What is purpose-driven marketing?

By Adwright, 25 March 2022

As its name suggests, purpose-driven marketing is a marketing approach geared at aligning brands with certain social causes and their bigger purpose. It has been utilised by many organisations in recent years, and while it is not a brand new and revolutionary concept, its concerted and overt usage by companies around the globe in the past few weeks (read why below) has certainly brought much attention to this powerful marketing tool.

When brands engage in purpose-driven marketing, they aim to build a deeper and stronger rapport with their consumers beyond a transactional relationship of solely buyer and seller. Instead, they want to be seen by consumers as a brand that cares about more than just profit-making; it is also concerned about certain social, racial or environmental issues in the world. Thus, contrary to traditional marketing strategies, its core focus would not be to illuminate the unique selling points of a product or service but to humanise the brand and put it out there that the brand also shares similar values with concerned citizens of the world.

According to a global study by New York-based Zeno Group which surveyed more than 8000 consumers across eight markets (United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, China, India, Singapore, Malaysia), consumers are four to six times more likely to purchase, protect and champion purpose-driven companies. Evidently, as shown above, product-driven marketing can build stronger brand love and loyalty. However, it is not as straightforward as writing a tweet championing self-love and body positivity, for example. Product-driven marketing needs to first be driven by the core values of the brand and then consistently practised and adhered to over time. When brands are unable to walk the talk themselves or put their money where their mouth is at, they run the risk of being insincere, tokenistic and even hypocritical.

As brand custodians, we know the importance of being truthful and genuine in our communications and the dire consequences of not doing so. In the current day and age where knowledge and resources are so easily accessible due to the internet, consumers can easily sniff out, with some simple research, shallow marketing attempts that jump on the hype train. The ease of sharing of ideas made possible with social media makes it then even easier to “call out” said brands and in extreme scenarios, lead to a boycott on the brand. Thus, brands must understand that purpose-driven marketing, albeit a powerful tool when utilised appropriately, is not simply a one-off effort. It is supposed to tie in strongly with the core values of the brand, be it past, present or future.

Purpose-driven marketing exemplified

The recent ongoing war in Ukraine shone a bright spotlight on whether brands should do more in this humanitarian crisis, given their power and influence in effecting change. Purpose-driven marketing was brought to the forefront of the debate, with brands such as Proctor & Gamble and Unilever coming out to pledge support for Ukraine and voice their condemnation of the acts of aggression.

More than just simply denouncing the unjustified military invasion, P&G proactively suspended operations in Ukraine to help protect its local employees and discontinued all new capital investments in Russia, as well as suspended all media, advertising, and promotional activity. In a public statement, Unilever CEO Alan Jope condemned the war in Ukraine as a “brutal and senseless act by the Russian state” and similarly suspended all imports and exports of Unilever products into and out of Russia. The company has since committed to donating €5m of essential Unilever products to the humanitarian relief effort.  These are just two companies, out of dozens including Adidas, Coca-Cola, H&M, MacDonald’s and Starbucks that have stopped operations in Russia.

In 2020, Nike released a 60-second ad titled “For once, Don’t Do It” — a stark breakaway from their iconic “Just Do It” slogan — to show their strong stance against racism in light of the George Floyd murder.

While the motive of the ad was widely debated with some naysayers claiming that Nike was exploiting the situation for its gain, the ad sent out an undeniably clear and strong message on anti-racism. The video resonated deeply with the global audience — it received more than 1,300,000 views and 26,000 likes — and won the praise of many for its bravery in speaking out on uncomfortable yet important issues.

Purpose-driven marketing in the future

What does the future hold for purpose-driven marketing and will we see it being used more prominently in the future? To us, the answer is a yes.

The rise of wokeism — a slang used to describe the keen awareness and sensitivity to social injustice happening around the world —in recent years goes to show that nowadays, people are not just concerned about bread-and-butter issues like job security or paying the bills; they feel strongly about topics like gender and racial inequality, climate change and freedom of speech etc. Long gone are the days when the cost is the only factor when buying a product or service. Now, consumers are more discerning and prefer to be associated with brands that share the same values as them. Underpinning this movement are Gen Zs, who are unafraid to voice out their demands or use their spending power to show their displeasure and call for change. Taken altogether, it is with great certainty that we would start seeing more brands leveraging purpose-driven marketing to forge a deeper connection with their consumers.

Purpose-driven marketing can be challenging to get right, given that only a fine line separates genuine and opportunistic efforts. For over 25 years, Adwright has collaborated with clients ranging from local SMEs to global corporations, spanning across many industries. We have helped companies such as Senoko Energy, Apollo Aquaculture Group and KED Energy Solutions in their environment-driven campaigns and journeys. We offer integrated solutions in branding, design, communications and beyond. Partner with us and embark on your unique brand journey today. To find out more about the services that Adwright provides, call us today at +65 6227 7227 or email enquiry@adwright.com.

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