Purpose marketing is a way for a business or brand to bond with a target audience based on their shared needs and interests – including interest in supporting a worthy cause. This is linked to the rise in people holding companies accountable through corporate social responsibility. It is now expected for corporations to not only provide goods and services but to also dedicate a portion of profits to “do good”.
However, from the corporate point-of-view, companies will “do good” in the world as long as it has a benefit for the corporation. For example, hotels give guests “ecological” options such as re-using towels or sheets for more than one night instead of requesting fresh ones. These ecological options do benefit the environment but also save the hotel money. A similar concept applies to purpose marketing. Companies strive to create a positive social message but only while building a positive association with one or more of its brand.
Purpose marketing can lead to a win-win situation where a brand becomes more valuable through positioning itself as a champion for a social issue and actually becoming a champion for that social issue. An example of this is Dove, this brand has positioned itself as a champion for body positivity. Commercials often feature women of all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities. Dove has moved mountains in terms of representation in mainstream commercials of under-represented segments of the population and boosting the confidence of non-traditionally beautiful people. In the process, Dove sells more personal hygiene products and continues to spread the social message. The Dove success story is a testimonial to the wonders purpose marketing can do for your brand and serves as an advocate to make purpose marketing a focus of your own branding strategy.
Now, before you dive directly into your very own purpose marketing campaign; consider that purpose marketing does not always lead to a win-win situation. In the case of Dove, everything went perfectly well with a purpose-driven campaign that positively contributes to social change and generates sales for the brand. However, there are also examples in the market where the opposite happened.
Take for example Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi commercial. In the commercial, the extremely successful socialite and model plays herself leaving a photoshoot to protest the current issues troubling the United States today (police brutality, discrimination, attacks on women’s rights, etc). As quickly as she joins the protest for social justice, she ends the protest by handing the riot police a Pepsi and celebrating with everyone. While Pepsi’s intentions to promote peace and encourage conversation were most likely good, it came off as a cheap way to push its brand down consumer’s throat by over-glorifying it and in the process completely dismissing the complexity of the social issues plaguing the United States currently. The campaign ended up deeply hurting Jenner’s image and Pepsi’s brand while the commercial was pulled within a day of it being aired.