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In-depth: Is your purpose-driven advertising meeting business objectives? spoke to a few industry bigwigs to discuss whether or not caused-based advertising affects brand sales and helps attain business objectives

Purpose-driven advertising has become a popular concept to the extent that almost every brand wants to associate itself with a cause. And thus, such advertising leads it to be also called cause-vertising.

But is purpose-driven advertising simply a tactic used by brands to lure consumers, or does it really affect brand sales and business objectives? Some feel purpose-driven advertising does help in generating sales and propels business while some are under the impression that it doesn’t do much in furthering a brand’s business.

The fact is that consumers need to witness continuity in a brand’s efforts towards dealing with different social, political and economic issues, from time to time. A one-off campaign or a one-time effort might not be as effective in connecting with the consumer.

An Accenture report reiterates that almost two-thirds (63%) of surveyed global consumers prefer to purchase products and services from companies that stand for a purpose that reflects their own values and beliefs, and will avoid companies that don't. spoke to a few industry stalwarts to figure out whether or not purpose-driven advertising makes a dent in business objectives.

A lot of marketing gurus agree that the brands that are purpose-driven tend to outperform the brands that are not.

Kedar Apte

“Having said that, there is a stage in the life of a brand where you have established yourself; you again have to see what it is doing for the brand. In this category, if the brand has built an emotional affinity and is on top of the mind of the consumers, it does result in purchases. As for brands, it is not only changing society for the good, but it is not just selling the brand,” pointed out Kedar Apte, Vice-President, Marketing at Castrol, India and South Asia.

Barry Wacksman

But Barry Wacksman, Vice-Chairman and Global Chief Strategy Officer, R/GA, seems to have his share of doubts. Asked if he thinks purpose-led marketing yields results, Wacksman said, “I wonder if it’s really driving business results for the clients. A few years ago, Pepsi did an ad with Kendall Jenner, which was supposed to be purpose-driven, but it turned out to be a total disaster. Pepsi wasn’t expected to be in such territory and use a celebrity like that as she wasn’t the right character for that. So, it’s important to have a strategy around and do purpose marketing in the right way. But my question remains if purpose-driven marketing can drive business.”

Talking about the execution of purpose-driven campaigns, Apte said, “Every campaign has to believe in three things: Attention, branding and communication. If it only does the third one, that is communicating the message of encouraging people to vote, but if it is not well-branded then the consumers may not even remember the name of the brand and that’s not going to be effective.”

How and why is purpose-driven advertising linked to business objectives

Pallavi Singh

Pallavi Singh, Head, Marketing, MG Motor India, is affirmative of the fact that today, purpose-driven advertising is definitely linked to business objectives. “It helps a brand to bond and connect with its target group; which could be driven by common values, shared interests or shared cultural context. Consumers gravitate towards brands that they trust and find authentic,” emphasised Singh.

Mansoor Ali

Seconding Singh, Mansoor Ali, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, Hamdard India, said, “Yes, the generation of today has moved beyond the glitz of brand ambassadors and high spends. They are moved more by insight based and purposive communication — something that touches their core values.”

Our attention spans are short, the content clutter today is bigger than ever; every other day our lives are impacted by socio-politic-economic changes in the landscape but purpose still remains at the core of what drives people.

“Today, companies don’t only define their ‘why’, their ‘purpose’, but also share it with their audience for them to be able to resonate with the company as a wholesome organisation. Of course, there are no better ambassadors for a brand than customers that believe in a brand’s purpose. Hence, a brand must know the ‘why’ of their existence and how that purpose can resonate with their TG. This purpose should also drive everything that the brand does,” clarified Singh.

There is a phenomenon of homecoming and ‘back to roots’ that is being seen in the choices the millennials make, the content they consume, and the conversations they are having. Hence they tend to have affinity to brands that follow this line of communication.

“Marketers that understand this are often able to link business objectives by aligning brand communication with these insights. With all the noise and clutter in the market, product differentiation has become very difficult. If a brand is able to touch on the chord of the millennials’ values and purpose, it serves a much longer affinity and relatability, as they look at what you do, rather than what you sell,” said Ali.

How does purpose-driven advertising affect brand sales?

Singh is quick to say that before sales, we need to talk about brand salience. “Today, brands are not looking for one-off purchases, but entering a customer’s life cycle and creating an emotional relationship with the customer. Salience comes before sales. Purpose-driven marketing is more than a one-off ad hence, it is not about one purchase,” she defined.

She continued by citing a few examples. Forest Essentials has been focused on its commitment to sustainability and organic products for health for years and as she relates with the narrative, she finds herself a regular. Also, Blue Tokai is a new brand but it takes the messaging of sourcing from farms directly, involving the farms as well as customers — it is a new narrative in India and well-received because coffee lovers like her relate with the same.

Ali mentioned that as an organisation with brands like Rooh Afza and Safi, the task was clear: to create relevance among the millennials and acquire new consumers. “The choice was between high-decibel celebrity-based advertising versus purposive, thought inducing communication. After much research to identify insights and conversations among the youth, the Ghulke Jiyo campaign for Roohafza and ‘I hate you mom” campaign for Safi were done,” he told.

“Although disruptive, the campaigns created the recall and conversations on social media that we expected. Volumes saw big spikes and shares went up above expectations. It was proved that companies and brands that stand for something greater than just what they sell typically, achieve a much better commercial success because they mean much more to their customers,” he added.

Why would a brand want to do purpose-driven advertising or cause-vertising?

Singh said that at MG India, their key pillars are Innovation, Diversity, Community and Experiences. “Our brand purpose is to ‘enable exciting experiences every time’. For MG India, these pillars and purpose are the key and the core of every campaign. As a new brand in India, we want to remain authentic, assure of our long-term commitments and use digital to create a narrative that is wholesome and not just sales driven,” she said.

MG India’s campaign #MGChangemakers with The Better India focussed on diversity and community and brought together six exemplary women who have not only made a difference to their own lives, but also their communities and paved a way for others to follow.

“We got an exceptional response for the campaign because those stories revolved around real people and they were real stories. For the MG Hector launch, we curated #MGDriveIn, a first-of-its-kind technology launch that focussed not only on the tech-inside-the-car but also brought the ecosystem of our partners together to create an authentic tech-led experience that went beyond the product,” explained Singh.

At its core, Hamdard is a heritage organisation. The company’s philosophy is to make quality healthcare affordable to the common people. All the company’s products are manufactured based on the Unani system, which is through pure herbal ingredients. “Authenticity is the foundation on which brand purpose is built, and consumers in India and globally connect with Hamdard as a brand that evokes trust and belief. We are a trust, and donate a substantial chunk of our profits toward charity to medical and academic institutions. Hence, doing purposive advertising seamlessly aligns with our larger purpose as an organisation,” said Ali.

If brand purpose is seen as a marketing ploy, it will fail. “For us, doing purposive communication for our brands is an extension of our core values and philosophy,” said Ali.

What is the strategy behind using purpose-driven advertising for a brand?

Auto as a space is looked at as a very transactional space. Most brands think their journey with the consumer ends when the car is sold. “However, we at MG India believe that is just the starting point. For us, purpose drives not only MG as a company but people behind and in the company as well. We are not treating the industry as just as a rationale space but also an emotional space,” said Singh.

“Our journey with customers doesn’t end after selling the car but we would like them to resonate with the brand beyond the product. However, we are also very careful of treating cause-advertising as just mere marketing statements because customers are smart and they will see through the brand if it is not authentic,” she observed.

Various media insights say millennials do not blindly trust an advertisement. So be true to what you stand for. “They look for brands that have a purpose and which add meaning to their life. Therefore, the existence of a brand purpose needs to expand the brand role from a psychological need to behavioural occasions too. Brands need to adapt and fine-tune their purpose as per consumer needs,” said Ali.

Hamdard is a compound word derived from Persian, which combines the words hum (used in the sense of companion) and dard (meaning pain). Hamdard, thus, means a companion in pain and sympathiser in suffering. “Keeping this in mind, we believe in the fact that love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries and without them, humanity cannot survive with an undying focus on selfless care. All our advertising and communications are based on the premise of human values,” said Ali.

What percentage of increase do brands witness in their brand sales after incorporating cause-vertising as part of their brand strategy?

Without quoting any numbers, Ali of Hamdard said in all categories where they have done purposive and insight-based advertising, they have seen sharp increments in volume, offtake and, hence, market share.

MG Motor hasn’t started its sales in India yet but it has seen interest for MG India and MG Hector, driven via campaigns around their pillars. “We are getting a lot of interest in our experience cloud, which is based on the Adobe platform. For us, cause-vertising is also driven by experiences which we have been able to drive home to consumers via our different campaigns in the last two years,” concluded Singh.

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