Editor's Note: This post was originally published in May 2019 and has been updated with additional content in May 2023.
In the past, many people opted to stay neutral on certain causes and issues to prevent retaliation from others. Nowadays, everybody wants to feel like they’re a part of something bigger. Whether it’s by supporting a local/global cause or living a particular lifestyle, many of today’s consumers are actively seeking to make a difference these days. The desire to make a difference is now highly reflected in consumers’ behaviors and purchasing decisions. Several key examples include supporting cruelty-free beauty brands (e.g. BECCA), the zero-waste packaging movement (e.g. bare market), the climate change crisis (e.g. Patagonia), and more!
Consumers who are passionate about their causes are constantly on the lookout for purpose-driven brands and businesses that also advocate for and support the same causes as they do. This new movement has paved the way for what we know today as purpose-driven marketing or cause marketing.
What is a Purpose-Driven Brand?
A purpose-driven brand goes beyond the corporate bottom line and is fuelled and centered around a particular cause, mission, purpose, or vision. As mentioned earlier, this is a relatively new movement that many businesses and brands are centering their business models around to connect with their audience. According to a Forbes interview, a purpose-driven brand is a successful brand, and a brand’s purpose should be the center of attention in order to be successful. We have now entered an era of “radical transparency” and believe that customers are, in fact, more than just buyers.
As a result, brands are encouraged to adhere and be more committed to their customers’ beliefs. This is where purpose-driven marketing plays an integral part in your business’ brand marketing strategy.
The Rise of Purpose-Driven Marketing
In today's rapidly evolving business landscape, purpose-driven marketing has emerged as a vital strategy for brands looking to resonate with modern consumers. This marketing approach goes beyond selling products or services, focusing instead on promoting a brand's mission or cause that aligns with the values and concerns of its target audience.
Purpose-driven marketing is a reflection of a brand's commitment to contributing to societal good, setting it apart in a crowded marketplace. Brands that implement purpose-driven marketing strategies not only foster deeper connections with their consumers but also build trust and loyalty that translate into sustainable business success.
Several notable brands have leveraged purpose-driven marketing to great effect. For instance, Patagonia's #CrudeAwakening campaign utilized this approach to address environmental concerns, aligning the brand's mission with a broader societal issue. Similarly, Ripple Foods' 'Our Progress, Your Impact' campaign showcased its commitment to making a positive impact through sustainable practices.
Yet, purpose-driven marketing isn't just for large corporations. Small and medium-sized businesses can also leverage this approach by identifying a cause or purpose that resonates with their target audience, aligning their business strategies accordingly, and communicating this effectively through their digital marketing efforts.
In conclusion, purpose-driven marketing is more than a trend; it's a marketing approach that reflects the changing expectations of consumers, who increasingly demand authenticity, transparency, and social responsibility from the brands they support.
Why is Purpose-Driven Digital Marketing Important?
63% of global consumers prefer to purchase products and services from purpose-driven brands. Moreover, over 70% of customers are more likely to recommend a brand that supports a good cause. Here are a few tips for 3 purpose-driven marketing lessons to learn 3 innovative brands:
1. Find a mutual cause both you and your audience can connect with.
One of the most effective ways to use purpose-driven marketing to connect with your audience is to find a cause that matters to them. At the same time, make sure that the cause also aligns with your brand.
Patagonia is a prime example of a purpose-driven brand that effectively tailors its marketing efforts around a cause that its audience can deeply connect with. Patagonia’s mission is to save the planet in the midst of the current climate crisis we are in. They see this as an opportunity to build the best products while doing no unnecessary harm to the planet. Their business is centered around protecting nature, and this is a cause that their audience cares deeply about.
It’s extremely important that you get to know your customers and what they care about. Using data-driven creativity can help map out your customer journey and deliver the experience that your target audience expects. The right data can make all the difference, and finding a cause that your audience can connect with encourages them to get involved with your brand’s mission.
2. Drive social change by being transparent with your online audience.
Consumers are four to six times more likely to buy from, trust, champion, and defend companies with a strong purpose. They also want to know that the brands they support are having a real impact. Purpose-driven brands need to be transparent with their audience through their marketing efforts in order to prove that they are truly driving social change. In other words, this means reporting on the impact your brand has had on the cause you are supporting. Many brands do this by capturing and collecting data to communicate the impact they have had over a certain period of time.
As a marketer, take this as an opportunity to create original content by reporting on the impact that you and your customers have made together. For example, the TOMS Stories website displays first-hand how their customers’ purchases are creating change and making an impact. You can read up on the cause behind their Unity Collection, which is dedicated to equality and inclusion. You can also read up on how they are also taking a stand on ending gun violence. TOMS’ content marketing strategy is what makes up its strong narrative as a purpose-driven brand. This is significant because it can help build stronger brand trust and loyalty in the long run.
3. Always realign your purpose-driven digital marketing efforts back to your brand.
Keep in mind that purpose-driven marketing is a two-way street. Why are you doing what you’re doing? Not only do your marketing efforts impact your customers, but they also define your business as a whole.
Take a look at the Adidas and Parley product line, for example. Adidas’ purpose-driven marketing efforts for this collaboration are centered around the ocean plastic epidemic. Their campaign video takes us on a journey and does a real deep dive into how ocean plastics are negatively affecting our oceans’ ecosystem. Adidas effectively realigns its efforts to its brand by spinning the problem into a solution and creating high-performance sportswear made of plastic. The lesson here is that the cause you are supporting becomes a part of your brand narrative, which is a driving factor that determines who will support, buy from, and invest in your business.
Why is Becoming Purpose-Driven the Path to Success in Today’s Market?
Simply put, purpose-driven businesses perform better and attract more customers and better talent. Employees who feel motivated by a stronger sense of purpose and clear social incentives tend to be more productive on average. Everyone in your company knows that one of your key objectives is to generate profits, but having a purpose beyond the bottom line is what motivates staff to push toward profitability. Today’s customers are more conscious of social issues, from environmental matters to charitable causes, and are more likely to respond favorably to a company that shows its commitment to being part of a larger social and environmental context with a stated purpose of improving the lives of all its stakeholders. Purpose-driven companies win hearts and minds rather than simply offering products and services, which is the secret to their success.
How Can a Purpose-Driven Brand Change the World?
Purpose-driven brands attract and cater to conscious and ethically-driven consumers. In return, these consumers demand that brands lead with their purpose and their ethical and environmental values. Due to this dynamic, a market is created that is driven by profit and the greater good, as well as ethics and service delivery. The combined effect is a happy medium between purpose and profit, where companies can serve ethical causes while continuing to provide products and services that satisfy their clientele. Purpose-driven branding proves that profit and ethics need not be mutually exclusive and that they can and must work together.
More Examples of Purpose-Driven Marketing
Several leading brands have already shown the way in purpose-driven marketing, working hard to fuse their business goals with greater aims that serve all of their stakeholders. Here are some great examples:
The outdoor and sporting clothing brand Patagonia has long committed itself to raising awareness about the various risks that our planet currently faces. Their #CrudeAwakening campaign aimed to protect the world’s coastlines against oil spills. With the help of the company and its strong base of supporters, three laws were passed to impose stricter rules on offshore oil drillers.
Australia Metro Trains: Dumb Ways to Die
Marketing agency McCann-Melbourne created an innovative campaign for Melbourne’s rail network aimed at the thousands of commuters who use the trains on a daily basis. The cleverly designed campaign, which spanned all media outlets and used sharp but tasteful humor, was intended to make train commuters more conscious of their own safety. The messaging was intended to cut through the traditional safety announcements, which the public regarded as boring and had come to ignore. The result of the campaign was a 30% decrease in near-miss accidents over a year.
Uber and MADD - Get Home Safe
In July 2017, in the midst of the July 4th celebrations, Uber partnered with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). The rideshare company offered a discount code that, when redeemed, triggered a donation to MADD. Uber thus showed itself as a supporter of an important social cause and presented itself as a purpose-driven company.
Ripple Foods - Our Progress, Your Impact
In 2018, Ripple Foods introduced a milk alternative made of pea protein to the market. Instead of targeting vegetarian and vegan customers, it decided to market the product to established milk drinkers, creating a series of communications that showed how they could help the environment by changing from dairy to pea protein alternatives.
Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Friends vs. COVID-19
In March 2020, seven tech giants came together to demonstrate their shared commitment to supporting the fight against COVID-19 and fighting misinformation about the disease.
Consumers are Demanding More From Brands
In an age of uncertainty and massive change and upheaval, consumers expected brands to put up or shut up. It wasn’t enough to simply continue supplying products or services; companies had to show that they were as committed to important causes as their customers were - or their customers would simply go elsewhere or raise the alarm on social media and spark a boycott. BlackRock Inc. showed its support by committing to keep all its staff on the payroll even as the lockdown forced contractions and layoffs elsewhere. Under Armour got political with a campaign to promote voter turnout. Customers insisted that brands stand up and be counted on many important issues, and brands responded.
Create a Sense of Purpose that Resonates with Customers
It is important for your purpose to resonate with your brand, your products, and what is important to your customers. If you just try to adopt a purpose because it seems popular, customers will likely see right through it. Let your purpose and your business intertwine effortlessly, and you are almost certain to resonate with your customers.
Don’t hijack a trend for the sake of it
Don’t underestimate the intelligence of your audience. They can distinguish between a heartfelt message and a mere attempt to jump on the bandwagon. Purpose-driven marketing must be authentic, or consumers will reject it instantly. That is why it is important to choose causes that are close to your heart and that resonate with your brand.
Focus on the experience, not the trend
Your focus should remain on creating a pleasant experience for your customers, creating a purpose-driven brand and brand loyalty throughout the entire buyer’s journey. Don’t shift your focus to a particular trend; rather, build your purpose-driven marketing into your marketing campaigns, keeping the experience as your priority and letting your purpose-driven messages work with it.
How Any Brand Can Use Purpose-Driven Marketing
Purpose-driven marketing actually shouldn’t be something you need to wrack your brain over. The fact that your brand exists means that it already has a purpose. All you have to do is bring that purpose to the forefront and create synergies between matters that your customers are passionate about. Once you do this, you can build stronger and more authentic connections with your customers.
Find your purpose and stick with it
Purpose-driven marketing is a long-term approach. You can’t just choose something that is topical and try to build a marketing campaign around it. You need to decide what your purpose is - if you don’t already know - and keep focusing on that throughout your branding and communications going forward. Be consistent with your purpose, core values, and messaging.
Develop a foundational strategy
All marketing campaigns require a strategy that you can use to direct your messaging toward your overarching goals; purpose-driven marketing is no different. Draw up a plan and stick to it, ensuring that your purpose-driven marketing flows naturally with your core values and preferably that it connects directly to your products and services.
Remember: It’s not about you. It’s about helping others
Approach purpose-driven marketing with an open mind and with a focus on helping others rather than thinking about how it can serve your brand. Be authentic and honest, and deliver on what you promise.
Why Purpose-Driven Marketing Matters
Purpose-driven marketing is a powerful approach that emphasizes aligning a company's values, mission, and actions with the needs and values of its target audience. The main benefit of purpose-driven marketing is that it demonstrates to your customers that you see the bigger picture and care about more than just making sales and turning a profit. By communicating a clear purpose and demonstrating a genuine commitment to social responsibility, companies can build brand loyalty and trust, attracting a passionate and engaged customer base. It also gives you a chance to make what you do mean more in the long run, to make a lasting impact, and to contribute to something important. Customers reward companies that show what is close to their hearts and make their voices heard in the short and long run. Committing to a cause brings its own rewards, driving innovation, differentiation, and long-term business growth while positively impacting society. Purpose-driven marketing benefits the company's bottom line. It creates a lasting and meaningful connection with customers, making it an essential strategy for businesses looking to thrive in today's socially conscious world.
At the end of the day, not every company is obligated to go as all-in as brands like Patagonia, TOMS, or Adidas. However, working towards a common goal or a shared set of values with your customers creates a strong emotional link with a huge impact. Ultimately, this will help drive your purpose-driven marketing efforts forward and continue to build a community around issues and causes that matter.