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Key trends when using brand purpose in marketing

Warc’s Effective Use of Brand Purpose Report 2019 confirms investing in purposeful partnerships pays off

Warc has released the Effective Use of Brand Purpose Report 2019, outlining successful key trends when using brand purpose in marketing strategies.

The findings included in the report are drawn from the jury discussions and an analysis of the metadata of the shortlisted and winning entries of the Effective Use of Brand Purpose category of the WARC Awards 2019 - a global search for next-generation marketing effectiveness.

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The report identifies common themes from marketing initiatives that have successfully embraced a brand purpose and achieved commercial success as well as a benefit for a wider community.

The report has been guest-edited by jury chair, Fernando Machado, Global CMO, Burger King, and includes contributions from jury member Jane Asscher, CEO and Founding Partner of 23red and Warc's Lucy Aitken, Managing Editor, Case Studies.

Warc's Effective Use of Brand Purpose Report identifies three key themes:

1. Brands are putting purpose at the centre of their growth strategy

Purpose can be a vital growth-driver, according to research by the Harvard Business Review, and is now regarded as being as important as creating new markets and serving stakeholder needs. This is key for brands particularly when they target the first generation of consumers that are making purchasing decisions based on how brands behave towards their customers, employees, supply chain and communities.

Yet a challenge faced by many brands is being distinctive at a time when more businesses are adopting a more purposeful strategy.

Machado commented, "A purpose needs to link back to the company's mission and to demonstrate results. This is critical because marketers need to see how purpose has shaped brand attributes over time through sales and objectives, as well as through behaviour change. But the biggest challenge of all is to come from the heart."

2. Investing in purposeful partnerships pays off

More than three quarters (76%) of companies agree that partnerships are key to delivering their revenue goals, according to Forrester, and such partnerships are crucial in empowering brands to communicate in new ways. Many such partnerships are endowing brands with the credibility to talk about social and environmental issues, and this was a clear trend among this year's winners.

Absolut partnered Slovak musicians and Spotify to promote diversity in Slovakia, while Manpower in Norway partnered with influencers to help millennials transfer their gaming skills into the workplace. One fifth of this year's shortlisted papers cited partnerships as a creative strategy, indicating that partnerships can help to shape a new style of purpose-led advertising.

23red’s Asscher said, "Purpose is a vital growth-driver and critical to connecting with people who demand that brands behave more ethically."

3. Eschewing gender stereotypes typifies a modern brand

Some brands are beginning to reset how they portray gender, tapping into the zeitgeist around gender fluidity and LGBTQ+. At the same time, there continues to be a high number of campaigns that promote female emancipation. This is a continuation of an ongoing trend which first manifested as brand feminism with Always' Like a Girl campaign and is now becoming more grassroots.

Indian feminine hygiene brand Stayfree upskilled female sex workers, leaning into the insight that their periods represented time off for them. Recent work for Barbie, Gillette, Renault and personal-care brand Billie shows brands attempting to debunk gender stereotypes by addressing issues around gender and sexuality.

Aitken said, "Rethinking gender has become a priority for certain brands that are starting to be more inclusive in their approach."

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