Purpose-driven marketing is a concept describing how businesses or brands can bond with their customers, audience, or constituencies based on shared interests and needs, dovetailing with the idea of Corporate Social Responsibility, which mandates adopting policies and practices that aim to improve the world. While the idea is sound, Sky Cassidy, CEO of MountainTop Data, says that the gap between good intentions and authenticity is a barrier to achieving genuinely effective marketing.
(Canoga Park, CA) May 3, 2021—Do the right thing: it seems like an obvious message to insert into your business’s marketing efforts, but it’s also easy to get very wrong. If that happens, not only have you wasted time and resources trying to artificially create a perception for your customers, but you may even succeed in turning them off entirely. Sky Cassidy, CEO of MountainTop Data, says that “purpose-driven marketing” that isn’t really true is perceived as manipulation by customers, undermining the motivation for embracing purpose in the first place.
“Most owners and investors care about profits, period. Real “purpose marketing” either has a net loss or takes a while to pay off in brand and exposure. This makes it unappealing to most owners. A lot of companies would rather just try to convince people that they care about something without actually doing anything, and they usually get away with it. Then there are the companies that are all purpose at the expense of their actual business success, so they have a terrible product, underpaid employees and cut corners wherever they can,” Cassidy explains.(1)
Purpose-driven marketing is a relatively new concept that isn’t always understood in the business world.(2) Essentially, purpose-driven marketing campaigns are a way for companies or brands to engage with an audience by deliberately sharing their needs and interests, often by supporting worthy causes and/or social messages. An example of purpose marketing would be a beauty product whose marketing is about raising self-esteem, building confidence in users’ own beauty and not so much about selling the soap or the lotion, etc. One distinction here, though: purpose-focused campaigns can exist independently as just one part of a marketing strategy. However, many “purpose-driven brands” have started to vociferously broadcast their core values as the primary means by which they market to customers.
Cassidy doesn’t see it that way. He explains that many companies and brands offer altruism as a marketing device and not a desire to help whichever cause they “appear” to espouse. “Please, don’t listen to everyone saying you need to graft some greater personal interests onto your business, and please stop using purpose as a driver of profit. Purpose that isn’t authentic isn’t purpose; it’s manipulation, and it makes you one of the bad guys. Once these ‘fake purpose’ companies are put in a situation where to be true to their supposed purpose would affect their bottom line, they get exposed.”(3)
That doesn’t mean one should be opposed to authentic altruism. Having purpose in both your personal and professional life is important. There are many marketers who have successfully utilized purpose marketing to meld brand awareness with a social cause. “These are the companies who put their action where their words are. They do donate time, money and services to these causes and when their cause conflicts with their bottom line they stay true to it. People should be wary of companies who say they will donate to some cause and end up giving a half-penny out of every dollar or are silent when there’s controversy.”
It’s tricky. Purpose can be a great motivator and an even greater marketing engine when it’s real and permeates a business, but purpose also doesn’t need to contradict profit. Be sure about your motivations or purpose marketing will just cost you time, money, and potentially your company’s reputation, warns Cassidy.
“A lot of people take on a mission purely for marketing reasons and it’s not real because it’s not authentic,” Cassidy affirms. “Purpose-driven marketing can be tough because you don’t have much traction at first. Hopefully, eventually, it gains momentum and then eventually you have this massive force that is doing good, it’s part of your company culture and is an overall plus to the company.”(5)
However, when it works well, the results speak for themselves. As an example, Cassidy offers, there’s a clothing manufacturer who champions the environment. They use recycled materials; they advocate the preservation of nature and they show how the company in fact is helping out. Their actions are in tune with their message. The public is aware of this and the company’s reputation has become stellar. They could make a lot of claims while using the minimum amount of recycled material, outsourcing to the cheapest labor, and cutting corners that actually cause a net environmental negative vs their competitors, but this company instead chose to have smaller margins and be true to their purpose.
“People are not always fools; they’ll see through the smoke and mirrors. Equally, they will recognize the actual good guys and those brands are the ones who will benefit from their actions long term,” says Cassidy.
About MountainTop Data
MountainTop Data, headquartered in Los Angeles, CA, has been providing data services for B2B marketing for almost two decades. With an unrelenting commitment to quality, they were the first company to guarantee the accuracy of their licensed data and business emails. They provide marketing lists, data cleaning, data appending and data maintenance services. Their data services have been used by some of the world’s biggest brands across a multitude of various industries from multi-national telecommunication companies to office technology, to PR firms and more. For more information, visit www.mountaintopdata.com.
- JoTo PR. “Interview with Sky Cassidy” Reviewed 25 March 2021
- Meltwater. “What is Purpose-Driven Marketing?” meltwater.com/en/blog/a-sense-of-purpose-that-resonates-with-customers Accessed 11 April 2021
- MountainTop Data. “The newest thing in marketing is… 99% Bullshit. “Purpose”, “Why”, “Authenticity”, and other things marketers are ruining” mountaintopdata.com/2020/02/27/the-newest-thing-in-marketingis-99-bullshit-purpose-why-authenticity-and-other-things-marketers-are-ruining/ Accessed 11 April 2021
- 4.If You Market, They Will Come. “Show Me the Happiness, with David Meltzer” ifyoumarkettheywillcome.com/2021/03/21/123/ Accessed 11 April 2021
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Karla Jo Helms