Professional team discussing their purpose-driven marketing strategy.
June 29, 2023

The Why and How of Purpose-Driven Marketing

by Michael Brenner

In today’s socially connected world, customers are seeking more than just products or services from brands. They want to align themselves with companies that share common values with them. This shift in consumer mindset has given rise to purpose-driven marketing—a strategic approach that goes beyond traditional promotional tactics.

Through purpose-driven marketing, brands can align their external communications around social causes that resonate with their core values. It’s about making a genuine connection with customers by demonstrating shared beliefs and a commitment to making a positive impact.

By focusing on purpose, brands can forge deeper connections, foster trust, stand out from the competition, and create a lasting impact that resonates with your customers. Let’s explore how you can implement purpose-driven marketing successfully at your organization.

Quick Takeaways

  • 80% of consumers feel more connected to brands whose purpose aligns with their own.
  • Important first steps to purpose-driven marketing are to define your company’s unique purpose and develop the right voice and tone.
  • Clear goals with KPIs and a documented execution plan keep your efforts on track.
  • Your audience is your best source for direct feedback that can help you improve and refine your purpose-driven marketing efforts over time.

What is Purpose-Driven Marketing?

Purpose driven marketing aligns external marketing communications around a particular social cause that is important to a brand’s core values.

Its goal is to create deeper, more personal connections with customers, to whom brand values matter more than ever—8 in 10 now say they feel more connected to brands whose values are aligned with their own.

A separate survey found that on a scale of 1-5 (5 being most important), consumers rated purpose-driven elements of a brand consistently high. These elements include operations that are aligned with core values, making the world a better place, has clear purpose statements, sets a good example for other businesses, and shows commitment to good causes.

Bar chart showing that consumers consistently rate purpose-driven elements of a business to be very important.

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It’s easy to see why purpose is rising on customer priority lists. After a years-long pandemic and in a world hyper-connected by social media, social issues are discussed more often and publicly than they were in the past.

As a result, companies, once considered largely outside the realm of social discourse, are now expected to share their core values publicly and even provide commentary on timely issues and conflicts.

It’s not an easy landscape to navigate for marketing and PR teams, but it’s one that can’t be avoided. With 80% of customers specifically prioritizing value alignment, brands have no choice but to adopt a values-based, purpose-driven marketing approach to win new customers and earn current customer loyalty.

Let’s look at 7 steps to implementing purpose-driven marketing that resonates with your target audiences and forges greater connection and trust in your brand.

Ways to Implement Purpose-Driven Marketing into Your Strategy

Define Your Purpose

The first step to purpose-driven marketing, of course, is to define your brand’s purpose. It is essential that your purpose is authentic—customers will easily spot attempts to adopt a purpose just for the sake of winning new business.

So where do you start to find your authentic purpose? Usually, by referring to your company’s core values as they’re outlined in your mission statement. For some brands, values and purpose are immediately clear—Patagonia, for example, built their entire brand on sustainability and environmentalism.

Others, though, have to strategize about how to translate their core values into purpose. If your brand prioritizes innovation as a core value, for instance, your purpose might be to support entrepreneurship and finance innovative new startups. If your core value is representation, your purpose may be to support diversity initiatives.

Note that you can (and likely will) have more than one value to translate into purpose and then purpose-driven marketing. But don’t try to do it all at once. Explore your values and how they create purpose, then prioritize the one that’s most important. As you begin to implement your purpose-driven marketing strategy, build on small successes over time.

Going back to the Patagonia example, they now support dozens (if not more) of different initiatives to preserve the planet. But it didn’t happen overnight—they have built up their many successful purpose-driven marketing initiatives over decades.

Develop Purpose-Driven Voice and Tone

Purpose-driven marketing requires a voice and tone that’s different from traditional promotional communications and may even be slightly different than your regular content marketing. 

Because of the importance that purpose holds with customers and the sensitive nature of many social issues, it’s critical to be intentional about how you participate in the discourse. You’ll need to balance showing care and authenticity with strategically leveraging purpose-driven materials to position your brand well.

Spend ample time reading content and conversations related to the purpose and/or issues you’re planning to include in your marketing strategy, and carefully plan with your team how to talk about them.

Note that missing the mark when it comes to talking about important issues can be damaging to your brand. It’s a good idea to use focus groups and surveys to get a sense of how customers will feel about your messaging.

Set Goals

What are you trying to accomplish with your purpose-driven strategy? While some of your goals might seem obvious—like building deeper connections with customers, improving brand perception and loyalty, or creating new partnerships with purpose-driven organizations—it is critical to document these goals and put measurable metrics around them.

For example: If you want to build deeper connections with customers, you might survey them to understand how connected they feel to you now on a rating scale, and again after your marketing initiatives have been up and running for a period of time. This provides an objective way of measuring success.

If you want to develop new purpose-driven marketing partnerships, you can define the types of organizations you want to work with and set a goal around how many you want to work with by a certain date.

The takeaway: Don’t be vague about goals. To truly demonstrate the impact of purpose-driven marketing, you need defined goals that can be easily measured and evaluated. Frameworks like SMART goals (pictured below) are helpful tools for doing this well.

Graphic outlining the SMART goal framework: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

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Create Content

Content is king in today’s digital marketing world. To get your purpose-driven marketing noticed, you need to create high-volume, high-quality content that can be shared across channels. As with voice and tone, the types of content you create may differ from your traditional marketing content.

Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Commentary-based blog posts about topics, news, and issues related to your purpose
  • Video content showing how your team takes purpose-driven action (examples: donating to a certain cause, having employees volunteer, holding an awareness event, or adopting better business practices)
  • Results reports that demonstrate how you’re making an impact
  • SEO content created to educate and build awareness about important issues

Optimize your content by using SEO principles and sharing it across multiple channels, including on your website, social media, and through direct email with your customer base.

Create an Execution Plan

Every marketing strategy needs an execution plan, and purpose-driven marketing is no different. As you get ready to launch your strategy, create a comprehensive and documented plan that includes tasks, deadlines, persons responsible, and any other important information you need. 

It’s a smart idea to integrate your execution plan for purpose-driven marketing initiatives with others you’re running at the same time to ensure timelines and resources are well allocated.

Track Performance Metrics and KPIs

Setting goals and identifying KPIs is only the first step toward full performance management— you also need processes in place to track progress and report on results. Build this process into your execution plan, outlining when and how you’ll report on metrics and KPIs as well as when you will meet to discuss your strategy’s performance.

Ask for Feedback

Your customers and other users are the best source of insight to help you keep your finger on the pulse of how your purpose-driven marketing is being perceived by your audience. Don’t hesitate to ask them directly using surveys or focus groups, and by engaging with comments and other digital reactions on your content.

It’s unlikely you’ll get everything exactly right, especially if this is your first go at purpose-driven marketing. Listen to your audience’s feedback and adjust accordingly as you go.

Over to You

As you get ready to embark on your purpose-driven marketing initiative, keep in mind the key steps to success that we’ve covered in this article:

  • Define your purpose based on your core values. Always be authentic.
  • Develop the right voice and tone for your purpose-driven marketing.
  • Set measurable goals, identify KPIs, and have a process in place to measure them.
  • Create high-quality content consistently. Publish it across channels.
  • Have a documented execution plan with tasks, deadlines, and persons responsible.
  • Ask for direct feedback from your audience, and use it to improve.

The most important thing is to be true to your brand and honest in your efforts to make an impact with your efforts. When you do, your audience will appreciate and take notice.

Michael Brenner is a keynote speaker, author and CEO of Marketing Insider Group. Michael has written hundreds of articles on sites such as Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, and The Guardian and he speaks at dozens of leadership conferences each year covering topics such as marketing, leadership, technology and business strategy.