Race relations. Unemployment. Inequality. Climate Change. Today’s world is full of complex tensions that permeate all aspects of professional and personal life. Tensions that impact our work environment, business development and even overall brand reputation. Amidst a sometimes volatile landscape, brands are faced with more than just an opportunity—brands have an obligation to take a stand on issues that affect the world in which they operate. And not just because customers, consumers, and employees are passionate about what they believe, but because they believe the brands they use should be passionate too. Indeed, people feel that companies have a responsibility to step up when it counts and address problems that impact them and the communities they serve.
How can one company take on such a great responsibility? Unfortunately, there are simply too many problems in the world for one business to solve. That’s why the introspective process of identifying which issues a brand should stand behind must be prioritized across an entire company—every business unit, employee level, and department in the company. Looking at the various issues impacting our world, it’s mission critical for marketers to work in tandem with CEOs, boards of directors, and executive committees to identify key focus areas that not only impact the world in which they operate, but that make sense for the business and align with the company’s values.
Positioning your business to continue to thrive not only helps with business development, but also allows you to have the resources required to address a complex societal issue.
The business operating landscape is ever-changing, and as challenges are shaped by unexpected events in a continually evolving society, knowing how to operate with purpose while staying true to your brand can be daunting. As marketers work with leadership teams to establish and grow a purpose-driven brand, there are three key characteristics of a successful initiative to keep top of mind.
At the end of the day, boosting the bottom line is core to the success of a business and therefore, core to our job as marketers. Positioning your business to continue to thrive not only helps with business development, but also allows you to have the resources required to address a complex societal issue. When choosing a cause to stand behind, it is important to ask, “What issues have an impact—directly or indirectly—on your business?” To best answer this question, it is crucial to work closely with other executives in the organization to first identify how the challenge you’re working to overcome aligns with business needs. This will narrow your focus and put you on the path to a successful initiative.
A brand can’t just stand for something in theory—it has to walk the walk. Identifying an actionable, measurable outcome for purpose-driven initiatives is key. This holds your company accountable and instills credibility and trust in your customers, consumers and employees that you are with them on the front lines of the issue. To identify these actionable and measurable outcomes, think about the pros and cons of the initiative, what you want to accomplish as a business, and how you want to impact the broader world. That will lead you to determine the appropriate goals for your organization.
With a mandate to contribute to society, putting purpose at the core of workplace culture gives brands the power to make a difference.
Authenticity is central to all marketing activities—that goes without saying. And when it comes to purpose-driven communications and initiatives, it is even more critical to ensure that activities are true to the brand. Losing sight of your brand identity leads to inauthentic campaigns that may tarnish brand credibility, but at the end of the day, also don’t do much good for society. One starting point to stay authentic while creating a greater impact, is to partner with like-minded organizations. A gathering of brands and leaders who believe in the same values and care about the same issues—groups like the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion—have even more power to drive change when they join forces, make commitments to advance the cause, and work toward a common goal.
The myriad examples of the impactful work being done in the marketing and advertising community demonstrated and discussed during Advertising Week 2017 were inspiring to see. But our work is never done. With a mandate to contribute to society, putting purpose at the core of workplace culture gives brands the power to make a difference.