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Real Brand Purpose for 2020

Image of a beach with the words 'The search for purpose' across it

Brand purpose marketing has a bit of an ick factor. Over the last decade, many brands looked about for some kind of cause with which to cover themselves in glory. Any cause, seemingly.

And guess what – consumers see through this. Virtue signalling is obvious. You can’t just slap a Pride flag on your logo for a month and call it done.

Now, not actively causing harm is a hygiene factor. Consumers expect our businesses to be reducing our impact on the environment, using sustainable materials and committing to diversity. Because, duh, that’s just being a decent group of people.

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Brand purpose marketing is something that needs to die. The real purpose has to come to the fore.

Don’t be evil

It’s 2020. The world is burning. Time to take a look around you and identify the things within your business that need to come up to scratch.

Buy a water filtering machine (you can get an excellent counter-top water filter that doesn’t require plumbing for around £100) and invest in good water bottles for everyone. Heck, I bought my office a Sodastream because the number of plastic bottles we were getting through made me sick – and I was the worst culprit!

RECYCLING BINS. The number of offices I see with just a bin, or a bin and mixed recycling. It’s an invitation to be lazy, and offices generate so much waste. If you provide bins that are split into the types of waste you can recycle in your area, people will naturally use them – guilt and social pressure! You can find out what your local council collects here.

Set up a Glassdoor profile for your business. It can be a bit worrying to welcome public criticism from ex-employees, but it’s the kind of transparency you need for recruitment and customer research. It’ll also keep you focused on resolving issues and improving your workplace.

If you feel the need, you can talk about this stuff on your blog and social media as a New Year’s resolution piece. But, generally, this is about righting wrongs so you can pursue purpose with a clear conscience.

89% of customers reported considering a company’s ethics before making a purchase. They’re not making their decision based on whether you put a video about diversity on your blog; they’re researching your background to find any dirt.

Brand purpose for small businesses

We’re lucky. Although huge corporations have the money to chuck at any old brand ‘purpose’, we have control in our businesses to fight for the things that actually matter to us.

89% of people who think about a company’s values and ethics are including that in their buying decision. So, it clearly does matter that we’re vocal about what we stand for and the causes we support.

These are the top five values they cared about:

Securing Customer Loyalty in the 2020s

An example of a business doing some ad hoc purpose-following is Canva. I used the site today to make the image at the top of this article. When I went into photo search, I saw the message that they’re currently donating all the proceeds of their paid images to help fight Australia’s bushfires. That’s amazing. I know nothing about Canva’s ‘brand purpose strategy’ (yuck) and nor do I want to, but this off-the-cuff GOODNESS will stay with me.

But never purpose above benefits

So many brands advertise purpose over benefits these days. It can leave even the most conceptual of us scratching our heads and asking what the hell this business even does.

I don’t CARE that you’re ‘Redefining property’ or ‘Putting business first’ or – YUCK – ‘Moneying different’ (?????). What service are you providing? How does that help me?

Tweet from Tom Goodwin: 'The move to "purpose" above "benefits" is is the greatest misstep in marketing in our times.

It has to be a mix of the two. You must have something other than benefits to differentiate yourself but you must promote the benefits of what you’re selling.

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