Author: Cliona Elliott
This year there have been some big discussions about purpose marketing. Marketing Week’s Russell Parsons has highlighted that there is a clear divide between those who think the brand purpose is both a social responsibility and the reason for a brand’s existence; and those who believe the role of brand purpose has been overemphasized to become something other than a means of generating growth. The industry is also facing a looming recruitment crisis, because new talent is failing to consider marketing as a career path, viewing it simply as “selling stuff,” and describing it as “boring” and “interruptive.” The majority of millennials also associate marketing with advertising, which they either dislike or distrust. With 46% of millennials wanting a career which allows them to have a meaningful impact on the world, their perception of marketing makes the industry unappealing. The role of purpose marketing is evidently a hot topic right now and it is no surprise that many key industry leaders agree that in order for brands to survive, they must be able to clearly demonstrate how they are positively impacting people’s lives and communities on a local and global level.
Millennials are quickly becoming the dominant percentage in both the workforce and in driving consumerism. The generation has shown to really care about company values and ethics and when given the option, 70% will spend more on companies who support social impact causes they care about. So, with the growing importance of more conscious consumerism, it’s important that brands are authentic. One brand that continues to prosper is American clothing company Patagonia, who have deep roots in environmental activism. Since 1985 Patagonia has allocated 1% of annual sales—totaling over $89 million—-to grassroots environmental organizations. The brand rejects mainstream consumerism events such as Black Friday and famously donated one hundred percent of 2016 Black Friday sales to environmental causes. Patagonia’s European marketing director Alex Weller says, “You can’t reverse into a mission and values through marketing. The organizations that are struggling with this are probably the ones that are thinking about marketing first.” Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman also commented that businesses would be “stupid” not to lead with purpose-driven products and campaigns.
Most discussions around purpose marketing centre around the need for corporate social responsibility. However, when most people define purpose the definition is something much closer to differentiation—or rather, misappropriation—that leads to expensive and ineffective action. There are several examples of the term being misappropriated. For instance, when brands jump onto the purpose marketing bandwagon in order to do well by doing good. Looking at some of the marketing hiccups earlier on in 2018—such as the McDonald’s TV advert which was pulled after complaints that it exploited child bereavement—-brands should not attempt to integrate social impact initiatives simply to appear like they are doing good. Instead, they should be focusing on meaningful differentiation through properly defined positioning. This concept describes ‘meaningful’ as creating affinity with or meeting consumers’ functional or emotional needs, and ‘difference’ being what really sets a brand apart from its competitors.
It is more important than ever for brands to establish a balance between business and social responsibility. NOIZ is a blockchain and artificial intelligence-enabled advertising network which has built social impact into its business strategy. The advertising ecosystem currently lacks transparency, and NOIZ’s decentralized model incentivizes advertisers and publishers to donate a portion of their budget and profit to social impact organizations. Every month all NOIZ platform users are invited to vote for which organizations will receive tokens and by how much. Viewers can also donate to social impact causes using tokens which they receive when they engage in cognitive ads or share their data. Giving all platform users regular opportunities to decide which organizations are supported, balances business and consumer values to facilitate the growing demand for genuine corporate social responsibility.
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