Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection describes the gradual, non-random process by which biological traits appear in a population over time. In brand marketing, the evolutionary process also applies. It just moves at a much faster clip and is driven by consumer engagement – their actions: purchases, recommendations and criticisms.
Purpose as Core Part of Marketing DNA
In 2007, Purpose was largely on the periphery of the 4 Ps. It was an add-on to a pre-existing campaign or program idea, often considered later in the planning cycle. Quick – what issue should we be aligning ourselves with? What partners are available? Can we leverage this quarterly promo to boost back-to-school sales?
It’s clear that today, consumers have pushed Purpose into a more central role in the marketing mix. According to our 2012 goodpurpose® study, when quality and price are equal, the most important factor influencing brand choice is Purpose. In fact, the prominence of Purpose as a purchase trigger has risen 26% since 2008. Purpose has fully arrived at the 5th P.
There had also been a perception that profit and purpose didn’t mix well. This is changing: 76 percent of global consumers believe it is acceptable for brands to support good causes and make money at the same time – up 33% from 2008.
When we helped launch the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty in 2004/5, we encountered quite a bit of: “this sounds great, but isn’t it just a short term marketing ploy?” The answer was, and remains, that we feel fortunate to be in a position to create growth for the brand while developing programming that makes a positive impact on society…in this case striving to create a world where beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety.
Beyond consumer acceptance, there is also a wide spread expectation that business and brands look at the bigger picture: 87% of consumers believe business should place at least equal emphasis on social interests as business interests. Note – this is not at the expense of one another; Purpose and profit have enjoyed an increasingly strong marriage. By one measure, Jim Stengel’s index of the top 50 brands with “ideals” outperformed the S&P by 400% over a ten year period from ’01 to ’11.
Building Blocks of Purpose Programming
With Purpose established in the evolving brand marketing mix, how does your organization stand out? What are the traits that are going to continue to drive consumer preference and loyalty in today’s rapidly changing hyper competitive environment?
While campaigns have become as diverse as flora and fauna, we believe fundamental building blocks of effective Purpose programming trace back to the Mesozoic era of Marketing – around the time of our efforts surrounding Dolphin-Safe tuna for StarKist in the 90s:
1) Masterbrand Orientation: Increasingly, the hard lines between “corporate” and “brand” are blurring. What is the enterprise-level values-based leadership platform and how is it aligned with business goals?
The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan covers environmental, social and economic aspects of sustainability and puts a stake in the ground with three significant goals by 2020: 1 – help more than one billion people improve their health and well being, 2 – halve the environmental impact of their products and 3 – source all agricultural raw materials sustainably. This is a CEO-led initiative that will be activated across the brand portfolio in food, home and personal care. It offers a clear framework that allows brands the flexibility and guidance to make the positioning and objectives their own.
2) Authenticity and Ownability: How is the platform or program organic to the brand? The recently launched Brita FilterForGood Music Project is perfectly aligned with the brand’s overall leadership platform of raising awareness for the simple changes everyone can make to live eco-friendly lives. In this case, empowering musicians, fans and backstage crews to make concerts more sustainable by ditching bottled water for reusable bottles filled with Brita filtered water.
3) Differentiation and Adaptability: How do we break through the sea of sameness and continue to be relevant to key stakeholders? In 2004, Dove sparked a global conversation with an integrated campaign, grounded in research, centered on debunking beauty stereotypes. The Campaign for Real Beauty has evolved from ‘a campaign to a conversation’ – with the brand focus on inspiring all women and girls to reach their full potential. The brand recently created the Dove Movement for Self Esteem and developed confidence building educational programs and activities that encourage, inspire and motivate girls around the world.
Through the effective evolution of their campaign, Dove has continued to drive strong brand affinity and has reached more than 8 million girls with self-esteem building programs, setting a goal of reaching 15 million by 2015.
In this brave new eco system of brand marketing, Purpose is a core part of the marketing DNA, where the value of values is paramount. Consumers are asking for more – for something lasting – for ways to partner with brands and corporations to make a difference.
As the brand marketing evolutionary process accelerates, it’s clear Purposeful programming will not only survive, but thrive.
By: Larry Koffler, Executive Vice President, Edelman Business + Social Purpose