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Identifying Your Brand’s Causes with the Fifth “P” — Purpose-Led Marketing

As transparency, responsibility and the authenticity of a brand’s communications take on greater importance in today’s marketplace, brands need to get out of the selling business and into the business of improving lives. Today, it’s about purpose-led marketing. In the past, having a purpose may have been considered “nice,” but it is now crucial to winning in business.  Brands are realizing that it is no longer just about what you sell, but also “what you stand for.” As such, purpose is taking its rightful place as the fifth “P” in the traditional marketing mix – along with product, price, place and promotion. Global companies and leading brands are seeking to identify their purpose and communicate it in ways that enhance reputation and drive emotional points of difference among competitors.

Within purpose-led marketing, a company’s support of social issues remains a critical component to help bring that purpose to life in real time for stakeholders. This may include cause marketing, NGO partnerships and corporate responsibility practices. In fact, 68 percent of consumers expect companies they do business with to support causes according to MSLGROUP’s 2011 Social Purpose Index.

The research also revealed that despite lofty expectations for corporate responsibility, consumer skepticism is at an all-time high. While we know stakeholders want companies to support causes, and will reward those that do it well, many believe companies only do it to sell more.  Almost 75 percent of U.S. consumers surveyed say there is a disconnect between the causes brands support and the products they sell.  Fifty-four percent claim that it seems like every company supports a cause, and 78 percent find it difficult to follow who is doing what. In addition, Americans are dealing with uncertain economic times. As unemployment remains high, and gas and food prices continue to rise, 79 percent of consumers agree: “I care about societal issues, but times are tough and I am worried about ensuring my family has everything they need.” This slice of socially conscious consumers represents a big opportunity for companies to more deeply engage targets in their purpose, and it does not have to mean supporting causes buyers care most about.

Gone are the days of simply putting pink ribbons on packaging to stand out or sell more products. Gone are the days of safe, status quo, or short-lived cause efforts. Rather, in order to garner attention, corporate causes should extend from a well-defined purpose and make a meaningful, memorable, credible link to brand values, products and services. And, to more deeply engage consumers’ hearts, minds and wallets, companies must not only connect to a meaningful purpose, but go beyond that purpose to deliver on a deeper promise for society.

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Heather McIntyre

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