When you think about purpose-driven brands, what comes to mind? If you think non-profits like the American Red Cross, Goodwill, YMCA or myriad other organizations around the world that rely on donations, grants and volunteers to accomplish their goals, you aren’t alone. But it’s possible to be both purpose-driven and profit-driven; in fact, adding purpose can help boost profits when growth begins to slow because it opens up new playing fields.
Benefits of a Purpose-Driven Brand Strategy
A purpose-driven strategy pushes your brand to act on issues that are beyond your products and services, something consumers are increasingly demanding. They want to have relationships with brands that share their values, make a difference, are transparent and authentic.
Consumers know that businesses need to turn a profit, but they also want to see some good or benefit come from that. A Unilever study in 2017 showed that a third of consumers were buying from brands based on their social and environmental impact. A mere three years later, after a global pandemic, economic upheaval and increased social unrest fueled by political divisiveness, 85% of business executives acknowledged that it is no longer acceptable for companies just to make money; they must also positively impact society.
These same executives say the benefits of doing so include:
- Enhanced reputation
- Improved employee recruitment and retention
- Increased consumer trust
- Increased customer loyalty
- Greater likelihood to recommend
- Greater likelihood to purchase
- Better brand differentiation
- Improved financial performance
In 2021, the Edelman Trust Barometer findings showed 68% of consumers believe they have the power to force corporations to change, and 86% of people expect CEOs to speak out on societal issues.
Examples, Large and Small
Major corporations that have excelled in the realm of purpose-driven strategies include giants like:
- Nike, which focuses on people, planet and play
- Dove and its Campaign for Real Beauty to improve the self-esteem and confidence of girls
- Tesla, with its mission to accelerate the transition to sustainable energy
Small businesses can make a meaningful impact as well (check out these five agents of change). The key is to assess your culture, your values and your goals to develop a purpose-driven strategy that aligns with your business, whether that is sustainability, health equity, reaching disenfranchised populations or others. You can develop a purpose retrospectively, which builds on what you already are, or prospectively, which looks ahead at how you can address changes to come.
Be a Good Corporate Citizen
As you develop your purpose-driven mission, think about how you will articulate, implement, amplify—and at times even defend—it. It must be clear, authentic and transparent. You can’t just talk the talk; you have to walk the walk.
Be sure to exercise caution and good judgment. If there is one thing we’ve learned with “cancel culture,” it’s that consumers are willing to show their pleasure or displeasure with their dollars and their often very public ire. That’s why a thoughtful approach that includes research and contemplation is important. The purpose your brand supports must be one that resonates with both your employees and your core audience.
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