There’s a lot of debate about ‘purpose-driven marketing’; and whether it truly works.
For the record, I’m squarely in the camp that being purpose-led is one of the most effective ways to deepen your relationship and build brand loyalty with existing customers, as well as to encourage consideration with potential customers.
As marketers, we live in a world of constant disruption and commoditisation. Customers no longer choose on the ‘what’ and consumer trust is the currency of today’s socially connected world.
Unequivocally, the 4 p’s – product, price, place, and promotion – are still critical. But now more than ever, brands must better articulate, and demonstrate, their purpose to win ‘hearts and minds’ and to ultimately secure a larger share of wallet.
And the best way to do this is to communicate your purpose through authentic storytelling and content marketing. But more on this later.
Unlocking your brand purpose: the three C’s
I love the essence of Simon Sinek’s ‘golden circles’, a blueprint that details how the world’s leading brands think, act and communicate.
(I appreciate that’s not what Sinek is suggesting, but too often I see people trying to create an inauthentic mission after watching his video.)
So I suggest we apply Sinek’s thinking, but in a slightly more granular fashion. I call this the three C’s: commercials, customers and competitors.
And the sweet spot to bring your purpose to life – and to power your broader marketing ecosystem – is to play in the intersection. This is the ‘heart’ of the opportunity, and it ensures the purpose has the strength to stand up with each of the three C’s individually and collectively.
Your mission must permeate your organisation, not live in a marketing silo. Its role is to become a driving force that your people, customers, and the general public genuinely believe in and want to buy in to. And most importantly, you must ‘show’ how you bring this mission to life, not ‘tell’. To be honest, this is the strategy we love partnering with clients on most.
Patagonia: a masterclass in unifying purpose and commercials
In my view, the best in the business at this is outdoor apparel company Patagonia. They use the company’s environmental mission as a brand advantage. And it works.
I love this quote from Joy Howard; Patagonia’s former Vice President of Global Marketing: “Product is always at the foundation for us, and we have a very obsessive commitment to making the best product.
“People come into the brand through the product but it takes them a long time to learn about what the company stands for. Once they do, they’re hooked on the brand forever.
Now that’s smart. Whereas a lot of companies see acquisition as the job mainly being done, Patagonia see a sale as the start of a much deeper journey to build brand love.
And Patagonia put their money where their mouth is.
After publicly fighting US President Donald Trump regarding his tax cuts, company CEO Rose Marcario announced via a statement on LinkedIn they would donate the $10 million they saved to environmental groups.
“Based on last year’s irresponsible tax cut, Patagonia will owe less in taxes this year—$10 million less, in fact. Instead of putting the money back into our business, we’re responding by putting $10 million back into the planet. Our home planet needs it more than we do,” Marcario said.
“We have always funded grassroots activism, and this $10 million will be on top of our ongoing 1% for the Planet giving.”
Content marketing and purpose: a utopian marriage
Almost ten years ago, Patagonia invested in above the line advertising telling people not to buy their most popular jacket. Yup you read that right, ‘not’ to buy. Why?
Because they believe that keeping clothing in use just nine extra months can reduce the related carbon, water and waste footprints by 20-30%. (WRAP, 2012).
And despite the fact their production is as environmentally friendly as possible, it still uses 135 litres of water to make this jacket.
From here, they spun up the content-led Worn Wear program that offers tools and tips for people to fix their gear.
Their blog The Cleanest Line is incredibly powerful, and the writing, images and video would put some media outlets to shame. Unsurprisingly, it also uses purpose-focused storytelling to connect with clearly defined audiences.
Similarly, Patagonia’s YouTube channel is without peer – you can easily spend hours on this alone. And their social media, and broader distribution channels, is equally adept.
But in my opinion, their crowning glory is their latest feature documentary, Blue Heart. It details the work being done to protect Europe’s last wild rivers, all in the Balkans, from the threat of 3,000 hydropower dam projects.
Now I’d hazard a guess they don’t sell a massive amount of USD $299 jackets in the Balkans. But that doesn’t matter – the story is embedded in who they are and their mission.
Pretty impressive and thought provoking, huh?
When I talk about Patagonia as a case study, I’m often hit with feedback along the lines of: “but they’re a big global brand in an exciting category”, or “we don’t have their budgets”.
And I get that.
Equally, Warby Parker was originally a small start-up before they became a global powerhouse. How did they do it? By tapping into the fact millennials are socially-conscious.
I’ll deep dive on these brands in future blog posts. But for now, as marketers we should take the time to remember our business’ why, and how purpose-driven marketing can be the difference between us and our competitors if done authentically and mindfully.