Brands Stepping Up with Purpose

April 20, 2020

By Ken Beaulieu

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rampage across the globe, with seemingly no end in sight, has there ever been a greater need for brands to activate their purpose or reason for being beyond profit?

That question was recently posed to senior ANA member marketers, and while the responses were limited given the countless challenges members are now faced with, the answer was obvious: brands are indeed embracing their purpose like never before. From retooling operations to manufacture medical masks and respirators to funding meal programs and offering free services to working with nonprofits and everything in between, brands are stepping up in myriad ways to drive goodwill and make a difference in people’s lives.

Nearly 76 percent of respondents said their brands have embraced purpose more/much more than usual since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, and 48 percent said they are collaborating more/much more than usual with nonprofit partners. Moreover, 72.4 percent said brands that authentically activate their purpose during this crisis will be at a distinct competitive advantage when it ends.

When asked to briefly describe how their brands are putting purpose at the heart of all they do, the responses included:

  • Safety and security are at the heart of our brand promise, and we are reinforcing that with both a marketing platform and a “take action” activation platform designed to give back to our communities.
  • Shifted our key seasonal marketing efforts away from products to focus on bringing families together and communicating our efforts to keep shelves stocked and people fed.
  • It’s all about connecting what we do with what’s most important to customers. Prioritizing who needs the most help, most urgently, and getting it to them at scale across our communities, our customers, and our employees. Product bells and whistles are secondary to communicating our purpose to those stakeholders.
  • Creating solutions to real financial problems people/businesses are experiencing now.
  • The concept of “purpose” is being redefined on an almost weekly basis, if not daily. Right now, our team is trying to convey a sense of positivity in our marketing despite very cold and bleak figures that come from daily national briefings.
  • Recognizing the essential workers in the field who are keeping vital services going across the U.S.
  • Leveraging our resources to help society and front-line workers.
  • Delivering health through food to as many people as possible.

Serving a higher purpose than profit is also seen as critical to keeping employees motivated, engaged, and inspired throughout the crisis. When asked how important their brand’s purpose is to galvanizing staff in these difficult times, 82 percent of respondents said, “very important.” Among the many verbatims, these stood out:

  • Providing each employee $100 to go out and support a small business. The leadership team is sending a video out each week reinforcing their inspirational thoughts during this time. HR is stepping up to keep people motivated and providing support for families in need.
  • Our leadership is starting with empathy, active listening, showing vulnerability and humanity, being decisive, and showing gratitude to employees, especially those on the front lines. Employees are doubling their consumer focus and sharing their stories, which is accelerating a business imperative to lead with the consumer in mind.
  • [Launching an] “Extraordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things During Extraordinary Times” video campaign that focuses on our employees and how they are contributing to fight COVID-19.
  • More frequent communications about what we do and what employees can do to embody the brand purpose.
  • Weekly town halls. New policies on leave. Commitment to jobs. Tools and resources. Virtual happy hour.
  • We are reinforcing our brand values and putting them into action for employees as much as possible.
  • We are showcasing all the amazing initiatives our employees have taken on. We created a COVID-19 News and Resources section on our intranet.
  • Purpose is the focus of our weekly virtual “all elbows” team meetings, and we are encouraging everyone to live our purpose at home and share their efforts via our virtual communities.
  • Increased emphasis on new ideas from employees.

For more information and inspiration on how to activate your brand’s purpose in these challenging times, visit the ANA Center for Brand Purpose.

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