When people buy from a business, they are doing much more than exchanging cash for a product or a service. Instead, consumers increasingly want to buy from people they identify with, who share the same values, and who they actually like.
Purpose-driven marketing campaigns create the opportunity for organizations to show support for the communities which they serve. These campaigns could be anything from supporting a local school’s sports team to raising cash for a specific charity, or even endorsing a political ideology or movement. In doing so, they demonstrate that a business is more than a “cash-generating” enterprise and has shared values with its customers. In addition, this strategy goes some way to “humanizing” a brand and potentially making it more “likable.”
Find Your Tribe and Share Your Community Values
Whether we like it or not, people tend to gravitate towards people they identify with. Seth Godin, the marketing guru and author who coined the term “permission marketing,” calls these groups “Tribes.” The word “tribes” is not a bad description because even in the most innocuous groups (for example, iPhone vs. Android users), passions can run high and become somewhat tribal. However, transform this to something more polarizing like sports, religion, or politics, and it’s easy to see why things get so heated.
This can create challenges for marketers who naturally want to appeal to as broad an audience as possible in an increasingly polarized world. Do they adopt an attitude of “playing it safe” and risk appearing somewhat vanilla, or worse still, uncompassionate? Or do they demonstrate their passion for a particular issue and potentially alienate a portion of their customer base?
Riding the Zeitgeist
At the time of writing, much of the world’s media attention is on the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Eager to be seen as part of the conversation, a number of huge brands, including Microsoft, Jaguar Land Rover, IKEA, and Unilever, will be joining world leaders at the conference.
While brands should be applauded for raising their voices in such an important debate, this strategy doesn’t come without risk.
You cannot just pick a cause because you think your customers will like it. Your messaging has to be 100% authentic or your consumers will see right through it.
For example, several brands keen to demonstrate their environmental credentials have faced criticism for “greenwashing in recent years.” Greenwashing is when an organization deceptively tries to position itself as the environmentally-friendly choice when, in fact, its practices are far from green.
The “washing” analogy has also been used in connection with marketing campaigns relating to LGBTQ+ communities (rainbow-washing), skin color (race-washing), and even the support some organizations give to raising awareness of health conditions like breast cancer (pink-washing).
If you are going to support a cause in the hope it resonates with your customers and increases sales; you better make sure you walk the walk as well as you talk the talk.
Just Do It — Stand By Your Principles
Nike is a perfect example of a company proud to stand by its principles and walk the walk. In 2020, when the company announced its support for the Black Lives Matter movement, it faced protests and boycott threats from customers not aligned with the cause. Despite this, the company stood firm in its stance and was rewarded with a sharp increase in sales.
The company also received a glowing endorsement from an unexpected source — their competitors at Adidas, who tweeted:
Together is how we move forward.
Together is how we make change. https://t.co/U1nmvMhxB2
— adidas (@adidas) May 30, 2020
Nike understood that while supporting a movement like Black Lives Matter, they needed to make improvements in their organization. These improvements included the fact that less than 10% of its 300+ global vice-presidents were black.
Addressing this, Nike’s CEO John Donahue said in a statement, “During this past year, we’ve stepped up our own efforts and measures of accountability in the areas of diversity, inclusion and belonging to foster an inclusive environment and attract a more diverse workforce.”
The company also made a financial pledge of $40 million to support black communities.
Nike’s support of Black Lives Matter highlighted that a company doesn’t have to be perfect to get behind a cause, but they do need to be committed to making a change.
Small Businesses Have a Voice Too
Purpose-driven campaigns are not the sole preserve of big businesses.
For example, in my hometown, a local craft brewery really understands the importance of supporting the community that supports its business.
The business owners understand that people visit their taproom because they like good beer, good food, good music, and good company. These aspects are all part of its everyday marketing strategies via social media and email marketing. However, as a community-focused small business, they also want to create a safe space where customers and staff look after each other.
Earlier in the year, as part of Mental Health Awareness Day, the brewery shared the fact that members of their team had received training in mental health support and suicide prevention, reminding customers they were always available to talk with customers who needed someone to listen.
Purpose-driven marketing isn’t just an outbound marketing strategy. When you show the world you care, you create the perception that your organization is a caring environment that values people as well as profits. This can make your organization more attractive to “like-minded” existing and potential employees, making it easier to retain and recruit a great workforce.
A recent example of how corporations have taken a stand on behalf of their employees includes Salesforce’s recent pledge to help relocate employees out of Texas following the state’s recent changes to its abortion laws.
Ohana if you want to move we’ll help you exit TX. Your choice.❤️https://t.co/y5IKpm5fNs
— Marc Benioff (@Benioff) September 11, 2021
Whether you agree with Benioff’s sentiment or not, you cannot disagree on the fact that he’s shown a real commitment to an issue he believes in, and by doing so, he’s willing to tie his company’s reputation to the cause. It would have been very easy to say nothing, but Benioff obviously believes this issue is so important to his employees and customers that it would be remiss not to pick a side and support it. The question is, as a business owner, would you be brave enough to do this?
What’s Your Purpose?
Purpose-driven marketing is a great way to add personality to your brand, align it with important issues and causes, and make your organization stand out from the “business as usual” crowd. However, wearing your heart on your corporate sleeve doesn’t come without its risks.
If you are going to commit to a purpose-driven marketing campaign, you really need to commit to it.
Need help in defining and sharing your purpose? Contact us at email@example.com.