Why Purpose-Driven Marketing Will Power Modern Customer Engagement

Why Purpose-Driven Marketing Will Power Modern Customer Engagement

It is the era of the purpose-driven, socially conscious consumer. IPSOS’ Global Trends 2021 Research found that almost a third of consumers across Singapore (85%), the Philippines (85%), Indonesia (64%) and Thailand (77%) believe that brands have a responsibility to speak out on social and political issues affecting nations. The modern customer is driven by purpose and social consciousness as much as price points and product (or service) quality and experience. The pandemic accelerated what was in the making for quite some time - the rise of purpose-driven marketing and branding practices.

From Grab’s Support Local Heroes campaign that aimed to uplift the small business community across Southeast Asia during national lockdowns to Australian Metro Trains’ Dumb Ways to Die campaign reducing near-miss train accidents by 30% (in less than a year), there are numerous instances when big organizations have engaged audiences while driving home an important cause.

Purpose-driven or purpose-led marketing is a strategy where an organization cements its communication (internal and external) around a cause or a purpose that aligns with the business vision and resonates with its audience. While used interchangeably with cause marketing, what differentiates both is the duration. Cause marketing is short-term and more campaign-driven, while purpose-driven marketing is underpinned by a long-term purpose that best reflects the business (outside the scope of profits) and is relatable to the target demographic.

The cause driving the need for purpose-led marketing 

Millennials and Gen Z are the prime economic drivers and the most significant target demographic for businesses across the globe. This key demographic focuses on how an organization adds value functionally, as well as its social and emotional impact. In fact, McCann Worldgroup‘s ‘Truth About Generation Z’ study found that 69% of Gen Zs globally agreed to pay more for a product that supported an issue they care about, and Asian markets significantly exceed this figure, with Korea (80%), Indonesia (84%) and China (87%) ranking the highest. 

Jeff Fromm, author of books like ‘Marketing to Millennials’ and ‘Marketing to Gen Z’, mentions in his book 'The Purpose Advantage’, that for a brand to become genuinely purpose-driven it needs to ace societal, functional, and emotional benefits. 

Apart from nailing the customer experience (functional benefits), giving back to the community (societal benefits) helps brands stand out from the competition and build credibility, trust, and loyalty (emotional benefits) among customers. To do so, brands need to identify the purpose that aligns with customer expectations and core business values. The purpose would vary based on industry and the type of business. For example, a finance brand’s purpose could be the financial inclusion of an unbanked demographic, while for a retail brand, it could be relooking packaging wastage and adopting environmentally friendly packaging.

Identifying a purpose and tackling it 

How can brands identify a purpose? One way is to discover a purpose that both the brand and the customer care about. Developing a deeper level of customer understanding is vital not only for the bottom line but also in identifying a mutual cause. By analyzing the customer data, brands can draw insights and identify issues or causes they really care about. After running a check, if these causes are in alignment with core values, brands can start weaving that into their purpose-driven marketing framework.

Asia is known for its diversity, and brands can leverage this by focusing on inclusion and the addition of underserved audience segments. Adding previously underserved and unserved segments into the fold, will not only bring in more customers but also highlight a brand’s drive to inclusion. Amar Bank, one of the most well-known fintech-powered banks in Indonesia leveraged a purpose-led marketing approach and brought ease of banking and payment to the unserved and underserved. Simultaneously, the bank provided customers with functional benefits by helping them compartmentalize finances into buckets like Education, Emergency, Medical, Savings, something they’re used to. By resolving the customer pain points and providing better financial outcomes, Amar Bank has successfully built a strong, emotional relationship with its customers. 

Another brand nailing purpose-led marketing is CIMB Bank. The leading bank in the Philippines‘ realized the need for raising awareness and creating education programs to help the newly onboarded underserved and unserved segments. This is something all brands can emulate, regardless of industry and geography. They ran user education campaigns communicating basic fundamentals like savings, taking a loan, etc. to their target audience. They not only build trust among users but also provided emotional, social, and functional benefits, the building blocks for any effective purpose-led marketing.

Brands should also look at establishing transparency and clearly communicating purpose-driven efforts such as how DBS Bank has with its programme to nurture social enterprises across Asia, or Samsung with its Solve for Tomorrow programme that inspires social entrepreneurship. Being transparent about purpose-driven efforts can go a long way in building stronger relationships with customers.

If these brands and their purpose-led marketing initiatives are any indications, it is the only way forward to meaningfully engage modem customers who are socially conscious and prioritize emotional and societal benefits as highly as functional.

By Ashwin S, Vice President, Marketing, MoEngage