One swallow doesn’t make a marketing strategy

This article is the first in the series about Gen Z and how to harness the power of brand purpose for this new generation. Discover more insights and read the whole content series here.

Like migratory swallows, trends in marketing come and go. We’ve had QR codes and Periscope. We’ve got big data, live streaming, automation, wearables, influencers, AI, AR… blah blah blah.

The thing is, none of it matters unless you’ve got something meaningful to say. Marketing today needs to be authentic. The first thing to do is to sit your brand down and have a long, frank discussion to find out what it believes, what it stands for and what it wants to be known for.

Then you need to tell that story. But beware. There’s lots of wrong ways to spin that yarn. Here’s one fictional example.

A peddler of flaky pastries might donate some of the profits from a certain delicious item to a charity. That’s cause marketing. And most people, especially Gen Z see right through it. First, the brand hasn’t changed anything about its business, it’s simply piggybacking on another organisation’s good will. It’s as transparent as a chameleon stood next to a window.

Cause marketing doesn’t cut it. Purpose does

Just like blueberry pie and a Phillips screwdriver are completely different, so are cause and purpose. And understanding the difference is key if you wish to build an authentic marketing strategy around your brand’s values.

Cause marketing is supporting something or being against something. Purpose is standing for a belief and acting on it.

Single-use plastic vs the world cup

Let’s assume most brands are against single-use plastics (it’s 2019). Brands that are against it might support charities or sponsor clean up events. But brands that stand for a cause actively tackle the problem.

Take KeepCup, an Australian brand of reusable coffee cups. In 1998 Jamie and Abigail Forsyth set up a café business in Melbourne. They quickly became concerned about the volume of disposable cups being used. They looked for barista-standard reusable cups. There weren’t any. So they made one.

Now KeepCups are used in over 65 countries across the world. They divert millions of non-recyclable cups from landfill every day. KeepCup aren’t simply against waste, they are for changing behaviours and creating positive habits. That’s purpose in action.

The land of cruelty-free milk and money

If brands are changing what they are saying to audiences, then logic suggests they need to change how they deliver the message as well.

Brands with purpose look beyond the traditional means of reaching an audience such as TV, radio, print and outdoor. They use their values as a divining rod to reach likeminded audiences in authentic ways.

Enter Oatly, the Swedish sweethearts of the anti-dairy movement. Oatly ran its first UK ad campaign at the tail end of 2018. Yet the brand was already well-known by vegans and environmentalists thanks to Oatly’s understanding of its target audience and where they hang out – both online and offline.

The brand is a regular feature at events like music and food festivals, its recognisable stand, irreverent tone of voice and free samples always drawing a crowd. Interestingly, Oatly use more traditional forms of advertising to cause a stir on social. Their billboards and outdoor ads are self-aware, the goal is to get people to take pictures and share them online – which they do.

Social seems to be the lynchpin in many purposeful brands’ marketing strategy. Yet, very recently, Lush announced they’re retiring all their UK-based social media accounts as “social media is making it harder and harder for us to talk to each other directly. We are tired of fighting algorithms.”

This has divided opinion. One camp thinks Lush’s social strategy was too thinly spread across multiple accounts and the brand needs to better understand its audience. On the other side of the river, the move has been applauded.

Interacting with people on Lush’s website and phoneline, while increasing emphasis on influencer marketing, will allow the brand to have more authentic, personalised conversations with individuals. Well, that’s the plan. Only time will tell if the decision is the right one.

Find out who you are and do it with purpose

That bastardised Dolly Parton quote is a good blueprint for figuring out your brand’s purpose, and hopefully I’ve done enough to convince you of the impact it can have on your marketing. Especially if you’re looking to reach Gen Z. It’s even better news if you already know your brand’s purpose.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself and your team to see if purpose can play a part in your marketing

  1. What issue does your brand want to address?
  2. How will you go about having a positive impact on it?
  3. How and where can you talk to your audience about your purpose and how can you demonstrate it?

We can only guess what tomorrow’s marketing trends will look like. But I’m confident that as Gen Z get older and demand more openness, honesty and integrity from brands, purpose will continue to rule the roost while trends come and go with the seasons.

Ready to have a conversation about brand purpose? Get in touch here.