The power of purpose – why brands that stand for something will ultimately fare better

9 min read by Rosie Denny 30 Mar 2023

Power of Purpose

For profit, or for good? With purpose, brands can be both, with the likes of Toms, Lush and Ben & Jerry’s leading the way.

The past decade, and notably the last couple of years, has seen a huge shift in the tactics advertisers have employed to cut through the noise.

Firstly, the noise is louder. The space, particularly online, is busier. But secondly, as families, individuals and businesses, we’ve experienced more turbulence and uncertainty since 2020 than we’d ever bargained for. The likes of Lush and Ben & Jerry’s have paved the way, and demonstrated the power of purpose, with their competitors following in their footsteps.

This is because in 2023, one thing seems more notable than anything else, and it’s the resonance that brands who stand for something strike with their market, and the subsequent impact this has on their growth. What’s the secret? Purpose.

What is purpose-driven marketing?

Purpose-driven marketing is a strategic approach that aligns a brand’s values with a purpose or social cause and then centres communications and campaigning around that social cause.

Take Toms shoes for example, who donate a pair of shoes to someone in need every time a purchase is made. This turns the consumer into more than just a purchaser – they become a contributor to something bigger, standing toe to toe with the brand in the fight against adversity.

Brands are continually breaking down the barrier between being ‘for profit’ and ‘for good’, because if its values align truly with a cause, it can be both.

As the wealth of today’s baby boomers gets passed down in the decades to come to younger generations with stronger value-based purchase intent, brands will need to carefully but promptly consider whether their price point and value proposition alone will be enough to meet the emotional and purpose-driven needs of emerging markets.

The benefits speak for themselves. According to a study by Cone/Porter Novelli, nearly 79 per cent of US consumers say they are more loyal to purpose-driven brands than traditional brands, with more than three-quarters (78 per cent) saying they would tell others to also buy from these companies. In essence, purpose driven marketing spreads like wildfire and quickly helps your brand connect with like minded markets. Provided it is authentic.

Experience x Purpose

CMOs need to align product and purpose alongside creating meaningful experiences through marketing, and often, the two come seamlessly hand in hand. If a product not only makes the life of a consumer efficient and easier, but also meaningful, it brings untold value during that transaction. The new generation of consumers will be looking to brands to not only deliver experiences with their products, but enhance experiences with the purpose that they represent, driving emotion, a feeling of belonging and a mutual need to be part of something bigger.

Not only do ethics and morals play a big part, but movements, trends and how brands shape the future of the world. So the task can feel big. CMOs will need to work closely with the board to determine what initiatives and actions are most appropriate, align most closely with their values and drive the strongest relationships with consumers, being agile to change tack with the climate whilst staying true to their manifesto. The responsibility of marketing in fact, has never been greater to support and reach out to the new consumers of the world who demand higher social and environmental approaches from brands.

Would the world be different without your brand?

If you’re ready to activate your brand’s purpose, then you’ll need to ask your C Suite some tough questions: Why does the brand exist? What challenge does it solve? How would the world be different without it? What role does it play in customers’ lives?

Then the role of marketing centres on communicating this purpose through value-driven campaigns that are consistent and authentic. Building on what makes your brand special to create stronger relevance with customers needs to happen first, rather than finding a bandwagon to jump on and risk exploiting emotions and falling flat.

Opening up new markets

Identifying and building your brand’s authentic purpose could open up opportunities to grow into new markets by leveraging the trust and status you have with a more engaged customer base. It’s a longer, but more fruitful game in the bid to future proof your audience, by investing time, energy and budget into creating a sense of brand belonging. This belonging, in turn, creates a community that inspires new partnerships and attracts new interest. No matter what size and scale of your purpose driven marketing, having a consistent core purpose is the key to scaling.

Beware purpose-washing

Adopting a mission and purpose that aligns with your values is only one step in the journey, if you fail to back it up with genuine action you risk devaluing all your efforts, and at worst, mislead and disengage your customers or followers by trivialising bigger issues. Pepsi were a chief offender, when they hired Kendall Jenner to position a fizzy drink with the Black Lives Matter movement, with disconnect and consequences that led to a public apology.

Avoid purpose washing with patience and persistence

Marketing with purpose needs to be authentic, and believed in by everyone in your business. Only then can you demonstrate that your brand is prepared, ready and willing to act. Which means achieving buy-in from your C-suite before even considering implementing any messaging or campaigning. Purpose driven marketing can only be successful if everyone in your business who represents your brand stands for your cause.

Investing today for tomorrow

Activating your brand’s purpose will take time and consistency and may not bear fruits immediately, however your energy and resources will pay dividends in creating audiences, customers and markets for tomorrow, rather than shifting goods and stock today.

From educating and supporting through to standing for something bigger, today’s emerging markets are savvy and don’t want to be treated as consumers – they want to be treated as partners. And people will only partner with brands in whom they align, trust and see true value in being a part of.

Ready to activate your brand purpose?

If you want to work with an award winning brand and marketing team, to help you activate your brand purpose in a powerfully genuine way, get in touch with our team. We work with B2B and B2C brands across multiple sectors with one common mantra – ‘it’s always strategy’. Which means that from the moment you entrust your brand with us, we’ll align with your business goals, provide insights and expert recommendations that underpin a long term strategic approach.

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