In the face of adversity, it is easy for brands to slide into a panic mode. In panic mode, we frantically try to pursue self-preservation or commit to activities that provide a false sense of fulfillment. The challenge for marketing leaders is to steer from the numbing panic to purpose.
We will explore how brands can shift your marketing from panic to purpose in two broad areas: changes within your marketing teams and changes in your marketing strategies.
We do not pretend to have all the answers, but we hope this will bring you a gut-check moment, wherever you are on your journey.
Brand Purpose 101: What Is Your Calling?
A crucial step in reinstating the purpose is to recognize the role your company or brand plays in society. What is your ‘why’?
There may never be a greater time than now for brands to go back to their roots and activate or reactivate its purpose of existence in society. The Chief Marketing Officer should aspire to answer why does the brand do all the things that it does and for whom.
In crises, civil society turns to the private sector to find out how businesses can help. The purpose of your brand is paramount here. The response of your firm defines its role in society, and the world is watching.
A crisis is an opportunity window for brands to let your “purpose” drive business decisions. Purpose brings stability to the workforce and to the consumer base that may be fearful of an uncertain future.
As a marketing leader, you need to be acutely aware that branding is achieved more through action and less through words.
Purpose Beyond Clout
An authentic purpose takes commitment that is in line with the actions. Letting purpose drive your branding means reappraising your core: the strategy you pursue, the agencies that you choose to work with, the marketing mix, and the type of campaigns itself.
Tone-deaf activism or activism without authentic actions can backfire. There is a fine line between purpose and “woke-washing”. Woke washing is a phenomenon that occurs when brands talk about purpose without actions.
The role of the marketing change agent is first to inspire creative thinking about the uniqueness of the brand that links to purpose – and then to encourage rigor in embedding it to brand actions.
Nike is a splendid example of a brand that dovetails its brand message “just do it,” with relevant causes. Two noteworthy Nike examples are Colin Kapernick’s “believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything,” campaign and the Black Lives matter-conscious “for once, don’t do it,” effort.
Nike has a defined purpose, which is to unite the world through sport to create a healthy planet, active communities, and an equal playing field for all. Their crisis response is an immediate subset of the defined purpose. During the early days of the pandemic, Nike was quick to reframe its capabilities to support frontline healthcare workers.
The sporting goods giant collaborated with health professionals in Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) to produce protective equipment with Nike-owned materials and manufacturing facilities.
Standing for everything means standing for nothing. Consumers don’t fall for insincere attempts to pull at heartstrings. They do, however, reward authenticity, strong leadership, and outspokenness.
Engaging Without an Engagement Target
Reframe the purpose of your company to give customers the brand experiences that they remember and enjoy; within the constraints of the crisis at hand causing panic. During the lockdown due to the pandemic, many people found solace in food. Remember dalgona coffee and sourdough bread?
Food has always connected and bonded people. Brands such as IKEA used food as a medium to engage with its audience. IKEA shared the recipe for its famous Swedish meatballs, which became a global sensation.
The ultimate goal of customer engagement is to build lasting relationships with them. It is also an excellent way to get to know them firsthand. A warm relationship leaves them open to future engagement and leaves you with a piece of intimate knowledge about your prospects.
Retain and Train to Empower
Employees default to short term critical tasks during times of crises. While necessary, this sole focus on the short term keeps your team in panic mode. Taking a purposeful pause and shifting the perspective to the long run is crucial to transitioning from panic to purpose.
While there have been inevitable layoffs, you need to think about how to train your remaining employees for the future. Brand managers need to identify which skills are lacking in the marketing department such that the lack thereof doesn’t become a future liability.
Employee engagement is key to driving change. Creating a culture of training and upskilling in the workplace helps empower employees. A 2019 CMO survey showed that companies currently spend less than 6% of their marketing budgets on training.
Fortify Relationships With An Integral Expanded Teams
As more companies are outsourcing to agencies that are their key extended teams, the task falls upon you, the leader, to continually make a conscious effort to create an environment that allows transparent communication.
FrontAd functions as an extended marcom team to customize marketing solutions for Fortune 500 brands that are looking to meaningfully engage with the South Asian audience and celebrate inclusivity. South Asians are among the most affluent demographic in the USA and a viable cohort for brands to market products and services to.
In working with FrontAd, brand managers can ensure higher reach for customized messaging will reach the South Asian diaspora. FrontAd will also bring transparency into a working relationship to remove chaos, and add clarity to your brand’s purpose.
FrontAd will also involve customers, employees, and the larger ecosystem of stakeholders to identify shared values as areas where your brand can make a difference.
This pandemic has widened the social divides on race, gender, and income levels. It is a hidden opportunity for brands to adopt a higher purpose to serve a more diverse audience.
The journey doesn’t end with diversity. The goal is to create an inclusive environment and eliminate biases. A comprehensive overhaul to reevaluate your entire strategy, from recruiting a diverse marketing team to designing inclusive campaigns should be integral to your plans for the future.
For example, there’s no point in releasing statements on diversity if a homogeneous team is planning a multicultural marketing campaign. Working with a specialist agency that functions as an extended team will give your brand access to specialized marketing leaders who can help tailor your messaging to build relationships with the South Asian community.
Make Purpose Profitable Again
A study by Accenture found that 63% of consumers prefer to purchase from purpose-driven brands. Contrary to the common belief, purpose is great for business. 93% of Fortune 500 CEOs believe their companies should be driven by purpose and not focus primarily on making profits.
Creatively inspired marketing leaders can turn fear and tragedy into ambition and fortune–while keeping an eye on brand purpose in the wake of any crisis. The ultimate goal of reviving ambition is to be the inner motivation that helps your company flourish. Leaders should focus on advancing new ways to make your brands more creative, diverse, and impactful for a better society.
Every panic inducing crisis such as the pandemic is a pivotal moment for brands to examine their sense of purpose. If done well, it can tie the purse strings of the shareholders and the heartstrings of the customers to build a lasting, positive legacy.