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Why purpose driven brands must advertise differently?

“Purpose” is a tricky word to describe. I define purpose as “the greatest good for the greatest number of people”: without the sacrificial casualties of utilitarianism as in the case of Jeremy Bentham’s thinking. Because in a venture capital backed capitalist marketplace consumers akin to a colosseum’s audience have choice and can decide to use (thumbs-up) or not to use (thumbs-down) a product or a service, rather than it being enforced upon them. Making a good product is not good enough, if a large number of people do not use it, its viability is flawed and in turn the existence of the very company itself. This is what puts advertising in the spotlight, which is one of the most important tools in reaching out to your widest possible audience in the shortest period of time.

Right now, I see a lot of mistakes being made by car manufacturers who are being forced into the electric revolution and are advertising their new electric cars in an obsolete way like they have been selling their petroleum hungry cars for over 100 years. The same applies to insurance and banking companies wanting to launch cool digital products. They forget to strategise and rebuild their communication around the true purpose of their brand and products. Maybe they do not know what that is and need to regroup and find one. This is a fantastic financial opportunity to capitalise on, which will also do good for society. Why not re-think your advertising strategies and develop the new age of advertising for the purpose driven market of today and the future?

Purpose is not the sole domain of startups building the shiniest companies in finance, insurance, transport, agriculture or satellite and communication space. You might be an old colossal business with piles of cash, re-investing in your products and services to stay relevant in the new age of the awakened-consumers, especially after a post Covid world, who demand more of every company.

If you are so fortunate to be developing a product or a brand for a purpose driven company then you must not fall prey to cowardly advertising strategy traps that the highly competitive products of different industry segments fall into, keeping their head above water and trying to differentiate in the sea of sameness.

  • Find your brand’s purpose and make sure your entire team is on board with it.
  • Communicate that purpose across all your communications, across all your channels. It needs to be truly integrated, across websites, landing pages, retail stores, product manuals, packaging, emails, sales, customer service, social media, tv, print and radio.
  • Communicate your brand story on your company’s purpose, mission, vision and values, not just solely on price, features and benefits. A consumer is more likely to purchase a product that stands for something, has great features and is being offered at an excellent price.

The virtue of purposeful brand building starts with selflessness, which could in many ways be seen as the most selfish act, because it brings great joy to the self. Your crusade, if I may dare say so, is both noble and gifted. Nobel for the greater good that it can bring to the society at large and gifted so that the people who work for your company have joy in their hearts, as they all work towards a collective “do-good” purpose, a real north star that shines brighter than any other. And not to forget, your customers who absolutely enjoy relating to your product because it stands for something and they too feel part of that collective, moving towards that bigger purpose.

Some of the early stage investors, advisors, directors and employees of Facebook might have had that feeling of deep purpose: building an online community to bring the world closer together. That is why so many talented people wanted to join it and consumers wanted to use it. But sadly, only to find the business fall trap to short-term polarised and petty politically motivated revenue models. Now many want to leave Facebook for that reason.

So if you happen to be in charge of a purpose driven brand, be fearless and create bold campaigns to announce your purpose to the world. And if your brand starts to become evil, your employees and consumers will help force you to correct your course and steer your ship in the right direction.