The Marketing of Purposeful Brands

In this day and age of fierce competition your brand advantage may be the demonstration and marketing of being a purposeful brand. As students of product marketing, we are always taught that you should have a key beneficial differentiation in what is offered. While this continues to be true, differentiation may be difficult as more and more brands have parity. In any event consumers increasingly determine brand preference by assessment of what the brand stands for. We all want to feel good about the companies, products, and services we support. We like to know that the brands we purchase have a purpose in our community or the world and they are not solely driven by profit.

Let’s look at a few brands.

Target in The Community
Take Target for example. Target demonstrates corporate social responsibility by donating 5 percent of their profits to communities. That comes out to $4 million each week.

Dove Inspirations
There need not always be a monetary aspect of purposeful brands. As the next example, consider Dove and their Dove Inspiration program. Dove is committed to helping young women grow with a most positive self-image. Dove Inspiration is a program that focuses on confidence as the source of beauty. They are committed to building positive self-esteem and inspiring all women and girls to reach their 
full potential.

Citi Bikes
Brand purpose can be even more subtle. Here in New York City, Citi Bank has partnered with The City for a bike program that has literally changed many people’s lives. Bike kiosks are set up throughout the City and people can rent bikes for one-way trips. This is helping a number of commuters. And notice the bikes are “Citi Bikes,” not “City Bikes.” A very nice community investment.

The three examples above show that brand preference can be an element of care. Discount shopping is a tight market. Personal care is saturated. Finance companies often have very poor reputations. And these three brands decided to step beyond their core product marketing to deliver programs that can drive greater audience acceptance.

I would consider the programs and acts of brand purpose under the new leadership of marketing executives. After all, driving brand preference is the ultimate goal of marketing. Consider how you can deliver purposeful brand initiatives to help drive your brand preference.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve



Filed under behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, community, marketing, social marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve

8 responses to “The Marketing of Purposeful Brands

  1. I think “Corporate Responsibility” is a long-term commitment, not just a clever PR ploy to associate your brand with the feel good topic of the moment. Too many times marketing professionals treat these initiatives as marketing campaigns, which they’re not. They’re long-term multi-year commitments. The public is very savvy these days and can see right though a PR stunt. Let’s take the three above as an example

    Target is interesting because they empower the consumer through their RedCard program-, by allowing them to choose where donations are sent they help create stronger brand affiliation.

    What might have seemed like a clever PR Stunt 7 years ago by Dove: has turned into a sustained campaign that continues to generate brand lift to this day: In my view, Dove not only is committed to this campaign but they practice what they preach. Go-Ahead- Look for a Supermodel in a recent campaign. Too many times brands speak out of both sides of their mouth. Think about the celebrities (they’re brands too) that fly around in private jets but tell regular folks to use less toilet paper (that was Larry David’s ex-wife). Hypocrisy kills these campaigns, and Dove has successfully remained authentic.

    Finally, I’d like to address Citibike. They’re trying, but I was sitting in an outdoor cafe in Hell’s Kitchen last month and heard numerous folks mocking the Citi Bike stand next door. Not only is the Citi Bike program controversial, but the brand associated with it is as well. This seems be similar to the “Citi Field” or “Taxpayer Field” flack they received a few years ago. Maybe it will die down. They need some authenticity, not just throwing around a bunch of money to help improve their brand.

    • Derek – thanks for adding some good context.

    • blogsperiment

      Hi Derek,

      The thing with the Citi-bike effort is that it’s a utilitarian approach – people are using the bikes like crazy and even if there’s mocking around it, there’s a direct benefit to a lot of folk, which isn’t the case when our “fine” corporate personae brand a stadium with their name, and have people making an effort to care less about the venue’s name and more about why they’re there.

      Target’s is also utilitarian – the rewards are used more or less the way people want and people tend to vote with their pockets. This particular example is one that our government, at all levels, ought to watch closely and follow when it comes to taxing us: people would be delighted (well, I’m speaking for myself) if they had a say on how a portion of their taxes is spend. I for one would love to be able to allocate a portion of my hard-earned money to go straight to education instead of the military just because I say so. It would result in a country that would be far more representative of the people that inhabit it.

      As a consumer, I applaud these and other creative approaches towards brand endearment. On the flip-side, I’m sick and tired of seeing brands take up the latest fad and drive it down our throats (Susan Komen is getting to the point of eliciting the gag reflex, just to mention a notable example of what I mean).


  2. Jim Matorin

    Thoughtful post. I like the element of care and definitely agree with Derek’s comment re: LT Commitment, a movement. How about a differentiationg approach of Beyond Products which I first read about back in 2009: I have been preaching this to the B2B foodservice industry which have evolved into a commodity war.

  3. Tony Dowling

    I’ll pick up a point made by Derek, these endeavors really seem to ‘pay off’ when they are authentic.
    I think that’s why start ups and new companies have an edge over the establishment when it comes to being taken seriously.
    Everyone buys the trendy dotcom’s commitment to the environment, but when Apple try to point out their efforts they are open to ridicule
    I wonder when the shiny new veneer wears off and ‘new’ becomes ‘establishment’? If its not time, is it scale and success maybe?
    Great examples thanks Steve

  4. Reblogged this on Melanie Bennett and commented:
    One of the most encouraging trends in today’s social business marketplace is the demonstration

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