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How to make more impact with purpose-led marketing

February 22, 2021
The Joyful
written by The Joyful

Customers of today want to be enrolled into a brand’s bigger vision. They want to know your why, and how your purpose aligns with their lives.

For marketing to be successful, it needs to ask “how can I help you?” Not “What can I sell you?”. It is no longer enough for businesses to broadcast into the void, offering audiences thinly veiled sales messages that have no real resonance or value.

Customers of today want to be enrolled into a brand’s bigger vision. They want to know your why, and how your purpose aligns with their lives.

When you focus your marketing on authentic communication and human-to-human connection, building a personality around your brand that helps you stand out as a business that actually cares. You’ll not only increase your bottom line, you’ll create communities of loyal and passionate brand ambassadors who drive your business forward.

Approaching marketing from a place of purpose has a huge impact on all areas of your business. Read on to explore your why.

What is purpose-led marketing?

The word purpose means intention. It’s a goal, essentially, a desired outcome. Really, every business has a purpose, whether that’s to change something about their industry, make the world that little bit better or increase their profits. Purpose in itself isn’t a particularly inspiring proposition.

So, what do we mean when we talk about purpose-led marketing?

For us, purpose is about being true to a set of clearly defined values. This is the heart of your business, the north star that guides everything from the way you operate to the way you communicate.

If marketing is guiding the flow of information about a business into the world, purpose-driven marketing is ensuring that information has a meaning beyond simply selling a product or service. It is the communication of a business’ values as well as its value, and it talks directly to the values of its customers. This is what enrolls them in the brand far beyond the sale, and is the basis for Hubspot’s flywheel model.

“Today, customers are skeptical, knowledgeable, and have bigger expectations than ever before. And one of those expectations is that businesses should care about more than transactions.” – Hubspot

Rather than a typical sales funnel where potential customers come in the top and drop out the bottom (not unlike sausage meat), the flywheel attracts audiences through engaging communication, delights them with a product or service, and creates a feeling of loyalty that keeps them coming back for more. Bonus points: they bring their pals along for the ride.

Get this right and your flywheel won’t stop spinning, and a spinning flywheel means continued business growth.

Why is purpose so important in business?

According to a Forbes interview with Jeff Fromm, CMO and expert on Gen Z and millennials, “a purpose driven brand is a successful brand.” After all, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it, and the spirit in which you do it is more important than ever.

The 2018 Cone/Porter Novelli Purpose Study found that “78% of Americans believe companies must do more than just make money; they must positively impact society as well.” And 68% say they would be more willing to share content from purpose-driven companies.

Due to COVID-19 and the global pandemic, purpose in business matters more than ever. And this is only one part of the story. With increasing global pressures, businesses have “an opportunity, and an obligation, to engage in the urgent needs of our planet” (Mckinsey 2020).  

It’s no longer enough to talk a good talk with a set of values slapped to the wall in the staff room. Businesses need to act, and marketing can be the mouthpiece for action. When done effectively, purpose-led marketing will enrol audiences in your vision, putting a stake in the ground for a better way of doing business, all while making a much bigger impact with brand and communications.

So, is purpose-led marketing really worth it? You decide.

  • 88% of consumers want to know that the brands they’re supporting have a real impact.  
  • 72% of consumers are more likely to recommend a brand that supports a good cause.
  • 73% of consumers are willing to swap brands in order to support one that stands behind a cause they believe in.

How to make an impact with purpose-led marketing

The key to purpose-led marketing is authenticity. That means walking your talk. So, before we delve into the tactics of an effective purpose-led marketing strategy, there is one golden rule we need to be aware of. Always be consistent, transparent and back up your claims with action.

It’s not enough to tell people what they want to hear. 88% of consumers want to know the brands they are supporting have a real impact. Purpose-led brands need to be totally transparent and authentic in their marketing to show they are truly driving social change.

Here’s how to make more impact with purpose-led marketing.

1.   Know who you’re talking to

This is marketing 101, and you’d be surprised how many businesses don’t know who they’re talking to. If that’s you, you’re certainly not alone. You may have a vague idea of demographics or an avatar of your ideal customer. This isn’t enough. Purpose-led marketing requires a deep understanding of your audiences as real people with real desires and challenges.

You need to know your audiences like you know your friends. When you understand them fully, you can communicate with them in their language about the topics and values that matter most to them.

One of the best ways to understand your customers is to have conversations with them. This could be one to one, via a survey or even in a social media poll. People love to talk about themselves, so use this as an opportunity to gain some real insight into your audiences, always coming back to that all important question: “How can I help you?”.

Alternatively, social listening is a fantastic tool to get inside the world of your audiences. Hangout where they are online and take note of the sort of topics they talk most passionately about.

2.   Get clear on your values

With buy-in from your whole team, create a clearly defined set of values that encapsulate everything you stand for as a business and relate back to the values of your audience.

Try to avoid being generic. Your values are what should steer your business, and if done right, they inform absolutely every decision from the inside out.

If you feel stuck, get your team together to explore your business and what you stand for and write out every word that comes to mind. Then group these by theme until you’re left with four groups. Choose the word that best encapsulates everything in that group. Those are your four values.

3.   Use the voices of your audience to tell the story

Once you know your values, who your audience are and what they care about, you can create opportunities for them to get involved in the story. This is known as user generated content and  55% of consumers trust it over any other form of marketing.

Billie is a brand that has combined purpose and the voice of the people to create global brand fame. This is a razor company that promotes the freedom to have body hair, and they feature images of their community adorning body hair in any which way they desire.

Their message is the opposite of the traditional approach to ad copy (ie. something is wrong with you and this product is the solution), instead Billie has forged global acclaim through celebrating all people exactly as they are. They’ve succeeded by turning advertising on its head.

4.   Make shared values the core of your communications

The reason for Billie’s success is simple. They have tapped into the values, needs and desires of their target audience. In Billie’s case this is Gen Zs who are sociopolitically forthright, tired of gender expectations and beauty standards, who will often only spend their money at companies they ethically agree with.

Billie delivers a clear, empowering and inspiring brand message. All of their marketing is audience-centric, and anyone who comes into contact with them will know immediately what they stand for, and for whom. This is not just a razor brand.

Dove is another brand who’ve had great success from being purpose-led. Their real beauty campaign came out just on the cusp of a new conversation around beauty standards, and it made a huge impact. This is not just a soap company, and rather than focusing on selling their products, Dove focuses on enrolling audiences into their mission and supporting other campaigns who are doing the same.

5.   Have a set of clearly defined messaging pillars

Once you know what your values are and what you stand for as a company, you can build these into clearly defined messaging pillars under which all content sits. Messaging pillars can be seen as the backbone of your content strategy, they are the overarching themes you talk about and each relates to one or more of your core values.

For example, purpose-led marketing is one of our messaging pillars at The Joyful, and you’ll hear us talking about it a lot in different ways with a variety of angles. This builds authority for your brand around specific subjects, creates a consistent message and gives you a really clear direction for your content.

If a proposed piece of content doesn’t fit under a messaging pillar, it doesn’t get published.

6.   Create authority around your purpose

Create more impact with your marketing by talking about your brand’s core purpose regularly and with expert insight.

This includes your own content and could also mean guesting on podcasts, writing guest blogs, offering insights to be used as quotes in articles and white papers. Wherever you choose to take your message, make sure the publication aligns to it.

You can also invite experts with a shared purpose to be interviewed on your blog, podcast or video series. Partnering with individuals or organisations who share similar values will give you more kudos, enrich your content with a variety of views and help you to reach new audiences.

Whichever tactic you use to speak about your purpose, always be consistent.

Purpose-led marketing always comes back to authentic communication

When we share purposeful messages and operate from a set of clearly defined values in business, we create an opportunity for our customers and audiences to make the world that bit better too, simply by voting with their currency. We’re not only changing the way businesses communicate in the world, we’re changing the world.

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