Does purpose pay?
Does your brand brand benefit from stepping into the fray?
Research recently put out by social impact consultancy DoSomething Strategic found, while many wouldn’t blink at a claim that young consumers expect and even demand brands to stand for something, the reality is that they're not noticing the stands brands are taking.
While well known brands like Fenty Beauty, Patagonia and Dove have all leveraged purpose to establish high levels of association between their brands and tailored causes, they are merely among the lucky few purpose driven brands remembered. Findings showed while 58% of young consumers surveyed reported they were more likely to buy products or services from brands backing a good cause; only 12% of respondents had top-of-mind associations between brands they said they recognized and any specific causes.
Grab your calculators and that cousin who dropped out of accounting school but still keeps giving advice, we have a significant deficit to balance here.
So what’s causing the discrepancy? Why do young consumers claim to want to purchase from brands supporting a cause but can’t seem to remember the causes attached to brands? The answer is highly sophisticated. Ready?
Young consumers are calling bullshit.
They’ve seen brands talk more and more about the right things to do, but little increase in brands actually doing something right. They’ve seen missions, messages and causes they deeply believe in hollowed out and used as a Trojan Horse by brands to feign intimacy, get in front of them and sell product. They’ve seen brands take on a role as champion of a cause, only to be exposed as a complicit part of the problem they say they’re trying to solve.
Young consumers crave brands with a cause. They’re just not seeing many brands that genuinely live out the cause they're promoting. Cause marketing has become yet another source of noise consumers deal with and for a moment of precious silence they’re taking the easy route - they’re filtering the noise of "cause marketing" out.
Before you decide which particular hill you’re dying on, consider a few points when evaluating what your brand takes a stand for:
If your brand is going to have a mission, don’t just talk about it. Do something. More and more often, younger generations are recognizing, talk is cheap. Find ways to activate your brand’s purpose beyond billboards and press conferences. Live your mission out in the real world, because that’s where your consumers live and where they’ll find you.
No one likes a hypocrite:
If you’re going to champion a problem in need of solving, be certain your brand isn’t contributing to that problem before offering your two cents. Be cognizant of your brand’s history with an issue before you decide to play advocate or watchdog. There may be some causes you’d do best to leave alone. This doesn’t mean if your brand has struggled with or contributed to a particular problem that you’re barred from promoting a purpose that attempts to make things better. But be careful to publicly own up to the mistakes of the past before evangelizing your cause to the masses.
Is your purpose a promotion or a promise?:
How do you use your purpose? Is it used to sell or is it used to serve? You’d be surprised how much consumers pay attention to this. Especially young consumers. “Authenticity” is becoming the greatest buzzword to come about since “Certified Organic”. Ironically, as often as you hear this word in relation to brands and the stories they tell, true authenticity is in short supply. Young consumers have had to grow up in a world filled with promotions and gimmicks, and have developed a sort of sixth sense that helps them differentiate a promise from a self-promoting sales tactic. If your brand is going to make a promise, treat it like one. It’s not wrong to put something like a brand purpose front and center for consumers to see, it's part of your brand's identity after all. But if talking about the promise you’re making ever gets in the way of actually fulfilling it - reevaluate.
Hedged bets may not hurt you, but they’re rarely remembered:
When you think about the purpose or cause your brand stands for, think about it’s coherence and relevance. Would someone expect your brand to stand for this? Does what you stand for present actual tangible risk to your brand? Do you stand to lose something? Promoting an important cause with the resources and voice of your brand is all well and good, but the purpose driven brands consumers remember have skin in the game. It’s the brands willing to lose something for what they believe in that really stand to gain. Find issues that make sense for your brand to stand for, ones your brand truly cares about, can impact and are impacted by. Show your consumers you’re doing more than cashing in on hot button issues and be willing to accept short term losses in popularity in exchange for integrity and loyalty in the long run. Take note of brands willing to actually risk something in order to spread a message they believe. Beyond loyal consumers and a trusted name, you never know what added benefits this may present to your business.
So what do brands with a genuine purpose do to rise above the overwhelming buzz of “cause marketing?”
Revolutionary, I know. Brands that are genuinely seeking to communicate a purpose will differentiate themselves by going a step beyond saying the right thing and actually doing it. Because when the noise gets to be too much, actions speak infinitely louder than words. So is purpose worth it? The economics are there for you, it just takes research, corporate soul searching and some tolerance for risk. Brand purpose isn't irrelevant and it's possible to implement it without being short-changed.
If you use your actions to cash the checks your words write - purpose does pay.