Companies that state and live up to their purpose make stronger and longer-lasting relationships with consumers and communities, hire more enthusiastic employees, perform better and have a bigger impact.

Ultimately, purpose is not a simple marketing ploy; companies have to act in ways that reflect and reinforce the values and concerns they are trying to project.

Consumers are looking for brands with a purpose

But what consumers also want is to feel that the products they buy are helping them to be part of something larger than themselves. And if done effectively, purpose-driven marketing can both deepen bonds with brands while forging strong ties to the products that consumers buy. But for companies to do this, their messaging needs to be authentic. Consumers can detect when companies are going through the motions, mouthpiecing causes that don’t reflect the company itself. Ben Jerry’s launched its ‘Save Our Swirled’ campaign for climate justice and sustainability, in support of organisations aligned with its mission, and Patagonia has been a company that advocates for Earth’s well-being, from its ‘Don’t Buy This Jacket’ campaign to its certification as a B Corporation. Intentionality – purpose-driven business – provides these companies with a clear business benefit: being able to use the meaningfulness of the mission to become an integral part of an organisation’s core business model and culture, and to attract employees and partners, and bring in that all-important investment. There is much research showing the benefits of having an impactful purpose-driven mission on increased profit and long-term expansion.

Gen Z is at the forefront

Gen Z leading the charge in the growing trends for social responsibility. Another reason for Gen Z’s strong points in CSR is to safeguard our environment that we live in today and for generations to come. Gen Z expects businesses to be genuine with their CSR if they carry out the CSR initiatives. Consumers are four to six times more likely to exhibit supportive behaviours and behaviours that encourage other consumers to buy those brands when the purposes are strong, and most especially when those purposes can articulate their effects on society and the environment. In turn, these brands are more likely to succeed in customer messaging about how a brand is delivering positive results in these areas. It was successful partly because of how Patagonia branded itself as the environment-friendly alternative to its competitors. Truth be told, though, the outdoor-wear giant Patagonia serves as a better example of a company that managed to authentically integrate the purpose of its brand with its business and built messaging around it (such as its 1 per cent Earth tax it puts toward environmental causes), all the while being the largest of its industry. Marketing that humanises a brand builds a rapport with consumers, but also with potential investors and employees – and such a campaign attracts like-minded partners while also helping to frame changes in a business landscape that itself is ever in flux.

Social media is a powerful tool

However, in a crowded market, purpose can act as a stand-out distinguisher, and Project ROI’s research on this topic4 shows that socially and environmentally responsible companies enjoy rising sales and profitability, with corporate social responsibility strategies showing a 6 per cent increase in market valuation. Studies have shown that consumers favour brands whose products match their values and beliefs. In fact, according to research across the globe, consumers are anywhere from four to six times more inclined to buy, protect and defend brands that are purpose-driven. Involving your product with social responsibility campaigns, consonant with your marketing campaign, will not only attract customers but encourage them to remain loyal. Be equally wary of tokenised and insincere campaigns, however. Token campaigns will blow up in your face, damaging your reputation. Make sure the cause or movement correlates with core values and mission of your company. Also, make sure that the link with consumers is obvious.

Purpose-driven marketing is a competitive advantage

With consumers often seeking to connect as an extension of their own sense of self in their relationship with brands, there is a greater need than ever to harness the power of a brand’s social causes to enhance a new, deeper kind of brand image that is also more authentic to a brand’s underlying values. This creates an advantage in the battle for brand loyalty. Patagonia crafts marketing appeals around environmental sustainability because that’s what its customers care about most and Ben Jerry’s uses its voice to take a stand on systemic racism and LGBTQ+ rights, both of which its target customers are receptive to. In a study with Project ROI, one research group at the Stanford Global Projects Center found that companies dedicated to sustainable business practices and corporate responsibility delivered increased revenue of up to 6 per cent, compared with companies that avoided these issues. At the same time, purpose-driven marketing needs to be embedded throughout a company’s model and culture in order to avoid being seen by consumers as purely hypocritical.

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