Let's face it. Marketing budgets are getting tighter, work doesn't look or feel like it used to, and we have changed so much that we need a new rule book to navigate our own lives.
Interestingly, these challenges are not as unique as they may feel. Other crises, such as the recession of 2008, 9/11, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, WWII, and the Great Depression, have followed similar emotional stages: denial, anxiety, adjustment, reevaluation, and the new normal. Like Covid-19, each of these crises catalyzed mass behavioral paradigm shifts--priorities changed, ethics were reassessed, and marginalized groups argued to be recognized and protected.
Ultimately, as dramatic as it sounds, the economic and emotional toll of the pandemic has changed us as human beings and consumers, possibly forever.
As we move into the new-normal stage, brands must acknowledge these psychographic changes and view their marketing plan with a new lens. They must prioritize the mindset that brings home dollar growth by resonating with new cultural and consumer norms. To do so, let's begin by demystifying the hot topic of brand purpose in the new normal.
Myth 1: Brand purpose activation is cause marketing.
By equating brand purpose with cause marketing, we severely limit the long-term potential of brand purpose. Years ago, Pantene sponsored a clean drinking water program in Africa. While it was a noble cause, it was not authentic with what Pantene was all about and the initiative didn't work.
For brands to get it right, don't just activate your customer's passion points but those where your brand can make a meaningful impact and which are more inherent to your category. Without authenticity, brand purpose may just fall flat or, worse, feel opportunistic.
Myth 2: Brand purpose is a luxury and we don't have the budget for it.
Most big-budget brands spend millions debating and solidifying their brand purpose. However, I've observed that smaller brands or startup tech brands hardly spend any time or money doing this exercise because they are unable to see the return on investment (ROI) here.
In reality, your brand purpose unifies your business initiatives, communications, and tactics. It provides a center of gravity for your brand story. Once drawn to it, your consumer advocates for your brand and becomes your marketing champion. Building on brand purpose isn't then a matter of budget but of short-term financial gains versus long-term profits through brand building.
Myth 3: Brand purpose is what you say, not what you do.
We've seen some of the greatest brands, like Nike, Apple, P&G, and Spotify, get backlash for talking the talk but failing to walk the walk in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Saying your brand or company believes in one thing but not supporting it with action may make you appear dissonant. The post-pandemic consumer expects everyone, including brands, to bring a receipt to the party, not just good intentions.
Myth 4: Brand purpose is the new MySpace -- it'll pass away.
Hate to break this to you, but your customer is well informed and is beginning to consume with intent. With the consistent rise of values-based consumerism and the infamous cancel culture, brands that are able to lead with purpose will be clear winners in the new normal.
Myth 5: The marketing team owns the brand purpose.
This may have been true in the past, but not anymore. Interestingly, brand purpose isn't the company mission statement that the executive leadership creates or a marketing plan that the marketing team owns. Brand purpose is the ethos of why your brand exists beyond profit, and all of us own that experience together. In fact, employees who are far removed from marketing might make the most active and authentic advocates for your brand purpose.
Hidden in these challenging times are the opportunities to build real, differentiated, and authentic brand equity. Brand purpose isn't just a costly add-on -- it can serve as a competitive advantage and help create compelling brand narratives that consumers are proud to be a part of and advocate for.