Pulse – Purpose-led content marketing done right

By The CMA Team on
purpose led marketing

Pulse is a Q&A series answered by and for our members that provides insights on the important content marketing issues of the day.   

Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer at P&G, recently suggested that some companies are over-leveraging purpose marketing at the expense of brand growth – and that it will come back to bite them amid inflation and the cost of living crisis.

With this in mind,  we wanted to find out from our members on their view of purpose-led content marketing and the best way to utilise it for both purpose and profits.

Meet this month’s Pulse contributors

Norbert Kilen, On Board Think Kong

Norbert is a marketing strategist with nearly 20 years of experience. He is a partner at OBTK agency, one of the leading agencies in Poland combining content marketing, PR and social media competencies, working for many brands like Coca-Cola, Brother, Hoya Lens, MetLife.

Philip Osei-Hwere, EMH Global

Philip is the Co-Founder and Managing Director, of Eagle London part of the EMH Global group, a Black-owned marketing communications agency founded in 2004 to help organisations and brands to make more profit by understanding how to speak to the cultural needs of the black consumer in the UK and abroad. He is community-driven and an advocate for diversity and inclusion within the creative and tech industry. Philip a Marketing Communications Strategist and Cultural Consultant with over 20 years of experience in marketing, communications, and technology agencies.

Dave Bennett, Rise at Seven

Dave is a board director at Rise at Seven, the UK’s leading SEO-led creative consultancy. He oversees all PR, brand, social and creative work for the agency globally.

Vince Medeiros, TCO London

Vince is Publisher of Huck, Little White Lies and Sandwich magazines. He was Chairman of the Content Marketing Association between 2018-2021.

1. First off, what’s your view on Marc Pritchard’s comment? Is he right? Is brand purpose a distraction? 

The general consensus from our respondents was that purpose-led marketing is good for both purpose and profits, though Norbert warned against doing marketing for purpose’s sake rather than for effectiveness.

Norbert Kilen, Strategy Director at On Board Think Kong said, “I think a lot of it is right. This can also be seen in marketing competitions, where more and more awards are given for commitment to socially important causes and less for marketing effectiveness.” 

Dave Bennett, Communications Director at Rise at Seven said, “I don’t think purpose marketing and brand growth are mutually exclusive. Marketing with purpose – building trust, inclusivity, authentic relationships with customers – is good business through hard times and fat times.

Philip Osei-Hwere, Co-Founder of EMH Global said, “There’s no doubt that having a brand purpose can make good business sense. If you align your brand with the needs and desires of consumers, you’ll earn their loyalty and attract a diverse workforce that can drive innovation. But in my view, brand purpose can also become a distraction. If it’s not true to the brand’s values, companies can end up trying too hard to be authentic and losing sight of what’s really important. So what’s the best way to strike a balance? By being true to your brand’s values and purpose and ensuring that everything you do is in line with those values. Only then can you create a brand that consumers can trust and believe in.

“Brand purpose can also become a distraction. If it’s not true to the brand’s values, companies can end up trying too hard to be authentic and losing sight of what’s really important.”

Philip Osei-Hwere

Vince Medeiros, Co-Founder and Publisher of TCO London said, “Brands have a lot of communication power, most of it dispensed through their marketing departments. And if you consider that we live in a world that’s in crisis – war, climate change, economic stagnation, all kinds of enduring inequalities – it makes sense to try and have some kind of positive impact. Brands have consumers – who are also citizens – who they can reach out to on a regular basis. These are people who trust their products and who are therefore willing to listen and contribute to what they have to say. That’s a privilege – and a lot of messaging power. And with power comes great responsibility. We should try and use it well.”

Q2. What is the best way to approach purpose-led marketing in these times of economic hardship and austerity? How can brands use content to further a cause without coming across as ‘insincere’? 

Authenticity is key when it comes to purpose-led marketing and all our respondents agreed.

Philip said, “The consumer wants to see brands show commitment to causes that are important to them. This means that brands that want to stay ahead of the competition must be intentional with their approach to purpose-led marketing. To be successful, brands have to do four things:  

1. Find their purpose 

2. Find a cause  

3. Be authentic 

4. Start from the top with the organisation  

“When done correctly, purpose-led marketing can be an effective way to connect with consumers and create brand loyalty. 

“If you’re using content to support a cause or brand purpose, your approach must be authentic and genuine. Your audience can spot insincerity from a mile away, so it’s important to ensure that your content comes from a place of sincerity.  

“One way to do this is to ensure that your brand is truly committed to the cause you’re supporting. This means going beyond simply creating content about the cause – you need to be actively involved in supporting it in other ways. For example, if you’re trying to raise awareness about a particular issue, your brand should donate to relevant charities or organisations or work with them in some capacity.  

“Additionally, your content should be created with the intention of furthering the cause, rather than simply promoting your brand. This means that your content should be educational, inspiring, or otherwise useful to your audience. If you’re able to do this, you’ll be much more likely to gain the trust and respect of your audience.”

“If you’re not practicing what you preach, you’re going to get called out.” 

Dave Bennett

Dave said, “Brands need to continue to market in ways that are authentic and true to them, that seek to build relationships that are long lasting, and to put purposeful values at the heart of the business. If you’re not practicing what you preach, you’re going to get called out.” 

Norbert said, “I think the key is honesty and the right proportions. Social goals are an add-on to business. Many companies, in my opinion, say what they feel they should, even though internally it’s inconsistent. For example, they talk about women’s rights, while at the same time fighting unions.”

Vince said, “Brands should work with communities as enablers. In other words, they should collaborate with groups that welcome their support. It’s gotta be bottom up, and legitimate, with communities driving campaigns and sitting at the heart of whatever’s being communicated. Brands should work to leave a legacy, as well, responding to specific community needs.”

Q3. In your view which brands are doing purpose-led marketing right?

Perhaps it’s no surprise that our respondents thought Patagonia was an excellent example of a brand doing purpose-led marketing right but it’s also interesting to see what other brands they hold in high regard.

Norbert said, “It is impossible to be a brand involved in everything. That’s why I appreciate brands that skillfully use purpose-marketing without losing sight of their business. An interesting example is Patagonia, the connection between environmental concerns and products makes sense.”

Dave said, “Patagonia is always the first one that comes to mind. The business is built around creating great products that do less harm to the environment, and they live that every day though their marketing but also in how they do business.”

Philip said, “As we continue to see brands like Nike, Dove, Gillette, Apple and Asda doing purpose-led marketing, it’s becoming increasingly clear that this is the way forward for many companies. Not only does this type of marketing build trust and loyalty among consumers, but it also has the potential to boost sales significantly.”

Vince said, “Adidas Terrex is the first example that springs to mind. We’ve been working with them for a few years now through our Outsiders Project media brand, headed by Phil Young. Adidas have teamed up with communities of colour who are at the forefront of a movement to promote diversity in the outdoors. The groups not only drive the campaigns but also materially benefit from them: collectives of trail runners, mountain bikers, climbers and hikers addressing a lack of diversity in outdoor sports while also benefiting from a community fund.”

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