Purpose Takes Center Stage

November 14, 2018

By Ken Beaulieu

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Whether you attended the recent ANA Masters of Marketing Conference in Orlando, followed the event on social media, or read about it in the marketing trades, the drumbeat for more purposeful marketing boomed loud and clear. From Marc Pritchard (P&G) to Amanda Brinkman (Deluxe Corp.) to Alicia Hatch (Deloitte Digital) to John Dillon (Denny's), many of today's marketing innovators made impassioned pleas for brands to seek a higher purpose than profit, to play a larger role in consumers' lives and in society as a whole.

What these great marketers, and countless others, have come to understand is that aligning an organization around a well-articulated and meaningful purpose — a North Star, if you will — has a greater impact on growth than any particular product or service. Purpose-led brands have seen their brand valuation increase by 175 percent over past 12 years, compared to a median growth rate of 86 percent, according to Kantar Consulting's "Purpose 2020" report.

Make no mistake, purpose is not a one-off campaign for a charity, nor is it corporate social responsibility, philanthropy, or green/cause marketing. Rather, it is a long-term business strategy tied to a societal benefit that guides every strategic decision and action, from product development and customer/employee engagement to marketing and hiring.

"Too many companies are focused on 'winning,'" Ms. Brinkman informed me. "You have to have a higher standard than selling things."

Purpose-driven brands desire to make a positive difference in the world, to effect change for the greater good. And in doing so, they are in the best position to build a more emotional and lasting relationship with customers, hire and retain high-quality talent, and drive more of what our industry needs: growth. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of consumers around the world make purchases based on what a company stands for, an increase of 13 points since 2017, according to a study by Edelman.

While 78 percent of ANA members surveyed this past summer said their company has a clearly defined purpose, of those respondents, only 18 percent agreed strongly that their organization's purpose is part of a company-wide business strategy with specific goals. Moreover, none of the respondents agreed strongly that purpose is embraced internally across their organization.

Perhaps most telling, 82 percent of respondents to the ANA survey, conducted in partnership with the Ad Council, agreed strongly/somewhat that their company could use some expertise and help in defining and activating their brand purpose. It should come as no surprise, then, why the ANA CMO Masters Circle identified "brand purpose" as a critical industry initiative for driving the industry forward, and why purpose is also a focus area of the Global CMO Growth Council.

To that end, today marks the official launch of the ANA Center for Brand Purpose, which will provide CMO-inspired playbooks, tools, professional development programs, events, and more to help brands overcome the myriad challenges of bringing purpose to life both internally and externally.

Purpose is not a buzzword — it's tightly woven into the fabric of companies with a conscience and deeply embedded in the culture. It guides decision-making, provides common direction, unifies employees, and fuels long-term success.

That was abundantly evident at the ANA Masters of Marketing Conference. Now it's time to elevate the purpose discussion across the industry. The ANA Center for Brand Purpose will play a leading role in making that happen.


Ken Beaulieu is SVP of marketing communications at the ANA.

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