Purpose-Driven Advertising and Brand Success

By Beth Hurrle  | 

Marketers who find themselves slightly breathless this week can be forgiven. With the Academy Awards broadcasting on February 9—its earliest date ever—the span between the Super Bowl and the Oscars has been compressed down to one action-packed week.

So there’s a mere seven days between advertising’s two biggest showcases, during which the industry shows off its best creative and offers a look at the messaging, positioning and priorities that brands will be focusing on in the near future. This year it’s clear that purpose-based marketing will be taking on a bigger role in the marketing efforts of the world’s most innovative advertisers. Here are a few reasons why.

Customers Connected to Causes
According to an Accenture survey of 30,000 consumers across 35 countries, 62 percent of customers want companies to take a stand on issues such as sustainability and fair-employment practices. Sixty-three percent of consumers prefer to purchase products and services from purpose-driven brands. In addition, over 70% of customers are more likely to recommend a brand that supports a good cause.

In other words, businesses that embrace purpose-driven marketing can forge deeper connections with customers across an increasingly fragmented media landscape that will last longer than the temporary pleasure gained by a purchase.

Big Guys Supporting a Big Push
Purpose-based marketing is not new of course. But it is becoming an increasingly important strategy in the world of branding. In fact, during an earnings call at the end of January, Alan Jope, Unilever’s new CEO announced that the company will begin funneling even more of its marketing spend to purpose-based programs. According to research conducted in partnership with Kantar that shows this approach supports both short- and long-term growth, purpose will now become one of the company’s five key growth fundamentals​ going forward.

As MarketingDive noted, Unilever’s commitment is a noteworthy endorsement of an approach that’s drawn significant interest from the industry. And it’s no wonder. Kantar Consulting’s Purpose 2020 report states that brands with purpose grow two times faster than others and have powerful sway with millennials and Gen Z.

Earning Top Rankings
That’s part of the reason that Time magazine listed a 60-second PSA from the NFL as its No. 2 pick for best ads of Super Bowl 54. The “Inspire Change” initiative was prompted by the 2015 death by police shooting of Corey Jones, the cousin of retired wide receiver Anquan Boldin. The emotional Super Bowl commercial features Boldin recounting how his cousin’s story inspired him to start the Players Coalition, a non-profit dedicated to ending social injustices and racial inequality.

Other media outlets also championed the pull of purpose with CNN highlighting Microsoft’s ad about Katie Somers, the first female NFL coach. And Michelob earned kudos for its 6 for 6 ad in which the company noted the dearth of organic farms and pledged to provide 6 new square feet of land for organic farming for every 6-pack purchased.

These examples help differentiate programs committed to purpose from ad campaigns that in essence pay lip service to an issue rather than dedicating funds and resources to advancing a cause. Jope called out such “woke-washing” initiatives, making a pledge that all Unilever product lines would serve a purpose for the greater good or be phased out.

When one of the world’s largest advertisers makes a pledge like that, it’s clear that purpose-driven marketing is on the upswing. So as you watch the 92nd Academy Awards on Sunday, keep your eyes peeled for the ads highlighting corporate purpose. It seems likely they’ll bring home an Oscar.

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