When marketers fully embrace the power of purposeful marketing -- marketing that emphasizes the functional, emotional or societal benefits of a brand or product -- they are laying a long-term foundation for brand success. It is the future of the industry.
Consumer demand for purpose-driven brands is increasing. Edelman's excellent "GoodPurpose" study has indicated year-over-year growth in consumer acceptance and preference for purpose in the brands they buy. Marketers cannot ignore this -- simply selling is not enough.
How can marketers leverage the core purpose of their brand to drive growth to their bottom line? At the 2013 ANA Masters of Marketing Conference in early October, the message was loud and clear: While purpose is the core of every great marketing organization, authenticity is crucial to its success.
The value proposition
The value of purpose can be difficult to articulate in traditional business terms. It is intangible -- visionary, even. However, we are seeing evidence that it works and that many organizations can leverage this opportunity to their advantage.
This year, a study called "Marketing2020: Organizing for Growth" provided an in-depth look at the successes of purposeful brands. The study set out to explore the future of the marketing function, and it became very apparent that overperforming marketing organizations made purpose a central platform of their strategy.
Seventy-three percent of the study's participants agreed brands with societal purpose will drive more business growth. Furthermore, they indicated that in hard-business measures such as lead generation, revenue growth and market share, having a societal purpose had a positive impact on brand performance.
Ten thousand marketers from 92 countries contributed to the study.
Forcus inward ... today
Brand purpose will not work unless it is authentic and seeded throughout the organization, right down to the show floor or grocery aisle. A brand's purpose does not have to be overly differentiated or outside the box, but it must be true.
Marketing2020 suggests that companies look at the functional, emotional and societal benefits of their brands to identify core purpose that will resonate with consumers. At the Masters conference, USAA CMO Roger Adams said, "Authenticity is more important now than ever. … Find the common bond with your consumer and emotionally connect."
USAA has been ahead of the game. Mr. Adams' company is a terrific case study of purposeful authenticity refined through many years. Its stellar service to active and former military members is synonymous with its business, and its great marketing performance with lower marketing spend than its competitors is a solid example of what purpose can do to grow brands.
When the business indicators measured in Marketing2020 are combined with the burgeoning consumer interest in purposeful brands, it is clear that now is the time to act.
Organizing for success and growth
A number of my peers have expressed caution, even skepticism, about the concept of purposeful marketing. Their critiques range from lack of organizational know-how to declining profits and shareholder dissatisfaction. There is no need to focus on missteps -- I prefer to talk about overcoming challenges.
The challenges of purposeful marketing stem primarily from organizational issues. Purpose must be woven into the fiber of the brand, and especially among its people. It is an evolution that does not happen overnight and cannot be forced.
The role of the CMO in this evolution cannot be understated. Many CMOs I have heard from and spoken with recently have reinforced the lessons learned in Marketing2020: that the linear, compartmentalized structure of traditional marketing departments is insufficient for driving purposeful marketing because organizational purpose must be adopted across internal -- and external -- departments and silos.
Instead, successful marketers have begun creating organizations where the CMO is central to the reporting structure to more effectively enable adoption of purposeful marketing across the business.
Honest Tea is a great example of this kind of structure. The company's product is simple at first glance. Yet from the top down and across silos, the company is committed to eliminating excess calories from the American diet, supporting the growth of organic agriculture and spreading fair-trade labor standards in developing nations.
Companywide adherence to these purposeful points built Honest Tea up from challenger position to acquisition, and continues to drive its growth. There are certainly other opportunities for this type of marketing excellence across all sectors and product types.
It is critical to underscore that focusing on purpose is not a trade-off for growth. Purposeful marketing enriches and drives it. As Olivier François, CMO of the Chrysler Group, framed it a few weeks ago, purposeful marketing empowers us to "sell product through a brand -- not brands through products."