I've written before about how purpose can drive business, how you should create impact not advertising. This shift in how we allocate branding resources can yield deeper brand loyalty while simultaneously actually contributing more to the communities where you do business.
That's the easy part. How your brand, big or small, actually does that is the critical part. There is a negative transfer when it comes to using CSR as the main tool for brand building. Some large organizations have long-established charitable processes and relationships. It is difficult for them to move that giant yacht and change course quickly.
As a startup or small-to-medium-sized business, that gives you a strategic advantage.
1. Use your existing tech.
The easiest way to integrate something in to your brand is through existing technology. It's the main touchpoint your customers use so it won't feel disingenuous.
As a consumer, a public ask at point of sale of whether or not you want to donate creates discomfort.
But a private ask-with a little bit of context can go a long way. Lyft partners with Black Girls CODE to create STEM education programs for African-Amercian girls, with the goal of training a million by 2040.
The partnership is through Round Up & Donate, a platform that enables passengers to round up their fare to the nearest dollar and send that money to a charity of their choice within the app. From August 7th, Black Women's Equal Pay Day, through the end of that month, Lyft matched all rides Rounded Up in support of Black Girls Code.
Giving people a choice is a key but crucial variable. But also creating deep partnerships are important. Purpose-driven marketing doesn't work if it's just a one-off or isn't deeply integrated in to the brand. Lyft is a tech company with a purpose and that purpose is to create more diversity and inclusion in tech. That's a connection that consumers can make. And in a business where it's easy to use them or their competitors, they know that making deep and real connections with community can make the difference in who consumers choose.
2. Be specific.
You can't be vague anymore. Fifty years ago people donated to United Way because they knew best how to allocate your money and take it farther. Now people look to brands to create direct one-to-one connections with causes. And the more you can own that platform and drive it, the better.
And as a brand you don't have to create the infrastructure. It is easy to find. But pick something, vet it and build it in to your brand promise.
The NFL makes a big push in November to honor veterans through Salute to Service. And that's great. But as a startup you can get more specific, build your brand around creating jobs for veterans and support or create specific programs that create a set amount of jobs people can track and see. Or you can get even more specific and tackle underemployment among veterans.
The Bob Woodruff Foundation would be a great partner for that. "Although veteran unemployment is no longer a national crisis, the needs of our transitioning service members and their families are persistent and evolving, including issues of underemployment and challenges for military spouses who move often, creating resume gaps," said Anne Marie Dougherty, Executive Director of the Bob Woodruff Foundation.
Education for Employment, if you're working in the Middle East, is a great resource. With 70 million youth in the Middle East and North Africa unemployed, they work to train and connect young people to highly skilled jobs. The purpose is to transform the region by first tackling job growth and creation.
"Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the engines of job creation in the region, representing 80 percent - 90 percent of all businesses in the formal sector, but entrepreneurs running SMEs cite lack of talent as a top constraint to growth. Further, many young women and men in the region are looking for jobs in the wrong places," said Jasmine Nahhas di Florio, Senior Vice President, Strategy and Partnerships at Education for Employment.
3. Be consistent.
Luke Marklin, CEO of the moving service Bellhops, learned that one of his employees, Walter Carr, walked twenty miles to a job site after his car broke down. It was his first day of work and he didn't want to miss it. Marklin gave him his car, to keep. They're a transportation company. It made both common sense and business sense.
You don't have to or need to move from one purpose to another, even if it may be tempting. By focusing and being consistent with your cause you can do what Tom's Shoes did or many others have done since. Your purpose should be just as easy to identify as your product or service.
I can tell you way more about what Tom's Shoes does to give back shoes than I can tell you about their actual shoes. And that's the exact point. All companies are shifting toward being solutions-based companies. And your purpose can be that solution.