For example, Kantar’s Purpose 2020 study showed brands considered by consumers to have a positive impact grow at two times the rate of other brands. And perhaps even more importantly, brand purpose creates a consumer loyalty based on shared values—something a competitor’s hot new product or lower price point may have trouble overcoming.
When companies support a social issue or advance a cause platform, consumers—particularly young ones—often take notice. About 66% of the young consumers who took our recent “Brands Taking Stands Survey” say that a brand’s association with a social cause or platform positively impacts their overall impression of a brand; and 58% say this association drives their purchase decisions.
Yet a company’s purpose must run deeper than a single ad campaign. Young consumers trust companies that genuinely live out their purpose both internally and externally. But that’s not always easy to pull off. A recent ANA study of member CMOs found that while 78% said their company has a clearly defined purpose, 82% indicated they could use help in defining and activating their purpose.
So in the interest of helping companies be better corporate citizens while growing their businesses, here are five do’s and don’ts on becoming a purpose-driven brand:
Do: Support Your External Marketing Campaign With Internal Policies
Before you launch a cause marketing campaign, do an internal audit to make sure your company’s foundation is aligned with your efforts. If you are taking a public stand on diversity, for example, what races and genders make up your executive team and board? If you’re supporting the environment and fighting climate change, ask yourself, what's going on with your supply chain, and are you still using plastic straws in the breakrooms?
For young people, authenticity doesn’t necessarily mean the cause has to be in lockstep with what your brand sells. Rather, authenticity simply means you’re living the values you’re espousing, and your company is wholly supporting the issues from the inside out.
Don’t: Avoid The Conversation Because You Have Blind Spots
To grow, companies must re-evaluate their strategies from the inside out to identify how taking a political stance or supporting a social issue can be less risky. In this era of social media callouts, the stakes are high to get your cause marketing—and your justification for it—right.
But that doesn’t mean you need to wait for the perfect time to get started. If you are called out on a misstep, know that your programs and policies don’t need to be fixed overnight. Still, you need to at least address any blind spots to ensure consumers know you're working on it in a meaningful way.
Sephora, a champion of inclusivity, did exactly that when singer SZA tweeted she was racially profiled and stopped by security officers at a Sephora store. The brand immediately responded to SZA’s tweet and, more meaningfully, closed more than 400 stores on the morning of June 5 to host inclusion workshops for its employees.
Do: Build A Community Around Your Cause Marketing
Your employees may know about the incredible culture and programs at your company, but does the world? Don’t be afraid to #humblebrag. You need to reaffirm your company’s mission at all touch points, specifically allowing employees and consumers to take part and participate with you, to bring your purpose off the obscure company homepage into the hands, eyes, and minds of the consumer.
Love Beauty and Planet, for example, hosts ocean cleanups, solidifying its place as an eco-focused beauty brand. Patagonia, Levi’s, and LUSH also provide ways that brand advocates, both internal and external, can get involved in social activist projects. This is how you not only build trust with consumers by showing that you are walking the walk, but you are also growing a community people are eager to be a part of because they want to take action toward real change.
Don’t: Try To Be Everything To Everyone
It’s tempting to follow a hot trend and jump on a popular wave. Or to simply spread your goodness across a multitude of cause platforms. But having a singular focus can provide clarity to consumers amid the ever-increasing marketing noise.
Dove has stayed laser-focused on its commitment to raise self-esteem and body confidence. From its 2004 “Real Beauty” campaign to its latest “#ShowUs” effort, Dove is building the world’s largest stock photo library that shatters beauty stereotypes with its wide array of inclusive images. And the young consumers in our survey are clearly paying attention. An impressive 53% of respondents associate Dove with body positivity.
Do: Be About More Than Just Selling Stuff
Of course, businesses need to sell things. Even consumers say that they’re not expecting brands to forsake profit for purpose. But brands need to think about the social causes they want to get involved with in addition to selling stuff, and start leveraging their powerful platforms to help enact change.
Consider Ben & Jerry’s. What does ice cream have to do with social justice? It may not have a direct tie, but the company is committed to using its platforms to tackle real social challenges facing our world today, including racial justice and the refugee crisis. (And while they don’t do it to sell stuff, it sells stuff.)
As Matthew McCarthy, CEO of Ben & Jerry’s, said at the 2019 Sustainable Brands conference: “Go like hell. As fast as you’re going after your innovations; as fast as you’re going after your cool next campaign; go after purpose and build it into your business!”
It boils down to this: Being safe in this day and age will not future-proof your business. Stand up, speak up, and start building a lasting relationship with consumers based on shared values.