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Marketing’s Purpose Pivot

Blog post was written by Social Purpose Institute Advisor, Coro Strandberg.
Jan 21, 2021

In a purpose-driven business, the role of marketing changes. It shifts from advertising products or services to building a social purpose brand ecosystem. From one-way communication to engaging customers in purpose-inspired actions. From paid media to earned media. From speaking to passive customers to developing active customers who co-create new purpose products and amplify your message – and help you fulfill your purpose aspirations.

As this social purpose continuum reveals, once companies adopt an authentic social purpose as the reason they exist, they are positioned to create meaning for their customers: customers believe that if they do business with that company society is better off. Once social purpose companies implement their purpose across their operations, values chains and relationships, everything they do (not just their advertising) tells their story.

Social Purpose Continuum

This shift to purpose and purpose marketing is propelled by changing customer expectations that business plays a stronger role in society. More and more consumers identify as belief-driven buyers, nearly two-thirds according to Edelman’s 2020 Trust Barometer. That means they choose/switch/avoid/boycott a brand based on its stand on societal issues. Buying on belief is the new normal. Yet – attracting and retaining these consumers has been a mystery. Until now. Last fall I moderated a dialogue on the topic for the Social Purpose Institute with these three social purpose marketing visionaries: 

  • Anne Donohoe, Marketing Advisor and global marketing executive
  • Chris Peacock, Chief Marketing Officer at Traction on Demand
  • Peter ter Weeme, Chief Social Purpose Officer and VP, Player Experience at BCLC

According to Anne, Chris, and Peter:

  • In purpose-led brands marketers become storytellers, and focus on mobilizing customers, employees, and stakeholders on the purpose – and on telling their stories
  • They build their purpose into everything they do, and thus their purpose is communicated to their customers by the very act of conducting business
  • Customers want to know the people and values behind the brand; this becomes part of the value proposition
  • Stakeholders help purpose-driven companies achieve their purpose and build their brand – and hold them accountable for it
  • Leaning into purpose attracts customers – and customers that hold back can be cultivated as purpose ambassadors in the future

With retail consumers seeking stronger connections to brands, business customers looking at the people behind the brand, and shorter attention spans, companies that have and market a purpose can differentiate themselves from the clutter.

The biggest part of the pivot: once your purpose is in everything you do, it becomes an indelible part of the customer experience. By attracting customers who believe society is better off if they do business with your company, you can create a social movement around your brand. By growing your business this way, your business becomes a bigger engine for social good. Your purpose provides the “why” and purpose marketing provides the “heart”. Purpose companies are unstoppable. Just watch them – or become one!

Interested in a deeper dive? Here is a link to the webinar discussion and the Purpose Marketing Insight Paper that summarizes the discussion.


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