Reality Check: Is Your Marketing Purpose-Driven?

By Maggie Zeman

For brands today, supporting a social cause must be more than a marketing strategy. It’s too easy for brands to get caught in the crossfire between political and social rhetoric and their own consumer base. By engaging in truly purpose-driven marketing, brands can authentically support causes that matter while connecting with key audiences. According to Zeno’s 2020 Strength of Purpose research, 94% of global consumers say it is important that the companies they engage with have a strong purpose, yet only 37% believe companies today do. That’s the opportunity. But before engaging with that important social cause, take the time to be sure your company is in alignment.

First, what is Purpose-driven marketing? Purpose-driven marketing is a strategy executed by companies and organizations to center external communications efforts around a social cause that aligns with its values. When executed correctly, the company gains a deeper relationship with its consumer base by leveraging the common social thread. When called on to act, prepared companies stand ready to take the heat.

We think Pride month is a great opportunity to remind marketers of the importance of purpose-driven marketing. As a consumer it’s easy to get caught up in Pride’s positive energy swirling around the updated rainbow logos, colorful ribbons and flags that demonstrate overwhelming corporate support for LGBTQ+ communities. Companies proudly promote themed products, and, as usual, anything you can think of from doormats to handbags to wine, is dressed in rainbow-inspired limited-time offers. However, in today’s political climate, brands must realize it’s about much more than marketing. Companies are being asked to go further than creative product development and content calendars. In a recent conversation with Fast Company, GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis reflected on how corporations should respond to an endless onslaught of anti-LGBTQ legislation, and talked about what GLAAD is doing to push these companies to act. Knowing what’s expected of brands today, how does a company successfully wade into purpose-driven marketing?

Start In-House
It’s no longer just about attracting a specific demographic to your brand. A company’s commitment to any social cause must begin at the executive level and carry through to every employee. In fact, one of the leading reasons to engage in purpose-driven marketing sits with your employees and future hires. Employees are demanding the companies they work for get involved in social issues in ways that matter to them. We’ve outlined three approachable steps to get you started on your own purpose-driven marketing strategy.

• Engage employees on what matters to them. As a company, determine your brand purpose and what social causes align with your values. Once that’s done you can ideate on how you will support the cause both internally and with key audiences outside of the company. It’s important to define what ‘support’ means to the company as well, and how defensive your values will let you be, even if at the risk of losing customers.
• Align with your partner of choice. With the company in agreement, the marketing and community teams can partner to establish a relationship with the target organization, and work to create an on-brand strategy for engagement. Planning should include all important elements of digital, PR, marketing and sales. And don’t forget a strategy for crisis communications and preparedness. You’ll be glad that you did.
• Execute and measure. Your goal is to build trust with your customer base so be sure that’s what you’re doing. Are your efforts authentic? Are your actions easy to follow and understand? Is your brand enhancing the overall conversation as well as your consumer experience? These are all questions to keep in mind. A thoughtful approach and execution to authentic engagement is the litmus test for brands today. Let us know if we can help get your brand on the right path.