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How Brands Can Put Purpose at the Heart of their Marketing Strategy

Brand purpose is an ever more important part of how consumers engage with and judge brands. A strong, clearly defined, and identifiable purpose resonates with audiences, and takes them along with you on the journey to fulfilling whatever that purpose may be. This purpose can take a wide variety of forms – environmentally conscious, pleasure, civil rights, and more – so long as they match your organisation’s actions and product.

Brand Purpose

Once you’ve found your brand purpose, the next step is to communicate it to your audience. The exact steps involved in this depend on the audience, of course, but what we can do here is describe general aims and examples of how to go about achieving them. The most important aspect of communicating brand purpose is to be believed. A brand purpose that is disbelieved can do even more harm than having no purpose at all, it could lead to accusations of green/pink/rainbow-washing, distrust of the brand as a whole, and even hostility over feeling lied to. Brands that lose trust in this way take a massive hit and must engage in the long, gruelling task of regaining that trust.
Being a trustworthy brand is a massive asset and point of differentiation from other brands. Despite the fact that it is obviously good to be trusted, less than half of all brands actually manage to earn trust with consumers.

The way to become one of the brands that does is to ensure that your brand purpose is not led by marketing efforts, but instead something that your organisation lives by that you can then communicate through marketing. Show-don’t-tell your audience what you stand for and what you mean. More and more, consumers are growing to dislike being advertised to, they are sceptical of any claims, and quick to believe it is all “marketing speak”. By building marketing efforts around things that your brand already is or is doing, you provide evidence for any claims you make, as well as giving the audience something concrete to feel a part of. As an example, Tony’s Chocolonely brand purpose is to eradicate slavery in the chocolate industry and make the supply chain ethical, and their marketing presents this as a done deal within their own supply chain. “Alone we can make our chocolate 100% slave-free, but only together can we make all chocolate 100% slave-free.”, they proclaim on their packaging, and that is precisely how to build credibility and invite people with whom your brand purpose resonates to join you. The purpose is established as being important to them and something they are working on, and the audience is told that they too can contribute.

Another important aspect is to remain steady in your purpose. Marketing can often be seen as fickle, always chasing the flavour of the week, but that erodes trust in your brand purpose. How can an audience become attached and involved with a purpose that changes with the wind? No, there must be a sense of constancy throughout. That is not to say that it must be entirely rigid and unchanging, only that temporary marketing campaigns must be related to the brand purpose and framed in a way that makes it clear how the current campaign fits in the larger picture. A good example of this is Netflix’ phrasing around their various “Impact” campaigns. Rather than letting their efforts for diversity, sustainability, and inclusion stand as separate campaigns, they are tied together under the larger banner of “Entertaining the world” that is their brand purpose. Diversity and inclusion are attached to this by talking about how the diversity of stories told is essential to entertain the whole world, and sustainability is coached in the rather simple truism that to entertain the world there must be a world to entertain.
That type of believable, coherent messaging is part of what turns a brand purpose from “marketing speak” into a real part of a brand’s identity in the audience’s mind.

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