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A useful checklist for purpose-driven marketing

As discussed in our earlier post on key takeaways from CES, one of the hottest topics in marketing is Brand Purpose – and for good reason. Ipsos research shows the majority of consumers now feel that brands taking a stance on social issues is an important part of being a “great brand.” And consumers – especially millennials – are supporting purpose-driven brands with their wallets and their loyalty, not just their voices.

Consumers believe brands are more likely to have a positive impact this year than the federal government. But marketing your brand purpose is not as simple as picking a cause and messaging around it. If done incorrectly, marketing your brand purpose can actually do more harm than good.

What It Means:

There are three main pitfalls when it comes to purpose marketing, two of which can cause immediate damage and backlash to your brand, and a third that will cause issues more slowly but in some ways can be just as detrimental.

  1. Inauthenticity. As Audi found out when it tried to make a campaign empowering women, without having a single woman on its six-person board, consumers don’t have patience for brands who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.
  2. Being tone deaf. When Pepsi inadvertently trivialized Black Lives Matter by trying to cash in on a moment, and Gillette tried to make a sharp pivot in response to the #MeToo movement after selling a certain kind of masculinity for years, they discovered the backlash can be intense if your message strikes the wrong notes.
  3. Lack of alignment. This is the pitfall that is the easiest to overlook because it won’t necessarily cause immediate damage. As all good marketers know, one of the most important aspects of developing a strong brand is consistency. Ensuring that you have one brand promise that permeates every aspect of your brand enables your audiences to develop relationships that drive loyalty. If your brand purpose doesn’t naturally align with your brand promise, your messages in market will not align. Not only will it be harder (and take longer) to create a clear understanding of and affinity for your brand, it will also be incredibly difficult for consumers to associate your brand with your purpose.

What Marketers Should Do: 

This is not to say that brands should not pursue a brand purpose strategy – in many cases, it can provide a true lift to your brand’s equity and bottom line. But brands need to take into consideration whether a cause is directly aligned with their brand promise, if that cause is inherent to and supported by their organizational practices, and if it will resonate with audiences in a way that is authentic and motivational. Once a cause has been identified that speaks to all three, it is then incumbent on marketers to ensure that communications capture both the brand promise and brand purpose consistently and compellingly throughout their paid, earned and owned channels.

Could alignment with a cause elevate your brand?

about the author

Stephanie Spicer  At the core of Stephanie’s work is a deep passion and a laser focus on helping clients win. Her background in brand strategy and client service is proof she can drive growth at all levels. This includes serving as a vice president for Grey in New York. There, she helped consumer brands such as Oreo, Advil, Tanqueray and Botox connect with audiences ranging from affluent boomers to millennials to moms. 


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