There is no such thing as purpose marketing

Marjolein Rigter | Business Director Reputation Management

June 19, 2019

Purpose marketing

Embracing a social purpose: it works well in marketing and sometimes in politics, but does it really pay off? Omnicom PR Group thought it was time to investigate this in the Netherlands. We found that it can be a boost for your organisation’s reputation, but only if you do it right

No less than 84 percent of the Netherlands’ consumers say they are considering switching their custom to an organisation that has a clear social purpose. Another 42 percent say they would pay more for a product or service from an organisation with a purpose. Among millennials, that number is even higher.

We also found that purpose attracts attention. If your organisation has a clear social purpose, people are more likely to follow you on social media and read articles about you, according to our research.

We can therefore say that there is a ‘purpose premium’. So far great.

But, we also found that if you’re only using this purpose as part of a marketing campaign, it doesn’t work. Dutch people are even a bit wary of it. It gives them the feeling of ‘green washing’. A purpose must be credible, sincere, and, above all, implemented throughout the organisation, from top to bottom.

But the questions remains: what is credible? The result surprised me. The most credible purposes – it turns out – are not necessarily ones that the company has a logical link to. Credibility is defined by whether your organisation demonstrates what it does to aid that social goal. It appears that “actions speak louder than words” is the most important thing for Dutch consumers.

We also found that it doesn’t matter to Dutch consumers whether or not all your employees are involved in the purpose. But the CEO does have a special role. Again, while the CEO simply talking about the purpose does not necessarily contribute to credibility, if he or she doesn’t speak about it at all, people are less likely to believe the organisation takes the purpose seriously. Apparently, the public are closely scrutinising the organisation’s face to find out if it is serious.

So, CEOs of the Netherlands: you know what you have to do. And marketers: continue with purpose, but only as a long-term investment, with concrete contributions and a clear story. Purpose is not a temporary campaign, but a social positioning that you need to get behind wholeheartedly if you’re going to make an impact.

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