The Purpose Advantage: A Q&A with Barkley’s Jeff Fromm

March 24, 2020

By Jerusha Harvey

VectorMine/Getty Images

In his ANA workshop about the power of purpose for brand marketing, Jeff Fromm teaches marketers all about how unlocking your brand’s purpose can help elevate your messaging, forge stronger connections with customers, and attract all-star talent. I sat down with Fromm to discuss the principles of purpose marketing and the keys to unlocking a brand’s purpose.

 

Q: In your writing and your training programs, you refer to the five Ps of marketing. Can you explain the fifth P?

Most of us were classically trained in the four Ps. The fifth P — purpose and sustainability — was not part of that common classic strategy. This emerging fifth P of purpose and sustainability is a result of the fact that, today, we have a discerning consumer.

Larger established brands which have been around for decades are buying ads in the Super Bowl, and you have these smaller brands with less exposure, charging a higher price, and still gaining share in the category. Now, why in the world would the brand that’s not as strong, not as well known, not as well developed, be able to take market share and charge a small price premium?

Purpose and sustainability.

This discerning consumer is sometimes willing to pay a premium for brands that align with their values. The notion of purpose and sustainability is that even when attributes and benefits are equal between two companies, there is an advantage conferred to the brand that has purpose and sustainability ingrained in it.

 

Q: How does purpose help a brand connect with its customers?

When we talk about purpose and sustainability, you cannot expect your customers to figure it out on their own. You must find the likeminded core group of consumers who will get your purpose. These consumers will share their experience at their own time and expense via word of mouth. Not every consumer will walk into your store or experience your product and figure it out. However, they will pick it up from their friends who rave about the brand.

The reality is that we live in a world where we talk about brands a lot. We talk about the brands that move us, functionally and emotionally, skewed more towards the emotional side. While a consumer may not know the difference between one brand’s functional benefits and another’s, consumers do gain brand preferences because of the emotional side. If you can create a social and emotional connection between your brand and your customer, you will create a bond that lasts a long time and carries a long way.

 

Q: Are there any other reasons, beyond market share and customer loyalty, that a company should consider identifying a “purpose beyond profit”?

Attracting and retaining talent is a significant priority for many companies. That is mainly because the unemployment rate is so low right now. When we have low unemployment, a company that has a purpose and sustainability strategy may engage employees to work a little harder or stay a little longer to support this cause. This creates a cultural advantage, which is another vast topic today and another critical differentiator. While a profit focus may be the safest to present to stakeholders, reinvesting some of that profit to sustain growth is going to be required, especially if you believe some discerning consumers and employees are going to notice.

 

Q: What type of exercises do you recommend to help an organization identify its purpose?

I think the starting point is usually to look at the brand origin, or why the company initially got started. In 1929, there was a merger that created a company called Unilever. For them, there was a real person named William Lever, and he started this company over 100 years ago because people could not afford basic hygiene.

If I were working on an assignment for that company, I would want to go back to the origin story and see if there are pieces of that story that can be true both today and tomorrow. And that is true for many companies. There is a reason all companies are started, and there are ways to connect some of this fundamental truth.

Ultimately, you must connect the consumer needs to what the brand does well and what the world needs. If you create a Venn diagram with the consumer needs, what the company is excellent at, and the sustainable development goals, then you are looking at the center of three very powerful forces. At this center point is where we start to hunt for ways to create a purpose and sustainability strategy.

Jeff Fromm is an ANA Instructor for the Marketing Training and Development Center. For more on this approach, be sure to view Fromm’s workshop, The Purpose Advantage: Unlocking the Power of Purpose for Your Brand.


You must be logged in to submit a comment.