Are marketers conveying their purpose effectively?

The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) recently released new data showing that marketers around the world believe that purpose needs to be part of a successful brand building strategy.

The results were from the WFA Global Brand Purpose Survey 2014 which is based on the responses of 828 brand marketers from 33 countries. The study highlights the differences in what purpose means to marketers and what it means to consumers.

Nearly nine out of 10 marketers who took part in the survey agreed that purpose will be increasingly important to building brands and 87% agreed that it was important for brands to have a sense of purpose. 74% also believed that having a sense of purpose is critical to hiring the best talent.

However, marketers seemed to agree that this purpose is lost in communication with customers. While 71% said their brands had a sense of purpose, only 63% said that they are successful in communicating it.

Compared to the results found in 2013, the research also shows a shift in marketers’ definition of purpose. In 2014, marketers mainly define purpose as creating programmes that positively impact communities and having ethical business practices. Protecting the environment and helping to address global issues were less popular definitions this year. This suggests that marketers are becoming less globally ambitious and more internal, local and CRM-focused in their articulation of purpose.

This may also reflect the consumer view as expressed in the latest iteration of Edelman’s Good Purpose Research of 8,000 consumers in 16 countries. Rating highest among consumer definitions of purpose was listening to customer needs and responding to feedback, rather than simply having high quality products and services. The only overlap in terms of the top three criteria identified by marketers and consumers was in terms of ethical business practices, or as consumers put it, ‘treating employees well’.

In terms of where this purpose is derived, marketers believe that purpose needs to come from the top. The CEO should design and shape the purpose of the campy. However, majority of respondents agreed that purpose needs to pervade the entire organization and have buy-in from all business functions. Marketers also agreed that people outside the organization, including customers, the supply chain, NGO’s and governments contribute to the purpose of the business as well.

Procter & Gamble and competitor Unilever were tied in the poles for purpose leaders. Google and Apple were next in line. Broken down by region, Apple was perceived to be the purpose leader in North America, Coca-Cola in Latin America, Unilever in Europe, Danone in Africa and the Middle East and Nestlé in Asia Pacific.

Stephan Loerke, WFA managing director, said “This is unprecedentedly detailed research which throws up fascinating results. It clearly tells us that there is an emerging realization that marketers need to put purpose into their marketing, and increasingly so in order to be successful."

"Secondly, it becomes clear that purpose isn’t necessarily about saving the planet. It doesn’t have to be worthy per se; it can be about taking small and meaningful actions. Finally, there is a strong sense that it needs be top down but requires the buy-in from everyone," said Loerke.