How to Start a Movement. Strategy, Powerful Psychology, Drivers & Tactics.

Jan 11, 2019

movement strategy

The Movement Strategy Phenomenon

If you’ve ever found yourself looking for deeper insights about movement marketing and the movement strategies behind them for your brand, you’re at the threshold of something very powerful. The movement phenomenon has drastically impacted the world we live in. Movements in politics, war, protest, and activism have been around for centuries and shown us how effective the social collective can be. By taking a closer look at what fuels movements, and how movement marketing agencies create strategies to leverage them, brands can utilize the insights gained to better understand how to create a movement of their own that can impact their brand and bottom line tremendously.

What Is a Movement?

While movements vary in size and nature by which they form, they often center around social values or a specific social goal. When communities of people join together based on their beliefs, values and/or virtues to achieve common goals, a movement is in the works. Movements may also be entirely playful or whimsical in nature or simply have these elements within them.

Among the attributes that make successful movements so powerful is not only the sheer number of individuals that they’re made of but more importantly, the psychological bonds that members have to the movement and the psychological impact members have on those around them.

Pre-Existing Conditions

Before diving into the nuances of how to start a movement for your brand and formulating your movement strategy, it’s important to understand that movements are largely built on pre-existing conditions. Groups of people that share commonalities. Be it situational or emotional, these people are often already connected whether they know it or not. The thoughts they have about their “condition” are confirmed, reinforced and empowered as they seek out others in the same boat (confirmational bias). When validated, not only is there a stronger bond to their beliefs and values, but as well, a solidarity is formed with others in the group that empowers the individuals and the group as a whole with pride, self-esteem and a sense of belonging. (Tajfel). Furthermore, a feedback loop takes places whereas individuals tend to amplify the status of the group in order to elevate one’s own self-image.

The Herd Mentality

It’s no secret that the vast majority of people are followers. Hence the term “Sheeple”. The herd mentality shows us that people look to others for safety. And to witness others engaging in a certain act or behavior often validates our own decision to disavow or engage as well.

“It takes a minority of just five percent to influence a crowd’s direction – and that the other 95 percent follow without realizing it.” – (Psych Central)

We see this notion utilized quite often as brands show off how many “happy customers” or “billions served” they have, the authoritative entities they associate with via logos on their websites and the celebrity endorsements that often cost a fortune.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs demonstrates some of the important aspects of human nature to consider as well.

At its core, movement marketing and a successful movement strategy need to understand and connect with the underlying conditions, beliefs, values, virtues, needs, wants, desires and overall emotions that bond a group together along with the behaviors they possess.

Movement Strategy

While much of the success of a movement can be attributed to the organic organization and growth of one, the core element behind the success of a brands initiative, is the movement strategy in place. Here are a few of the foundational steps and insights to consider when looking to create a movement strategy for your brand or when collaborating with a movement marketing agency.

How to Start a Movement
Define the Monster

The monster is the enemy. From an emotional and psychological standpoint, who or what is your desired audience against? What keeps them up at night? What causes them pain? Their plight against the monster is a powerful component in your movement strategy that can motivate, inspire and bond members together to make change.

movement strategies

Take a Stand

What is your brand against? What does your brand believe in? It’s important to clarify what your brand truly stands for so you can stay on track with your beliefs, values & goals and identify the correct audience to sync with.

What change do you want to take place?

Is it a social behavior or specific action you seek? It should be more than just a general idea, and it should connect your brand and audience in a cohesive manner based on common beliefs, challenges and goals identified. This is not about your product or service.

Understand the behavior of your target audience

Before you can connect with your audience, you need to understand what drives them, how they act and how they react. Take a close look at your audience categorically and more importantly, in their lives. Consider their basic needs, their psychological needs, and their self-fulfillment needs. (Maslow’s Hierarchy)

Be inspired by purpose and driven by benefits

With purpose and benefits driving your efforts, you’re on the road to creating something much larger than an “advertising campaign”. Movements come to be via powerful emotions that bond people together to drive intended actions. A movement strategy with purpose and benefits speaks to the heart, soul, and mind of your audience through the values and virtues encompassed within it; giving true meaning to your work and a powerful bond between your audience and brand.

Be Insightfully Provocative

Figure out where your brand fits into the conversation that’s already taking place and share genuine thought-provoking insights. The goal is to overcome complacency and invigorate emotions. To activate people to mobilize. Again, this is not a conversation about your brand or product but about the core essence of the discussion taking place.

Don’t Buck The Trend

As you’re considering the various conversations taking place, take a close look at current trends in culture. Not only to discover areas of growth and decline but as well, to be very aware and careful about the nuances each trend may possess. Catching onto a huge trend could lead to tremendous success, but one wrong move or statement and you could end up worse off than when you began.

Advantages of a Movement Strategy Over Traditional Marketing

While traditional marketing is an important part of your mix, earned media – that which can come from a movement strategy can provide powerful benefits that traditional can’t access.


As the current state of paid distribution channels is largely fragmented between broadcast, print, direct, outdoor, digital and more, movement marketing enables brands to connect, engage and reach people that might not be connected to one of these channels via earned media; media earned by brands that activate people to spread the messaging, purpose, benefits, values, virtues and goals associated with the movement AND brand connected. With the advent of social sharing on top of traditional word of mouth, a brand’s reach can be magnified exponentially and quickly by the “members of the tribe”. Traditional marketing simply can’t access or harness this form of distribution and reach.


Word of Mouth marketing not only impacts reach, but trust as well. There’s no higher level of trust than recommendations coming from another person. A fellow human that has already joined or engaged in a movement is living proof that there’s substance and truth behind the movement, thus providing safety and believability as to why someone else should follow in kind.

“92% of consumers believe suggestions from friends and family more than advertising” (Neilsen)

“Earned media is the most trusted form of advertising” (Nielsen)


Emotional Connection

It’s no secret that today’s consumers want their purchase to mean something. Cone Communications published a study that showed:

“87% of consumers said they would be willing to buy a product or service based on a company’s advocacy concerning a social matter”

“76% of those surveyed said they would decline to do business with a company if it held views and supported issues that conflicted with their beliefs”

“63% of American consumers were looking to businesses to take the lead on social and environmental change”

Independence & Sustainability

As movements often take on a life of their own spreading the various attributes (and brand) associated with it, a successful movement strategy reduces the need of being solely at the mercy of the media buy. The self-sustaining power of the people can be far less costly and provide higher conversion rates compared to repeatedly investing in expensive media that expires after air time.

“Lead generation driven by earned media out-performs lead generation driven by paid media by a delta of 10-15%” (Conductor)

“Earned media drives 4 times the brand lift of paid media and 51% of millennials are more likely to be influenced by earned media” (BazaarVoice)

It’s important to keep in mind that the co-creators and co-owners of a movement strategy are those that engage with it, grow it and sustain it. And that the symbiotic relationship taking place with a brand is far more powerful than trying to force a message down someone’s throat and sell to them.

Talent Acquisition & Retention

In addition to growing your brand externally, a successful movement strategy can increase the desirability for talent to work at a company.

And as Pew Research reported that millennials have become the largest segment of the workforce at 54 mm, the notion that “94% of millennials want to use their skills to benefit a cause” is extremely significant with regard to talent acquisition and retention. – Achieve.

Furthermore, internal team members that contribute as brand ambassadors have shown to impact initiatives dramatically.

“Brand messages reached 561% further when shared by employees vs the same messages shared via official brand social channels” (MSLGroup)

“79% of firms surveyed reported more online visibility after the implementation of a formal employee advocacy program. 65% reported increased brand recognition” (Hinge Marketing)

“Content shared by employees receives 8x more engagement than content shared by brand channels” (Social Media Today)

And while taking a stand for a cause won’t eliminate attrition of talent on its own, at an average cost per hire of $4,129, (Your industry may be much higher or lower) a movement strategy can significantly benefit an organization’s finances in multiple ways. (SHRM)


Return On Investment

In order for a business to maintain, grow, and expand, ROI is obviously essential. In addition to reaping the rewards of the contributions above, increased ROI and revenue means additional resources available to contribute to the all-important movement you believe in.

In dollars and cents, “brands relying on earned media marketing save over $14 dollars for every new customer acquired” (HubSpot)

Incite Change

If your brand is truly in alignment with a condition or cause, and your brand contributes genuine purpose driven benefits, your voice and contributions have the ability to change lives for the better and make the world a better place; a much larger legacy than revenue generation.

Get Moving

Smart brands have seen the writing on the wall. By implementing movement strategies in their initiatives and brands overall, they’re being rewarded with reduced expenses, increased ROI and exponential growth; all while making a positive impact in the world.

By StrawberryFrog