Gen Z and Millennials are keeping brands accountable to their promises and purpose. Those who fail to transparently prove that they are fulfilling their written pledges are at risk of getting called out or worse, cancelled. For purpose to be actionable, it needs to manifest internally first. External marketing promises and the proof of a brand’s impact should be measurable.
It starts from the inside out (not the other way around)
Purpose is about service. It is using your brand as a vehicle to better serve the needs of your people, communities and the world, and it starts at your doorstep.
“A good purpose changes the way you operate. Campaigns and activations should be an extension of the purpose, rather than its sole manifestation. As the team that best understands the brand and the people it serves, marketing should be positioned well to craft the purpose. But in order for the purpose to truly live and breathe within the company with any kind of substance and longevity, they must view themselves as its ambassadors internally, not just externally.” - Meggan Wood, Forbes
If brands focus on creating purpose externally first, chances are that they will fall into the cosmetic purpose trap. A superficiality that appears meaningful on the outside but lacks the depth and integrity on the inside. It’s like trying to buy an apple with a rotten core. Digital culture has created an era of the ‘glass box brand’. Gen Z and Millennials are equipped with the digital tools to examine the authenticity of a brand’s health.
“Changing yourself before talking about your changes will be vital,” says RJ d’Hond from data consulting company Kantar, “and only if it is a full company intent, not a marketing or communication department idea.” Priya Elan, The Guardian
As the digital age calls for more transparency to acquire trust by consumers, it is essential that brands are an authentic representation both internally and externally.
“In a transparent world, younger consumers don’t distinguish between the ethics of a brand, the company that owns it, and its network of partners and suppliers. A company’s actions must match its ideals, and those ideals must permeate the entire stakeholder system.” - Mckinsey Company
Keeping accountable to promises
A recent survey performed by YPulse, determined what young consumers think of brands’ efforts to address diversity & anti-racism in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests. Young consumers continue to believe that brands who posted black squares or wrote promises of change are now needing to verify that they have put those words into action.
“In June, 59% wanted brands to make a statement on social media, making it the top action item on the list. But that has decreased significantly, and now, the top thing they want is for brands to change the way they do business. Their desire for meaningful action has only intensified, while their tolerance for well-meaning shows of solidarity without the accompanying action has diminished.”- YPulse
There can be a strong temptation to jump on the back of a movement to make a brand relevant, however, doing so, can have detrimental long term effects if they fail to deliver on those commitments. Using the example mentioned above, if brands took to posting a black square as a declaration of solidarity yet there are clear indications that they have not addressed systemic racial barriers that exist within its inner culture then their declaration is both dishonest and deceptive.
It needs to be measurable
The pandemic has changed the way we live, think and spend. Consumers are still wanting to meet their own needs but without compromising the ability of future generations meeting their own. "72% of Gen Zs, 72% of Millennials and 59% of Gen Xers prefer to buy from brands that do good, compared to just 49% of boomers.” - Gareth Kane, Creative Brief
With sustainability on everyone’s minds, young consumers are doing a lot more research to find the right brands that align with their values. If brands wish to have some credibility they need to be able to prove that they can walk the talk.
“Impact is the bedrock of your brand purpose, and without proof that you are having a positive impact – demonstrated and disclosed in a credible way – your brand purpose will become meaningless.” Jessi Baker, Forbes
How can we put this into practice?
Below I have outlined some steps that can work as useful guides to audit your brand and ensure that it is sharing purpose through actionable integrity.
How to keep your brand accountable*:
1. Do the current internal actions of your company align with the brand’s purpose?
2. If so, how? (reflect on the organisation as a whole as well as individual departments and its external communications)
3. If not, why? (list out the list of barriers or actions that are contradicting the brand’s purpose)
4. How can your company culture improve/further support the brand purpose? (List some new ideas on who it can be activated)
5. What are the actions you will take outside the company, externally, that will bring your purpose to life?
6. List some clear KPIs and goals that will indicate that your purpose is having the desired impact.
7. Indicate how you will celebrate once you hit those milestones. (it is important to also celebrate and reward your staff when the company works collectively to achieve its purpose).
If you’re failing to clearly answer any of these questions, it could be a result of the current brand’s purpose not being clear enough for employees or leaders to activate. This can be problematic because:
1. Your internal staff do not know how to activate it.
2. Your company and leadership team will lack accountability
3. Internal decisions such as employee benefits, incentives or structure will be difficult to make.
4. Employee engagement and loyalty will be low.
5. Your external communication will be unclear leading to consumer distrust.
6. You will not know how to market yourself to position yourself apart from your competitors.
If you believe that the latter is you, fear not, I have offered some reading recommendations to get you started.
1. Start with Why by Simon Sinek
2. Find Your Why by David Mead, Peter Docker, and Simon Sinek
3. The Purpose Advantage: How to Unlock New Ways of Doing Business by Jeff Fromm
If you wish to have further assistance in helping your brand carve out a clear, authentic purpose that can be activated, contact us from more information on our brand strategy services at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Questions inspired from The Purpose Advantage: How to Unlock New Ways of Doing Business by Jeff Fromm