Video Marketing

How to avoid performative activism in your video marketing

Posted August 17, 2021
Written by Indiana Lee

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Marketing and activism seem to be at opposite ends of the public discourse spectrum. They have separate intentions, where marketing has a clear mandate to raise brand awareness and generate profits for a business, while activism is to raise awareness of a social social issue to engage public interest and address inequalities. But are the two actually divergent? After all, they’re both focused on capturing popular interest. 

There’s certainly potential for some positive crossover between activism and video marketing. However, some businesses are seeking to trade on the credibility of social movements to attract customers. This is where they drift into the realm of “performative activism” in marketing.

How to avoid Performative Activism in Video Marketing blog by Clipchamp thumbnail showing diverse people bringing hands together to indicate teamwork and equality

Some businesses show support for causes such as celebrating Pride month or Black Lives Matter through social media posts, even though their policies and actions don’t reflect the commitment needed for this to be meaningful. 

Let’s look at how you can best avoid your activism being performative when planning your video marketing campaigns.

Include and elevate voices of those affected by the cause

Video marketing gives you the opportunity to speak directly to your audience, which makes it an ideal marketing tool. It can also be used as a great platform to discuss important ideas. 

We notice that it’s often the case that when social issues are raised through marketing channels, this is presented as the voice of the company itself. This might be due to a desire to maintain brand impressions while showing support, but it comes across as inauthentic. 

The messaging can seem hollow unless company figureheads or those producing or featured in the video have personal experiences of the challenges.

If you’re involved in campaign-planning, you should seek to empower the voices of those directly affected and involved.

This is an approach more businesses and industries are gradually recognizing. 

In comic books, for instance, there's been a history of legacy characters largely being white males. The few diverse examples have tended to reflect lazy stereotypes. However, in recent years,  there's been a greater focus on creating content that exemplifies racial, gender, sexual, and cultural diversity in a meaningful way. This has been largely through making sure that the creative teams behind these works are truly invested and can speak from a genuine perspective. 

The same approach should be taken when your video marketing touches on activism. If diverse video creators are involved from both a creative and production leadership perspective, your video will be authentic.

Here's how Clearpay UK celebrated Pride month.

Make meaningful changes in your business 

One of the hallmarks of performative activism in video marketing is that the issue and the company’s behavior toward it fail to align. We see this quite often in “greenwashing.” Some businesses post videos using imagery to imply their processes are sustainable when it’s just scripted to capture the viewer’s appetite for eco-friendliness.

One of the ways to avoid performative activism is to make efforts to demonstrate your business operations reflect the values that are promoted in your videos.

You can apply this in a very literal sense. 

In the last few years, some businesses have made videos and social media posts purporting to decry the prevalent violence and discrimination against Black and Asian-American communities. Yet, few of these address the underlying issues that are present in their businesses. 

You can make a positive shift by producing videos that acknowledge the problems, and how you are making meaningful change. 

Have leadership and staff talk about the microaggressions that are often present in the workplace; be honest about the subtle but damaging behavioral, environmental, and verbal abuses that affect marginalized employees. Then, show how you’re making adjustments for workers to be empowered about highlighting these. Discuss the educational and policy standards that you apply to making the workplace more inclusive

These types of behind-the-scenes glimpses are more powerful and meaningful than simply posting a black square that implies solidarity but instead highlights a lack of real commitment. 

When used as part of video marketing, they can help to reinforce your ethical standards. Importantly, it shows that you aren’t superficially acting; you recognize that there are issues in your business, and you are doing something about them.

Be accountable and strive for continuous improvement

One of the dangers of video marketing is approaching it as if it’s a statement rather than part of a dialogue. When marketing activism is performative, it is so often used as something the business can post to gain a little kudos and then carry on with their business as usual. 

You need to approach it differently. Make any activism in your video marketing an invitation to your audience to engage meaningfully with the matter and your company. 

Perhaps the most vital role is in keeping your business accountable. An open dialogue on social issues gives space for your customers to understand your efforts but also critique your failures. This isn’t a negative thing. Part of authentic activism is understanding there is still work to do.

Your company’s social media accounts can be helpful here, particularly with user-generated content. 

Be open to sharing video responses to your marketing, and engage those who have replied in creating new content that discusses the issues still evident in your business. 

Involving your audience in an honest, intimate way also shows your business trusts its consumers and seeks to partner with them rather than preach to them.

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Now that you know what performative activism is, approach your video’s subject matter with careful consideration and authenticity. 

Elevate minority voices, commit to making change, and make sure your approach to video content gives space for discussions and accountability.

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