Authenticity cannot be manufactured.
Purpose requires the potency of an emotionally resonant truth.
Authenticity cannot be conveniently manufactured by a marketing brief. And authenticity is what consumers today require in order to trust and remain loyal to a brand. Purpose-driven marketing is leading the way for companies to “bond with their target audiences based on shared needs and interest.” Brands must be willing to go all in from the inside out with genuine purpose or expect to be flamed out by trolls and intended allies alike online.
The best an ad can be
The recently released campaign “The Best a Man Can Be” by Gillette (P&G) has exploded in a torrent of social media posts and headlines, and many blogs have popped up that focus on the pros and cons of purpose-driven strategies. Ignoring the inherent irony in making this post, earning this type of organic attention outside of a major media event merits the commentary.
By now most of us should be familiar that the 2018 Purpose Study by Cone/Porter Novelli showed 79% of Americans are more loyal to purpose-driven brands than traditional brands. Yet with purpose being such a huge motivator for buyers, it’s important to differentiate between contextually authentic purpose and gimmicks. Remember the backlash after Pepsi and Kendall Jenner tried to convince the public that you can end a protest march with a can of Pepsi?
Selling more than razors
No one should get it twisted, Gillette knew exactly what it was doing with this ad. There may have been controversy, but the majority of women reacted positively to the commercial. Why do the reactions of women matter when Gillette’s customer base is largely men? It’s because the target audience for P&G, Gillette’s parent company, is women—and this spot was about selling more than razors than the bros at Harry’s. The goal was to sell more P&G products as a whole.
Let’s not forget—this wasn’t P&G’s first foray into purpose-driven content. They set the standard. With Always “Like a Girl” they used purpose to spark emotionally resonant connections. It succeeded because they identified a space where they had equity—confidence—and an emotionally resonant truth—a cultural breakdown in girls’ self-confidence. Along with changing the way the public viewed the phrase “like a girl,” Always’ brand equity reported a double-digit percentage increase while running the campaign while competitors declined.
Aligning social and economic motives
You cannot manufacture authenticity. Consumers know when you’re using a controversial moment to sell product. They can also tell when you’re serious about your stance.
Gillette’s ad had a poignant purpose, but the delivery of that message is where it took a big risk—one that puts the payoff in jeopardy. Instead of promoting a cooperative goal, it felt more like talking at men. An approach that fosters cooperation towards a common goal forces the recognition of common ground, and that is where purpose-driven marketing succeeds.
The pay off
When Heineken launched their “Worlds Apart” campaign, they wanted to show that despite polarized views, people could still connect with each other. They brought in people separated by politics from around the world and showed them, unscripted, having a bottle of beer, enjoying themselves, and creating bonds. The successful campaign provoked positive responses such as “we should listen more” which was the exact response Heineken hoped for.
Heineken and Always were successful because they belonged in that space, so their responses to trending news were authentic. They saw they could play a role in changing minds and made that purpose drive the campaign.
We’ll have to wait to see if Gillette’s risk paid off, but one thing is clear—purpose needs to spark emotional resonance that energizes beliefs in buyers. Believers are buyers.
Brand marketers seeking to harness the potency of purpose must first look inside their organizations to ensure they can deliver an authentic purpose-driven approach. When you strike an emotionally resonant truth—such as Gillette, Always, and Heineken—you can motivate a cooperation toward a common goal that benefits both culture and your bottom-line. – JS