There is no shortage of reasons to rise to the challenge of leveraging your brand’s resources and reach, to address the many social challenges we face – from climate change, to environmental degradation, to loss of biodiversity, and beyond. But any sober assessment of whether this is likely to happen must account for the realities that businesses face – whether it’s pressure from Wall Street, a crowded competitive landscape with incumbents and newcomers, or the significant challenge of simply surviving in an increasingly complex and fast-changing marketing landscape.
Fortunately, the intersection of shifts in culture, technology, and demographics now means that business is truly incentivized to lead with purpose, and to build brands by making a positive impact on the world. Here are eight key reasons why:
1. Socially Responsible Brands Outperform Others
As consumers become ever more aware of the compounding social crises our societies and planet face, they are looking to brands to make a difference that is relevant to their lives. According to the 2015 ‘Meaningful Brands Report’ from Havas Media, a meaningful brand has a 46% higher “share of wallet” – defined as how much a person spends on a particular product – than less meaningful brands. Additionally, the top 25 meaningful brands outperform the stock market by 133%.
Unilever is just one of the many global brands now reporting the accelerated growth of socially responsible brands. Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, went so far as to assert that such brands in their portfolio “accounted for half of our growth in 2014 and grew at twice the rate as all of the rest of the business,” according to Reuters.
2. Socially Responsible Brands Are Top Of Mind
According to this year’s ‘Good Must Grow’ Survey, when consumers are asked to provide the name of a socially responsible organization, they are now more likely to name for-profit companies rather than nonprofit organizations. The top three companies indicated in this survey were TOMS, Whole Foods, and Microsoft, revealing the growing importance of purpose in driving the brand awareness of for-profit organizations.
3. Your Employees Aren’t That Into Your Company
According to Gallup’s, ‘State of the American Workforce Report’, over 70% of American employees are not engaged at work. Gallup goes on to explain the root of the problem being that employees are not emotionally connected to their companies – this is where purpose can play a powerful role in aligning company and employee values.
4. Purpose Builds Brand Trust
According to Edelman’s 2015 ‘Trust Barometer Report’, the contribution of a brand towards the greater good plays a defining role in whether that company is trusted more or less. Further, brand trust has a direct impact on consumer purchasing decisions that ultimately influence company profitability and growth.
5. Purpose Elevates Category Leadership
As we have seen with well-known CEO’s such as Elon Musk of Tesla, Howard Schultz of Starbucks, and Paul Polman of Unilever, the purpose of a brand serves as a powerful platform from which leadership can speak to cultural issues that transcend the products, services, or category of their company. Howard Schultz’s dialogue around issues as far ranging as gridlock in Congress, boycotting political campaign donations, same-sex marriage, post-traumatic stress disorder, online employee education, and most recently racism, have kept the Starbucks brand top of mind and allowed it to become a force that shapes culture, in line with its core values and vision.
6. Purpose Drives Timely Innovation
CVS is just one of many companies that have allowed their appreciation of new business drivers to inform the role that purpose plays in their future. By banning tobacco products, renaming themselves CVS health, and re-launching the brand’s marketing around ‘Health is everything,’ they have positioned themselves to lead the future of healthcare.
7. Purpose Expands Brand Awareness
When brands fully leverage their purpose, they collaborate with for-profit and nonprofit organizations that are mission-aligned to scale impact. In doing so, brands accelerate awareness of their own values and mission and inspire greater loyalty from all stakeholders. The recent Consumer Goods Forum partnership between Unilever, PepsiCo and General Mills around minimizing waste, is a great example of a partnership that benefits all members.
8. Brands Cannot Survive In Societies That Fail
Arguments based solely on the bottom-line pale by comparison to considerations of the toll we are exacting on the planet on which we all depend. There is no shortage of data on the urgency for action, but perhaps there is no more compelling way to communicate the need for accelerated and purposeful efforts by business than this gallery of Earth Day images.
If you’d like to build your brand’s reputation, unlock the power of employee advocacy, and inspire consumers to build your business, you must take three critical steps:
- First, you must elevate the role of purpose within your company making it central to your business and communications strategies.
- Second, you must communicate that purpose clearly to your employees, giving them roles in creating and executing the solution.
- Third, you must collaborate with customers, communities and partners to accelerate and scale your impact , so that you can make a meaningful difference more quickly.
Done correctly, integrating purpose into your core brand strategy will prove to not only drive sustainable business growth but also contribute to the development of a more sustainable future.