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Stand For Something: Connecting with Modern Consumers through Brand Purpose

While a screwdriver is very helpful when turning a screw, that same screwdriver can also wreak havoc on the drywall of your home if given to a rambunctious toddler. Similar to any tool, aligning your brand with a social purpose a modern approach to cause marketing can connect your brand to modern consumers and impact your bottom line. Do it poorly? You’ll have thousands (if not millions) of outraged consumers speaking out against your brand. Keep the following in mind when developing your own cause, worthy of marketing.

The Good

The Millennial Mindset is complex, and since different segments often have their own identities, they can even be contradictory and difficult to navigate. The key takeaway: you don’t have to appeal to everyone. Think through what causes you can align to your brand values, and embrace those. As old souls in young bodies, Millennials and Gen Z consumers are committed to making our planet a better place. Research shows more than half of Millennials surveyed report they try to buy products from companies who support causes they care about. It’s safe to assume they’d be more likely to purchase the cause-related option over a competitor of similar value. Perhaps the single biggest benefit of such a strategy is this: once Millennials decide they like your cause, they’ll turn into brand advocates. This becomes an extremely effective segment of the Millennial cohort, as 70% say that people often come to them for advice, and 68% won’t even make a major decision without discussing it with people they trust. Finding purpose for your brand can forge a relationship with consumers that products and services alone cannot.

The Bad

Aligning your brand values with a purpose you can promote is tricky, and you can likely think of a few epic fails from the past few years: consider KFC’s Buckets for the Cure and more recently Pepsi’s ad featuring Kendall Jenner. Although the end goals were positive, these marketing attempts failed to resonate with consumers. The result was a public roasting of the brands.

Finding a cure for breast cancer? Admirable.

KFC donating money to cancer research with each pink bucket sold? Unholy.

Bringing awareness to social injustice? Admirable.

Encouraging unity via Kendall Jenner holding a can of soda? SNL worthy.

Purpose-driven marketing strategies can feel incredibly risky, and as the examples above show: it can be. Why are Patagonia customers so darn passionate about Patagonia, while most people won’t admit to shopping at Walmart? This dichotomy is especially interesting considering Patagonia has donated $89 million since 1985, while Walmart donated over a $1 billion dollars in 2012 alone. Apparently, $100 of Walmart’s money can’t buy a dollar’s worth of Patagonia’s public appeal. Why is it some brands fail, while others gain advocates? Authenticity.

Avoid the Ugly

Fried chicken might taste good, but that doesn’t make it relevant to cancer research. Another issue with a brand like KFC is the animal cruelty accusations they’ve faced. Walmart has also had very public issues with their supply chain and business practices. Patagonia on the other hand, has always been very consistent with their values. It also makes sense for an outdoor clothing company to promote conservation and ethical sourcing. This points to a very simple equation:

Value Driven Brand + Relevant Cause = Effective Cause Marketing

Brands have the power and resources to influence the world in incredible ways. Nearly 65% of Millennials in our study agree that companies and individuals together can make a much greater social impact than individuals alone. Consumers will rally behind and perhaps even love your brand if you do this well. Yet with each PR fail publicized on the news, brands become more and more hesitant to promote a cause. While this hesitation may be a good moment for introspection, brands shouldn’t be afraid of finding a cause and honestly pursuing it. We may be approaching a day when a brand can’t survive without a purpose beyond making money.

Looking for more information on how your brand can find a purpose that makes sense for it to embrace? Check out our white paper: Your Editorial Authority Is Your Future.