Purpose-driven marketing is currently considered one of the top trends. More and more companies are committed to a higher goal – or are at least communicating this. But why a certain stance is actually not a trend and what it means for companies when they take up a cause is explained to us by Nina Rieke, strategy consultant and founder of whatsnextnow GmbH.
Her company is the mastermind behind the human-centric strategy network, in which around a dozen strategy experts have joined forces to support organisations in the development of philosophy concepts and brand missions, amongst others.
Ms Rieke, purpose-driven marketing is currently on everyone’s lips. What is it all about and is it really one of the most important marketing trends at the moment?
According to the traditional definition, purpose is an aspirational reason for existence which inspires an organisation, its partners and customers to take immediate action and contribute a general benefit for the greater good of society. But purpose should not just be limited to marketing and leveraged for communicative purposes – it should stem from the company’s culture. It must be embedded in the company’s DNA, so to speak, and simply have a voice through marketing. As a result, purpose-driven marketing is not a trend that pops up this year and is replaced by something different next year. A stance and way of acting are not like a jacket that you can slip into shortly and then slip out of when it gets too warm.
But there are obviously a host of companies that are now jumping on the bandwagon …
Yes, that’s true. Companies are beginning to understand that people – and this goes for both B2C and B2B – are no longer taking decisions for products based on the product itself. And for this reason, purpose is naturally suitable for creating an advantage over the competition. Especially for German medium-sized enterprises, the awareness of the meaning of brands has clearly increased in the area of B2B too. Yet if the next step in the direction of purpose-driven marketing is right for everyone is something I highly doubt.
The purpose has to match the product or service the company manufactures or offers.
What exactly does this attitude look like which companies are showing?
The purpose has to match the product or service the company manufactures or offers. Not every company can credibly advertise an ecological attitude that will help to change the world. An attitude can encompass much more than just social or ecological aspects. Important is a clear values-centric approach, a philosophy on how you want to influence the world or social environment. An example: the German Telekom appears with the promise “Life is for sharing”. The idea behind this is that everyone is connected and can participate in life; the digital world brings people closer together. This is expressed, for instance, in the company’s campaign under the hashtag #takepart.
Which company objectives can be achieved by communicating a clear stance?
A clear stance is characterised at the same time by a key philosophy both within the company and toward the public – and therefore pays off for many company objectives. On the one hand, it reinforces brand awareness and has a positive impact on the image of a company. On the other hand, the purpose shines on the inside and is therefore helpful for employer branding, in other words for winning over new employees and encouraging employer loyalty. Of course, sustainability goals can also be achieved through the right attitude.
What does it take to show that such a philosophy is not just a marketing campaign?
Being genuine is certainly an essential part of this. After all, only when companies focus on certain issues in a credible way can a campaign score big. The issue the company takes a stance on in terms of its communication should also be in harmony with the company’s actions. What’s more, its most important stakeholders must be involved in the development – and share the attitude. Purpose cannot be raised alone by marketing and the management – it should be wanted and shared by the entire company. And, of course, the products or services have to match the attitude – if sustainability is writ large in your company, yet it is not reflected in the supply chain, for instance, it loses credibility.
Nina Rieke, strategy consultant and founder of whatsnextnow GmbH
In what way does the purpose then reach the target group the best?
Preferably the target group experiences this attitude at all the brand’s touchpoints – in other words, not just in the communication, but also through the products or services. Purpose should be a holistic customer experience that is logical and coherent.
Which special characteristics should purpose-driven marketing have for B2B?
In general, B2C and B2B are becoming more and more similar. Because people are people – regardless of where they are taking decisions at that very moment. And we know that we as people take decisions based on values and emotions. Also in the area of B2B. Today it’s less about just completing transactions and more about real, ongoing relationships. Back in 2013, according to a survey, 71 per cent of B2B buyers chose products that reflect their personal values. And this percentage is most likely even higher today.
Back in 2013, according to a survey, 71 per cent of B2B buyers chose products that reflect their personal values. And this percentage is most likely even higher today.
Can you name companies from the B2B segment which have successfully integrated an attitude at the core of their brand?
The software company SAP has done an exemplary job at combining the two areas of purpose and storytelling. The key motif is: “Help the world run better and improve people’s lives.” This sentence makes the company tangible on many levels – by showing how customers can improve the environment, the economy or society with SAP products.
The flooring manufacturer Interface has a very ecologically driven purpose and places high value on creating awareness for climate change. Behind the initiative “Climate Take Back” is the promise to commit the entire company for the good of a healthy climate.
The Brazilian B2B company group Semco, in contrast, banks on a radical democratisation of working conditions and maximum transparency. Such a New Work philosophy can also be the purpose of a company.
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