How social media invites brands to fight for social justice

On the 17th of April, 2015, Instagram was overrun by a fusion of inspired design and heartwarming support for Peter Drew’s ‘Real Australians Say Welcome’ poster campaign, which aimed to combat the racist rhetoric of what it is to be a ‘Real’ Australian.

But this didn’t just happen on it’s own. Lucy Feagins, of @thedesignfiles, invited her Instagram followers to participate in the collaborative campaign that aimed to give Drew a leg up in the exposure of his poster project.

This guy called @peterdrewarts from Adelaide seems like a total LEGEND. He designed and screen printed 1000 of these posters, and with a little help from a Pozible campaign, he’s putting them up all over Australia (in all 8 capital cities!) This week he has put nearly 200 up in Melbourne! Such a simple, powerful and positive gesture, at a time when racist rhetoric seems unbearably loud. I love Peter’s posters! But… I think his message might have legs to go even further…. so I hope Peter doesn’t mind me jumping on his bandwagon to issue a callout to all the talented Australian artists, illustrators, designers, typographers, stylists, photographers and image makers out there – if YOU create a flyer for Facebook or Instagram bearing this message, we’ll share it across @thedesignfiles social media , and we’ll encourage our followers to share your image too. Any takers? #realaustralianssaywelcome

A post shared by Australia’s Top Design Blog (@thedesignfiles) on

Within minutes of Lucy broadcasting the callout, submissions to the hashtag #realaustralianssaywelcome were flowing in, all bearing artistic interpretations of Drew’s slogan.

Here are some of the featured submissions:

What resulted was not only an overwhelming sense of achievement and support that ran all the way through the Australian creative community, but also an opportunity for small businesses to elevate themselves to a wider audience through the use of the hashtag and even moreso for those lucky enough to be featured by @thedesignfiles themselves.

Just over a month later, businesses around Australia were amassing attention right throughout social media after Australian Marriage Equality posted a full page advertisement in The Australian, listing their corporate sponsors and inviting more corporate businesses to support the cause.
With the issue of marriage equality at the forefront of Australian politics and public interest, this was a particularly successful way for some bigger name brands to align themselves with a cause that was bound to gain traction throughout social media.


Getting behind a social justice campaign garners a number of benefits to a brand: it allows your audience to align themselves with your values and offers an opportunity to develop a stronger brand identity. It also places your brand in front of your audience in a manner that can be spontaneous and unexpected – especially when carried out as a reactive marketing tactic.

What’s more, this type of social media posting offers your business a chance to take a break from the routine content and offer something that may in fact see a boost in engagement to your overall presence if the support leads to an increase in audience sentiment.

But it’s not without it’s criticism. There are, of course, some who believe that brands are merely leveraging these opportunities for more exposure, rather than truly being behind the cause:

My advice? If you’re going to get behind a social justice campaign, ensure it’s one that feels like a good fit for your brand, and make sure the focus of your support is on the campaign itself, rather than just giving your brand a big pat on the back.

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