‘Does brand purpose drive profit?’ This is the question I often get by clients waking up to the value of aligning with a cause in an age of non-stop political, economic, and social uprisings.
My answer? “Maybe.”
I say maybe because aligning with purpose isn’t an all or nothing strategy. Can it help? Sure. Can it drive new business? Of course. Can it make the world a better place? Yup. Can it better define your customer base? Mm-hmmm.
But it’s not guaranteed.
In fact, today I want to share with you the three types of purpose that brands commonly embody and share why ‘woke advertising’ (a type of marketing strategy aimed at bringing attention to social issues via brands that target niche consumers) may not be your best bet.
(Disclaimer: I am a big proponent of purpose-driven marketing but only when it is done with authenticity and truthfulness.)
Let’s jump in…
Conscious Capitalism & Purposeful Marketing
“The average adult consumes 5x more information today than they did 50 years ago.”
On top of that, research shows that Millennials prefer purpose-driven brands. Nearly 75% said they find giving back and aligning with social causes important when choosing to buy from a company. In fact, there are even apps now that help you discover which brands you align with on social causes and help you spend your money with more conscious intentionality.
That’s a really big deal and probably why ‘conscious capitalism’ has become the trend du jour. When it comes to making the world a better place, purpose-driven brands are out to make a difference and drive a profit.
But what about those companies that make social causes a marketing ploy versus a long-term strategy? We’ll get to them in a minute but it’s safe to say that those types of brands are destined for failure and research is just starting to validate long-held beliefs that using purpose as a quick fix or sales bump does make a negative difference in their overall success.
But before we jump into that, let’s get clear about purposeful marketing.
Purposeful marketing can be described as a company or brand leading with values or cause-based strategies to build brand awareness, stand out in a crowded market, or enter a new market. Purposeful marketing can be used by companies who want to look good during a social uprising or companies that genuinely want to make the world a better place.
Purposeful marketing is not new but it has become more popular in recent years, mostly due to the width and breadth of shared information across social media networks.
3 TYPES OF BRAND PURPOSE
Tom Roach has a great blog about this topic and I’m going to expand on it here. There are basically three types of brand purpose:
Born Purposeful – when a company starts with its values or a cause in mind. TOMS and Ben & Jerry’s is a great example here. Patagonia was also founded on a strong environmental cause. Typically the founder or leadership teams will hold strong to the mission and values by basing every decision on this purpose. It’s powerful and attracts a very specific customer (who are usually immensely loyal).
Conscious Converts – corporations aren’t dumb. They know that if they don’t say something, they’ll lose customers. A recent example is the #BlackLivesMatter and #GeorgeFloyd protests, where just about every single company (big and small) made it clear where they stand. They may not have brought up the issue before but now, in the wake of such highly controversial and heated uprisings, they made it a strategy to align one way or the other. Some Conscious Converts will continue on with the cause but most won’t.
Pretenders – using purpose as a marketing tactic and not a long-term strategy, they use social causes and uprisings as an opportunity to inject themselves into a conversation but have no real desire or passion to make that cause part of their corporate ecosystem. These are the big brands that see social causes as another way to make money and not make a difference.
HOW TO AUTHENTICALLY ALIGN WITH A CAUSE
Struggling to combine purpose and profit? Not sure how to start with a purpose-driven brand?
Download my free guide that helps define Brand Activism and gives you a roadmap to a more purposeful brand experience.
- The value of purpose when creating a business
- The benefits of brand activism
- How to choose a cause you (and your customers) care about
Until next time…