Heartfelt or fabricated?

Hugh Fitz-Gibbon MIPA looks at the rise of the purpose-led marketing campaign.

In the age of ethical consumerism, Hugh Fitz-Gibbon MIPA looks at the rise of the purpose-led marketing campaign.

We need to feel good about what we’re buying

According to author Simon Sinek, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Standing for something, it seems, is good for business. A clear stance on the world inspires employees, builds customer loyalty and attracts new business partners, which all help boost the bottom line – for those brave enough to do it. Say hello to the rise of brand and social purpose in marketing. It seems that traditional unique selling points of quality and value just don’t cut it anymore and we need to feel good about what we’re buying. From Netflix documentaries to climate activism campaigns, we’re more educated on social and environmental issues than ever before - which has led to a collective awakening of conscience in the UK. We care. We realise we’re part of the problem. And we want to help. In the search for leadership on solving these challenges, the expectation has shifted from politics to business. So much so in fact, that brands may need to pivot their communications in 2020 towards selling not just products and services – but themselves.

In marketing, we are guilty of short termism. With so much instantly available data, proxies of success such as CPM, CPC and CTR’s are chased to show incremental efficiencies. However, much like the finite natural resources we are using up in the real world, retargeting audience pools are shrinking too. It’s not a case of if, but when. So what is the future of advertising in 2020? This is the time to shift communications towards a ‘why’, speak to a broader new audience and become memorable in a cluttered world of me-too products trying to out-shout each other for your attention. With the world zigging, it’s time to zag.

Purpose pays

This means investing more in purpose-led campaigns rather than sales activation that can provide an antidote to our chaotic and 'disunited kingdom'. These days, over half of us would prefer to buy from brands that stand for a purpose anyway. From food to fashion, brands can become category leaders and challenge their competitors to meet their standards. Think Oatly’s new COimpact badge on all packaging and Patagonia’s ‘re-commerce’ initiative Worn Wear. Purpose also pays. In their 2018 IPA Effectiveness Awards case study, Barclays' recent digital transformation saw purpose-led campaigns driving 2x greater brand consideration than product campaigns, re-establishing much-needed trust in a deeply damaged banking sector.

The latest Mintel Global Trends report predicts consumers of the future will be increasingly empowered to call out companies, brands and people they disagree with, leading to the possibility of complete brand derailment with one viral #boycott tweet. Scary? Yes. Yet it does hold brands to account for their actions and public sentiment can guide industry regulation, from ethical supply chains to employment rights. Take supermarkets for example. Recent YouGov research states that 82% of consumers are concerned about single-use packaging and so supermarkets have been creating alternatives in-store to stay on the side of shoppers. Employees are also demanding more from brands. 75% of millennials says it is important their values match the values of the business they work for which can improve productivity and reduce churn. There is also a growing interest in business for good, such as the B Corp movement, which has seen its Google search volume increase steadily this year.

With trust in politics at a record low according to the 2019 Edelman survey, three in four of us think CEOs should take the lead on change. Douglas Lamont, smoothie chief at Innocent Drinks, agrees. "We are the first generation of leaders who cannot say we didn’t know [about the climate emergency] … and we are also the last generation who can do anything about it." Others such as Mars Purpose Director Michelle Oliver are also looking more long term, making decisions for the 'next decade or generation, but [which] might not pay off in the quarterly report'. It can be a tough sell though, particularly to shareholders who want to continually see profits maximised.

 Authenticity, trust and transparency are key

For the eye-rolling cynic, it’s all aboard the green bandwagon. A short-term marketing strategy to stay on trend. And yes, for some, it is. But in our call-out culture, newly empowered consumers know when the wool’s being pulled over their eyes. Purpose in its intangible, lofty sense won’t work for every business. But in our modern times, authenticity, trust and transparency are key to standing out. Sadly, it’s the lack of these qualities elsewhere that makes them so novel and appealing. If we are in a purpose economy, having brands get competitive about being green and good can only make the world a better place. Performance marketing will always provide the headrush, but brand building appeals to the heart. There’s no doubt a balance of both is needed. But by amplifying brand purpose we can turn prospects into lifelong brand advocates. Now that’s sustainable.

Hugh Fitz-Gibbon MIPA is an Account Manager at dentsu X. Find out more about becoming a MIPA.

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