gives them a sense of ownership as you go out and go through the process. Building and testing with them, they're more likely to use if you have their voice baked into the product and the service. So I really think being able to have that perspective is so crucial when tackling things that are very sensitive, tackling things that have a stigma. So being able to think about people with a sense and a lens of humanity and not being able to, or being able to spot the biases that we have is a really, really crucial and big benefit and value of co-creation. So that's one of the reasons why I'm super excited by this space or being able to implement that. Sure, no, it sounds like you can really solve some problems that maybe you wouldn't be able to do alone, which is an important part of tackling social issues. That is perfect information for those that are watching. Michelle, thank you so much for your time. Thank you. I appreciate you having me on today.