In a society deeply concerned about climate change and social justice, brands that champion such issues are more relevant than their competitors. They also enjoy related benefits, such as increased market share and brand loyalty.
So how do you create a unique purpose-driven platform for your brand? How do you identify the right issue to champion, the right partner to work with and make sure you deliver an enduring and meaningful, societal impact?
Integrating purpose-driven campaigns into marketing and communications is something in which we, at Brands2Life, specialise.
Our research shows that not only does society expect brands to play their part in addressing social issues but also that these issues increasingly dominate media coverage.
Coverage of social issues in top-tier media rose steadily from seven percent in 2015 to 44% by 2021. Over the same period, coverage of brands in top-tier media fell by a third.
Brands2Life Managing Director, Corporate & Purpose, Harriet Rich, says, “If you don’t demonstrate your value to society through your campaigns you will not appeal to your audience.”
The decline in space and appetite for business news and insights may pose a challenge. But increased coverage around social and environmental issues also creates an opportunity.
Harriet says, “Amidst a climate and cost of living crisis and while businesses are competing for talent – finding a cause that employees and customers can relate to and get behind is key to showing your values.”
Purpose is often woven into the brand mission and just needs reinforcing. Whether starting with a blank sheet or boosting an existing idea, the first step is to find a relevant social or environmental issue to champion, based on meaningful insights.
These insights come from existing stakeholders.
Harriet says, “Listen to your customers and employees. Ask: what are the key community concerns around your major operations? Which campaigns, issues or charities could benefit from your core service or products?”
Remember also to scrutinise any risks and consider the need for a risk register at the outset. By finding any ‘skeletons in the cupboard’ you can devise ways to mitigate them.
Gaining early internal buy-in for the campaign is also critical, says Brands2Life Deputy Managing Director, Corporate & Purpose, Naomi Longworth.
“Consult widely across the business and do it early on. Pull in the relevant stakeholders and subject matter experts,” says Naomi.
The award-winning Changemakers campaign for longstanding Brands2Life client LinkedIn is a good example of a brand with a purpose driven by its customers.
The campaign showed how its influencers could change the world of work on issues such as diversity and inclusion, mental health, sustainability and much more, by using the power of LinkedIn to drive change.
The campaign was born through social listening to understand what issues mattered to workers.
Deep reputational value can only be delivered if the campaign has impact and meaning.
“You must move the debate on, be constructive, or offer best practice advice and evidence to create meaningful impact,” says Naomi.
For example, food services and facilities management firm, and Brands2Life client, Sodexo launched Appetite for Action in 2021 in the run-up to the UK’s planned publication of its National Food Strategy in 2022.
Using a unique storytelling approach, Sodexo highlighted strategies for reducing food waste and carbon emissions in food services. The campaign gained the brand a central voice with ministers in shaping policy.
Harriet says, “Impact requires original creative content and meaningful doesn’t always have to play on our heart strings; it can also be joyful and laughter-inducing”.
And if the purpose inspires and galvanises your teams, it will only grow in strength.
Then there is, of course, the potential of suitable partnerships for creating lasting impact. Think of Channel 4 and StandUpToCancer or McVitie’s and mental health charity Mind to get people talking about the subject.
Successful purpose-driven campaigns bring together every facet of communications and marketing. This multiplies the impact from both departments as they become the social conscience of the business.
Collaboration also creates the most value across earned, owned and paid media.
The benefits for brands running purpose-driven campaigns are many. If you get it right, Harriet says, “A good purpose campaign will cement your license to operate and buy long-term goodwill amongst stakeholders.”
In a world with deep concerns about the climate emergency and a plethora of social issues, brands that play their role in providing solutions earn a much stronger place in it.