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The Emergence, and the Future, of Purpose Marketing

The Emergence, and the Future, of Purpose Marketing on Marketing Horizons

Purpose is an important new way for brands to differentiate themselves in a competitive market. Our guest Diane Primo, CEO of the agency PurposeBrand, explained that a brand’s purpose must be authentic, and be established with the buy-in of all stakeholders. Only then can it be successfully presented externally for marketing benefit. Join us for a lively discussion about why consumers' growing interest in a brand’s purpose matters, and how to quantify the impact of purpose on your investment. Hint: Take the long view.



Cyndi Greenglass: Why do you think purpose needs to be top of mind for marketers today?

Diane Primo: Because it's top of mind for the public and our consumers. We’ve done our own research, spanning across generation, race, gender, politics and what we’ve learned is that they care deeply about things that are purpose related like social justice, the environment. It is really at the center of culture. They don’t care as much about professional sports, fashion, and so on if it’s not at the center of culture. We are all doing cool stuff and what we’re seeing is these things are crossing over into the authentic cool, the cool we can be proud of.

Ruth Stevens: So how can a brand use that equity?

Diane Primo: Purpose is something you must own and be responsible for, it can be a high-risk proposition. If you are not fully purpose lead, the first advice I want to give a marketer is this needs to be authentic and real. There are two areas you can look at, one is if the company is really purpose lead, has it done a lot of work to come up with their purposes, but also, do they operationalize their purpose. Look at companies like Nike, Microsoft, Patagonia, Kroger, these companies have really built their business on the back of purpose. It’s their superpower. The key to purpose is led by the company.

Ruth Stevens: How do you persuade a client or a company to be purpose lead and invest into this effort? How will they know it will pay off?

Diane Primo: There’s two things you should track that relates to measurement and one is financial and the other is non-financial. You cannot pursue purpose without financing it. Consumers are savvy, they get you’re in the business to make money, but they want to see that money also go toward the betterment of society. The second area is non-financial, which lead to long-term success of a company. It’s not a quarter game, this is the long-term game. Each industry’s KPIs will differ, but they will need KPIs within each pillar of their purpose. One thing to know though, in this new world, if you don’t do the right things, customers will complain and boycott you.

Cyndi Greenglass: If you have a very diverse brand that appeals to many audiences, how do you internally and externally reach their interests?

Diane Primo: You must stay aligned with your purpose. The brand’s points of difference are about occupying a position in your consumers brain and heart. You’re trying to achieve dominance. There’s an analytics and emotional depth to dominance. You are always going to have people who don’t drink the Kool Aid, right, they don’t buy into that point of difference. A purpose is a fact. You want to stay true to that and align with that.

Cyndi Greenglass: As we're looking over the horizon, what does this mean for marketers and businesses? How could this change in the next five years?

Diane Primo: I think it’s going to become more metric driven. People are starting to understand how to measure it and see its impact on investing. Looking at purpose from a principal standpoint, we’ve been really focused on this and consumers will become more savvy about it. With being more authentic, customers will be judges of our authenticity. You must make sure all the dots are connected, and it also need to be an internal check to say are we living this before we let the word out. Additionally, people are becoming more vocal you must communicate the right things and understand how to communicate to the right people. Communicate in a way that brings people together and doesn’t separate them. Align what they hear with what they want to talk about.

Key Takeaways/Three Little Piggies

  • Buyers today care more about a brand’s association with an authentic purpose than they do about connections with sports figures, fashion, video games and even technology.
  • Brands must select a purpose that all stakeholders can embrace, and truly operationalize it internally, so the purpose comes across as “authentically cool” externally.
  • Investments in purpose can be measured similarly to those in ESG and DEI, but management needs to take the long view. One easy-to-recognize value of purpose-driven marketing is avoiding the risk of business disruption.

Marketing Communications Today presents Horizons, it’s forward-thinking, looking ahead, through the front windshield and beyond, into the marketing future. Join Cyndi and Ruth bi-weekly for new ideas, technologies, tools and strategies that are emerging to help marketers navigate over the marketing horizon.

Meet our guest

Diane Primo

Diane Primo is the CEO of Purpose Brand Agency, an award-winning, Chicago-based public relations, branding and digital marketing firm. She is the only African American female CEO of a purpose-driven communications agency. Diane’s focus on impact marketing stems from the belief that brands must be relevant, purpose-driven and committed to consumers to be successful today. Consumers’ demand for meaning, transparency and authenticity has changed the nature and raised the stakes in all communications.

As founder of Purpose Brand, Diane builds on a groundbreaking 30-year career leading some of the top marketing organizations in the country. She served as general manager at Quaker Oats, president of product management at Ameritech and SBC (currently AT&T), chief marketing officer of CDW and CEO of a Kleiner Perkins-backed e-commerce startup in the home services sector. A communications innovator, Diane was recognized as such with Ragan Communications’ 2020 Top Women in Communications Trailblazer Award. She holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, a BA from Smith College, and is the author of the forthcoming book ADAPT: Scaling Purpose in a Divisive World.

Meet the hosts

Cyndi Greenglass

Cyndi W. Greenglass is a founding partner and president at Livingston Strategies, a data-informed, strategic consulting firm that helps clients develop, execute, and measure their customer communications with a close focus on results. Cyndi has razor-sharp strategic skills matched by impeccable on-the-ground savvy and tactical abilities. She is an Adjunct Instructor in the Data Marketing Communications online master's degree program from West Virginia University.

Greenglass has twice been named into the Top 100 Influential BTB Marketers by Crain’s BtoB Magazine and was the 2012 CADM Chicago Direct Marketer of the Year. She is a member of the Board of Advisors for BRAND United and has taught, trained and presented at over 50 conferences throughout the world.

Ruth Stevens

Ruth P. Stevens consults on customer acquisition and retention, for business-to-business clients. Ruth serves on the boards of directors of the HIMMS Media Group, and the Business Information Industry Association. She is a trustee of Princeton-In-Asia, past chair of the Business-to-Business Council of the DMA, and past president of the Direct Marketing Club of New York.

Ruth was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing by Crain’s BtoB magazine, and one of 20 Women to Watch by the Sales Lead Management Association. She serves as a mentor to fledgling companies at the ERA business accelerator in New York City.


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