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Being a Brand with Purpose

From what companies do you buy? Chances are that they are a brand with purpose.

Let’s say you’re looking for some back-packing gear and you can’t decide between REI and The North Face. You like them both for their quality and their customer service. Both also have a “save the planet” kind of vibe, which appeals to you.

Did you see The North Face’s global petition around Earth Day this year (April 22) to make the day a national holiday worldwide? (The idea was to do this so that people could use the day to get outdoors and enjoy nature.) The North Face also closed all of its stores in the U.S. on Earth Day (walking its talk and all).

So if you are worried about the health of the planet and want more people to get out and enjoy nature, The North Face’s campaign may have helped you lean more toward buying from them rather than REI.

We do tend to purchase from a purpose-led brand. Research published in the Harvard Business Review found that 64 percent of those who have an “established” relationship with a company say they have that relationship due to “’shared values.’”

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Completely Changing How We Market

Creating an authentic brand with purpose in this way can be quite powerful, so long as it’s done sincerely, because you do run the risk of alienating customers.

For example, rather than getting the warm and fuzzies for The North Face’s petition, a friend of ours was pretty much incensed at what she referred to as “a lazy, bald-faced marketing ploy.” Turns out, it can take a LOT more than signatures collected April 22 to make a day a legal holiday, just in the U.S. As well as A. LOT. OF. WORK. Which, according to our friend, The North Face knew quite well yet used the day as an easy way to appropriate – her words – the day to its advantage.

“It’s quite easy to put a petition online,” she said. “But is The North Face going to do the considerable legwork over the next several years to get the day actually made into a national holiday? We’ll stop emitting carbon into the atmosphere completely before THAT happens!”

It appears that The North Face has, in her case, lost a potential customer.

Social Commentary has its Benefits

We live in a polarized world. We – understandably – need to be careful to avoid social commentary at the risk of becoming too divisive. Yet, brands with purpose are often quite successful.

For example, the cosmetic company The Body Shop has been making sure to talk about its commitment to sustainability and female empowerment for years. They feature stories about such things as:

  • An English farmer (female) who provides the flowers for the brand’s British Rose collection.
  • Its YouTube channel also has features a story about the Ghanaian association (the Tungteiya Women’s Shea Butter Association) that sources the shea butter the company uses.

Why does this work? In this case the company’s purpose-driven marketing is not a one-and-done. Its brand authenticity instead permeates its entire brand voice and marketing strategy. It’s not one to use one-off campaigns and designate itself as a purpose-led brand.

A short aside: make sure your marketing includes underrepresented minorities.Ignoring minorities while launching a purpose-driven marketing campaign could come back to bite you. Essentially, you are alienating a good portion – and growing —  of the country’s population.

Building Brand Authenticity

As mentioned above, purpose-driven marketing can be quite appealing to potential customers and current clients, but it needs to be consistent and not give off a whiff of insincerity. Otherwise you risk alienating current and potential prospects and being seen as opportunistic. (The North Face received just 110,000 signatures worldwide in one week with its Earth Day petition, remember.)

If you’d like help with your brand authenticity, contact Jeff Hays, Ingenex Digital Marketing’s director of client services. There, you can talk one-on-one about how consumers perceive your brand voice in the marketplace. You may also contact us at any time.

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