Purpose-Driven Marketing: A Social Conscience Does a Company Good
My children are millennials and the way they are growing up is much different from the way I did. Take for example the amount of information they have access to. I grew up with the 6 o’clock news, which I think lasted an hour. We had paper delivery seven days per week, but like most kids, I wasn’t eager to sit down and read it (although I did enjoy the Sunday comics). Information came to me primarily from my parents. It’s a much different world today. We walk around with the internet in our hands, and information is literally one click away.
So, my kids are aware … keenly aware. With that awareness comes interest in and compassion for the experiences of others. This behavior is unique to their generation. What does this mean for companies? Turns out, quite a lot. Unlike generations before them, social consciousness impacts everything from their buying behavior to where they choose to work.
Case in point: millennials want to know what brands are doing to impact the world and they’ll do the research to find out—75% of millennials are willing to pay more for a product that impacts issues they care about, while 73% are willing to spend more on a product if it’s a brand that promotes sustainability. What’s more, nine in 10 millennials will switch brands to one that supports a cause. And this is only millennials as consumers. From a recruitment and retention standpoint, the numbers are equally as remarkable. About 76% consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work, and 64% will not take a job from a company that doesn’t have strong CSR practices. Oh, and it’s not enough for companies to maintain whatever good they’re doing today. Millennials expect that you’ll kick your CSR efforts up a notch year after year after year. Did I mention millennials are the largest generation in the workforce today?
And if you think this socially responsible mindset is decreasing among generation Z, think again. This group doesn’t spend their money carelessly and they’re brand wary. For these reasons and more, we’d be wise to pay attention.
Enter Purpose-Driven Marketing
I’ve been in Corporate America a long time—long enough to experience really big changes in how companies do business in the digital world (I’ve written about this extensively, most recently in a three-part blog series), especially when it comes to corporate social responsibility. We’ve always had altruistic leaders who have given generously to their communities and charities simply because it was the right thing to do. But the 80s ushered in something more: strategic philanthropy. Suddenly the idea of giving back wasn’t just about feeling good; it was also smart business.
What’s emerged since then is the concept of purpose-driven marketing, which I define as finding your brand’s authentic purpose—beyond just selling a product or service—then leveraging it in ways that allow you to bond with your customers and employees.
I think my earliest recollection of a company who did this well is Lee with their Lee National Denim Day, which launched in 1996. Here was a company synonymous with denim and corduroy that was evolving their brand for purpose. They wanted customers to see their soul and we did. In its first year, more than 3,000 companies participated in Denim Day, and the event raised $1.4 million dollars for the American Cancer Society. To date, its raised more than $93 million for the fight against breast cancer.
Companies have continued to work to align themselves with one cause or issue, while others have been born out of social responsibility (think TOMS and Bombas—two companies built on buy one/give one models).
Finding Our Purpose
At Avaya, we’ve been evolving to a brand with purpose, and the past few years are testament to that work. In 2015, we launched our first ever Month of Giving—31 days of volunteering and fundraising across the company. Since its inception, we’ve logged thousands of volunteer hours and raised close to $1M for non-profit charities around the world. Our fourth Month of Giving kicks off this year on October 1, and we are ready to rock with more than 100 projects company-wide.
Year after year, we continue to extend the reach of our work. For example, in August, we held our inaugural Avaya Charity Golf Tournament with customers, partners, and suppliers, raising $75,000 for global charities. We’ll launch our Avaya Charity Drive as part of October’s Month of Giving, matching employee donations up to $15,000. The beneficiary of this program is one of our long-term charitable partners, Save the Children and its Girls’ Education Programming.
The work we’re doing shows the strength and compassion of our people, while giving us a way to bond with our customers, partners, and one another based on things we all care about. More than that, we’re coming together to truly make a difference for the world’s most vulnerable, which for me is incredibly inspiring and motivating.
Taking a purpose-driven approach to marketing takes time and commitment from the top. The benefits are great if your efforts are authentic, sincere and meaningful. Remember: CSR and brand purpose go hand in hand. It can be challenging to identify an issue that matters to your brand but once you do you’ll be able to get your employees, customers, and partners to understand why your brand matters, beyond just your products and services.