Why Influencing Beliefs and Behaviors is Essential for Purpose-led Brands

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Millennials are driving a shift toward conscious capitalism.

Say what you will about the millennial generation—they are at the root of a shift in capitalism that no past generation could instigate. To give them full credit is naïve. As is often the case, timing has been everything for this generation’s ability and desire for more conscious capitalism. They’ve grown up during tumultuous socio-economic times. They’ve had constant access and responsibility to follow the global shifts around them. It’s no wonder they’re fueled and haunted by a need to act. To not just stay woke, but to become active contributors to a stance and trajectory they believe in, with all the tools and access they need at their fingertips.

No matter the cause, Millennials are at the crux of a shift in the foundations of society, with 88 percent of millennials hungering for meaning and purpose. The younger Gen Z is following suit, doubling down on their activism as well.

But purpose-led marketing is putting brands on their hind foot. Corporations need to show conviction in an authentic stance.

Today, these consumers vote with every dollar. Social media and technology are steroidal soapboxes for their young voices. So, it’s no surprise brands flock to purpose marketing in response. We see brands all around us jumping the purpose-led bandwagon in response to changing consumer demand. But as they do, the question arises: how will they stay ahead of the curve?

To date, corporations are generally one step behind the consumer. Many adopt a reactive strategy, changing their products and subsequent marketing to meet the needs of the emerging consumer. Recently that strategy is pushing brands to become more socially aware, environmentally savvy, and politically engaged. And while these are positive shifts, many have stumbled, tripped, and found themselves confronted with a social media reckoning, calling them out when their actions felt inauthentic or pandering, and putting them on the defense. Today’s savvy consumers see straight through brands that inauthentically chase the trend.

So maybe the answers don’t lie in a reactive strategy. To harness a corporation’s power and potential toward both society and capitalism, these companies must look inward at a deeper truth about themselves than the shifting consumers they serve. Purpose-driven marketing starts with a company’s authentic purpose rather than its consumer’s. It means identifying what change they aim to create in the world. The singular thing that drives every action they take, that can act as the root of the company’s offering and impact in the world.

There’s no doubt purpose can galvanize an organization. As people, purpose unites us, motivates action, creates satisfaction and gives us meaning. It makes us human and brings that humanity to business to help us accomplish what we couldn’t do alone. And for organizations, it acts as an audacious and measurable north star for all endeavors. It steers businesses and results in retention, performance, innovation and scale.

The most powerful way to activate organizational purpose is by influencing belief and behaviour.

 Influencing belief is something companies have done for ages. As everyday voices (like yours and mine) grow louder, they are demanding companies take responsibility for the way they influence us. Now marketers must use their influence toward beliefs that benefit society, not just themselves. Beliefs that help us find greatness in our everyday and manage our toughest moments.

For example, the real beauty and body positivity movements have forced beauty companies into a conversation about the definition of beauty. Like it or not, beauty companies are always shaping, representing, influencing and defining beauty in their own vision. It’s no wonder Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty already outsells Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner’s beauty brands — it is a brand based in values, beliefs and a purpose. It helps more women to feel proud, confident, included, and united. And its impact on our beliefs has, in turn, created unprecedented impact on its brand.

Influencing belief is a powerful way to activate a society-first purpose. So, ask yourself, can your purpose change the way people think?

Beyond the way people think, influencing how people behave is the most powerful way to activate a purpose. Ultimately, beliefs manifest in actions, and these are the things that change the way we live.

Fundamentally, people want to be good. But we have a hard time doing it. What typically pulls us off track is an immediate want; a short-term detour from our longer-term, bigger picture aims. Short-term desire has led to the proliferation of empty calories, hyper-superficiality, a wilting planet, and mindless media consumption. The dawn of the wellness era is a sign of a society-wide shift toward longer-term, more holistic thinking. As the definition of what creates wellness continues to expand, industries and businesses should consider how they contribute to longer-term individual and societal wellness.

When REI closed their doors on Black Friday, they asked their shoppers to #OptOutside and got 1.5 million people spending the day outside rather than waiting in lines to buy more ‘things’.

Corporations supply the goods and experiences that shape our everyday lives. They can design products and experiences that fuel positive behavior, that promote healthy individuals and a healthy society. CVS demonstrated this when they stopped selling cigarettes. They effectively stopped tempting their shoppers with deadly vices and encouraged healthier behaviour. When REI closed their doors on Black Friday, they asked their shoppers to #OptOutside and got 1.5 million people spending the day outside rather than waiting in lines to buy more ‘things’. In addition, 150 additional businesses closed their doors, and over 100 national parks opened for free on Black Friday. They didn’t just change the behaviour of their customers, but of an industry. This past March, BlackRock released a set of investment products that excluded manufacturers and distributors of firearms, thereby giving investors the ability to take action in support of gun control. The dating app Bumble is an entire product that fuels a belief in equality, breaking down traditional power dynamics in dating, and creating behaviors around equality and mutual respect. All these brands have wielded their power to propel positive behaviors. By leveraging a societally-driven purpose toward influencing behaviors, they are fundamentally changing the role of brands today.

Companies have the power to design products, services, and experiences to influence our simple everyday actions and ways of doing things for a greater good. With thoughtful design thinking, any commercial offering can create and encourage positive behaviors. Portioned servings can encourage us to snack consciously. Self-driving cars can make us more aware of our surroundings. The opening screen on Netflix can encourage us to explore new content.

So, in the design of your next offerings, ask yourself, how can we fuel positive behaviors for our customers and society? And in turn you’ll find purpose and meaning for your company, your brand, your employees and maybe even your customers.

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