Navigating the Age of Authenticity: Success in Purpose-driven Marketing

We’re all familiar with the term “purpose-driven marketing.” Over the last decade, it has had a prominent place in blogs and marketing campaigns alike. But what impact has it had on brands or profits? Will it be a part of an organization’s long-term strategy? And if it is, how do we ensure that it’s successful?

The Evolution Of An Organization's Purpose

Historically, an organization’s purpose was to create a profit for stakeholders. The commitment was to profit alone, and investors' needs often took precedence over the individuals whose day-to-day lives were more directly affected by the business itself.

Yet, in the twenty-first century, many Americans have expanded on that idea to include the betterment of society. This concept includes but isn’t limited to, environmentalism, equity and inclusion, employee well-being and more. Whether employees or customers, consumers have created the age of cause-first consumption.

Many corporations add a layer of Corporate Social Responsibility to their culture without understanding that “purpose” has to be intertwined throughout the organization to be authentic and effective. It must be woven into the layers of your business otherwise it will quickly unravel. Moreover, younger generations have grown adept in their discernment of policies that are superficial, rather than impactful.

The Intention Of Purpose-driven Marketing

The goal of purpose-driven marketing is to allow an organization to develop a true rapport with its client base by creating authentic connections based on shared values. By producing consistent marketing communications that exhibit these values, the organization can build trust with the community regarding ethics and social responsibility.


Interestingly, our culture is now looking to organizations to fuel their own sense of purpose. The average individual doesn’t have the financial resources to replant a forest after a wildfire or ensure equity in housing. But corporations do. Consumers who use their money to purchase from a particular organization whose purpose aligns with their own can have a greater impact on the world around them.

Younger generations are the future of any organization’s success. Gen Z and millennials are paving the way for a better world, and they aren’t backing down. Catering to their needs is a priority if businesses plan to stay alive long-term. If an organization uses purpose-driven marketing as a superficial fork in the road, its brand loyalty may eventually fall by the wayside.

Measuring The Success Of Purpose

The success of your organization’s purpose will not lie in your profit margin alone. Instead, it should be measured in various areas: brand trust, employee retention, and customer loyalty.

A study sponsored by the EY Beacon Institute and conducted by the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services (HBRAS) surveyed 474 executives of various sectors. They were asked what makes purpose effective for their organizations. Eighty-nine percent of executives stated collective purpose motivates employee satisfaction, while 80 percent revealed that it boosts customer loyalty.

The good news is your organization doesn’t need to pick a side. Younger generations are supporting humanity and expect organizations to do the same. It’s less about choosing a side for battle and more about the well-being of everyone, including creating a stronger society where all can prosper.

Thus, measuring the success of your brand’s purpose may look more like protecting the little guy from bullies rather than taking on an army. One thing is certain: it won’t be a campaign of empty promises that fail to facilitate true, positive change. That’s deemed purpose-washing.

Purpose-washing Won't Help Your Organization 

Purpose-washing is defined as a business that discusses purpose but fails to take any real action towards impact. This is exemplified in promoting environmentalism while depleting natural resources and failing to produce alternative solutions. Another example would be voicing equity and inclusion while financially supporting anti-LGBTQ+ groups.

Consumers are on high alert for purpose-washing. They are savvy, and quick to see the disparity between what a brand says and what it achieves. When it comes to purpose-driven marketing, action is king.

Marketing scholars Omar Rodríguez Vilá at Emory University and Sundar Bharadwaj, a professor of marketing at the University of Georgia research brand strategies. They found that when established brands introduce a new social-purpose strategy, three things drive negative reactions:

  1. Inconsistency between the brand promise and what the company does
  2. A too-political promise
  3. The motive seems counterintuitive to the firm’s intentions

The takeaway is that harnessing consumer loyalty moving forward is going to look very different than it has before. Successful marketing campaigns will include social responsibility and the organization’s resources backing it up. People are paying attention.

Furthermore, you can expect the needs of our society to change as we grow. Therefore, so will your marketing strategy. Yet, one truth remains—it’s likely to continue to include “purpose” that mirrors the community's needs.

Purpose-driven Marketing Can't Be Superficial And Thrive 

global study from Zeno revealed consumers are four to six times more likely to purchase from, protect, trust and even champion purpose-driven companies. The same study also states that 94 percent of global consumers value companies with a strong sense of purpose and are willing to reciprocate through brand loyalty. Unfortunately, only 37 percent believe today’s companies are reaching their potential regarding purpose.

Ultimately, organizations that fail to integrate purpose-driven marketing may find themselves obsolete—sooner rather than later. With every generation, Americans become more adept at discerning authenticity. If your purpose isn’t action-oriented and socially conscious, it isn’t likely to impress a modern-day consumer. So, how do you ensure your brand’s purpose rings true?

Convey Your Marketing Message With Trust

Public Media has long held the reputation for being socially conscious and responsible in both its journalism and educational content. Furthermore, they are wholly committed to community.

Public radio continues to present on-air sponsored brand messages via trusted voices. By sharing your purpose-driven marketing message through sponsorship, you can access an audience of influencers who are more likely to take action on your brand and share it with others.

If you would like to learn more about how purpose-driven marketing and the public media audience can impact your business, download our free e-book, Purpose-Driven Marketing | Market Enginuity. As always, when you're ready to get your brand in front of the public radio audience, fill out the form below to connect with one of our experts.

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