The Secret to Purpose Selling

Selling with a purpose and marketing for a cause. It constitutes a different mentality from the norms of marketing and branding. This type of campaign has the dual purpose of increasing profitability while bettering society. And more brands are getting involved with cause marketing and taking advantage of the opportunity to make an emotional connection with consumers.

Rather than a marketing strategy, per se, cause marketing should be used as a tool that can be beneficial for a brand when implemented as part of a more comprehensive purpose-driven strategy.

“Cause marketing is a time-limited marketing campaign in which a brand builds awareness by leveraging a partnership and/or connection with a specific social issue or cause,” says Pam Georgiana, VP of engagement, Lutheran Social Services.

Cause marketing should be used as a tool that can be beneficial for a brand when implemented as part of a more comprehensive purpose-driven strategy.

It works because it starts a connection. “Brands are offered an opportunity to build deeper bonds with customers, attract new customers and recruit dedicated followers to share the message,” Georgiana says. “Cause marketing is a building block for shared purpose.”

In 2018, Cone/Porter Novelli conducted a Purpose Study showing that 78 percent of Americans believe companies must positively impact society, while 77 percent feel a stronger emotional connection to purpose-driven companies over those engaging in traditional values and strategies. Consumers have an expectation for brands and organizations to align themselves with important causes, give back and help make the world a better place.

Cause marketing works best when it comes from a place of authenticity. Companies should choose causes that align with their business objectives and with the causes their consumers care about.

“It can come in many forms, such as donating a percentage of profits, developing a marketing campaign to raise awareness of an issue or giving back to people impacted by a situation, disease, etc.,” says Ellyn Davidson, president of ad agency Brogan and Partners.

Up a notch

When done right, cause marketing rises above a brand’s transactional relationship with a consumer. Georgiana says that then becomes the start of a meaningful connection around a shared purpose.

According to recent research from the Capgemini Digital Transformation Institute, 70 percent of emotionally engaged consumers spend up to two times more on brands to which they are loyal, compared to 49 percent of consumers who experience lower emotional engagement.

“Brands that engage customers meaningfully through shared purpose have the potential to increase sales and profit,” Georgiana says. “The research from Capgemini shows that consumer emotional engagement could drive up to a 5 percent increase in annual revenue.”

All in all, people want to do business with brands and organizations that share their values. It’s no different from how we choose our friendships and other partnerships. It works best when we have core values in common. An emotional connection with a consumer leaves him more likely to remember a brand, purchase a product and to share a message.

It’s important that, as a marketer, you look at purpose-driven selling and cause marketing as more than a marketing campaign. A company’s adopted cause should reflect the brand’s purpose.

“True ‘brand believers’ want to see a cause reflected not only in marketing campaigns, but also in responsible business practices,” Georgiana says. “Embedding that purpose in the brand’s DNA is important, so that not only customers but employees, vendors, suppliers or anyone involved in the brand recognizes it as an integral part of the brand. It’s the heart.”

“True ‘brand believers’ want to see a cause reflected not only in marketing campaigns, but also in responsible business practices.”
— Pam Georgiana, VP of Engagement, Lutheran Social Services 

Every leader within an organization should be encouraged by marketing to be involved in a brand’s chosen purpose before any cause marketing campaign is established. Listen to your important partners, and think beyond a campaign. “Look inward for your brand’s heart and outward for your brand’s future.”

Davidson says it can be as simple as identifying something you care about that relates to your business. “As an agency, we give back 5 percent of our profits every year in pro bono, volunteer hours, board positions and financial donations,” she says. “Our employees are incredibly engaged in this notion. It’s a part of the agency that gives them a lot of personal fulfillment. We choose organizations that align with our business and that we are passionate about.”

Where to start

Step 1 is to find an organization that aligns with the business, and get creative. “There are far more opportunities than giving a percentage of a purchase,” says Davidson. “Find a way to engage your team and your customers in whatever you are going to do, and be committed. Don’t expect to see an immediate ROI. Do it for the right reasons and because you care, and the profits will follow later.”

Getting involved locally is always a good idea, when it makes sense for the company. Lutheran Social Services has worked with a Flowerama, a Columbus, Ohio, flower shop chain, to raise awareness for domestic violence during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

During the month of October, the chain offered specially priced floral arrangements. A portion of each sale was donated to the organization to help build a new, larger safe haven shelter. “The brand also worked hard to build awareness for the prevalence of domestic violence in our community through social media, public relations, signage in their stores and on their website,” Georgiana says. “It was the beginning of an ongoing relationship that supports both organizations’ missions.”

Davidson points to Kroger as a company doing cause marketing well. The grocer has a “Zero Hunger, Zero Waste” campaign in partnership with Feeding America. “They are donating products, donating funds, using marketing and providing disaster support,” she says. “It’s a big campaign with a big goal, but it is something that is authentic and makes sense for their business, and they are doing it on a broad level.”