Don’t Confuse Brand Purpose with Cause Marketing

Don’t confuse brand purpose with cause marketing!

by Andrew Southwood
November 30, 2018

On the 24th of November, The Produce News online edition ran an article entitled Cause Marketing …doing well by doing good. The main idea behind this is that an increasing number of shoppers are wanting the brands they purchase to stand for something they care about. As the Havas Media 2017 Meaningful Brands Report points out, a staggering 74% of brands are considered irrelevant in the lives of most people. They simply do not care if they continue to exist or not!!

This search for brands with purpose or meaning is set to increase as Millennials continue to enter the workforce at the rate of 4 million new job seekers a year with disposable incomes set to rise to $1.2 trillion by 2020.  The Produce News article ‘How will Millennials’ impact produce sales?’ (Published April 2014) highlights key millennial values like transparency, authenticity, collaboration and being valued as individuals which is what they look for in the brands they purchase and value.

Millennials make up 25% of the US population, so those brands that ignore this trend will become irrelevant and the businesses supplying them will simply disappear over time.

So where does cause marketing fit into this new reality?

 Modern brands need to stand out and be relevant

For the latter part of the 20th century, strong brands were characterized by their brand personality or brand essence. This personality was communicated to the public through various forms of advertising and public relations initiatives to develop strong recognition and likeability but was in large part never linked to public causes. That was mostly done through corporate social responsibility programs where these existed.

With the arrival of the Fair-Trade movement and new business models such as TOM’s Shoes, shoppers have been exposed to the idea that a brand can provide more than functional and emotional benefits. By way of example, they have seen that the standard of living of banana farmers in poor countries can be raised and that those who cannot afford a pair of shoes in a developing country can be blessed by our shopping choices. Shoppers now realize that each buying decision has the power to make a positive difference in the world and that the brands they support need to be agents of positive change.

Today a brand identity and purpose can no longer be separate from what the rest of the company does to deliver that product or service. An integrated content management approach must be developed which looks at brand messaging and how aligning with the right cause can reinforce brand purpose at multiple levels.

Passing the ‘authenticity check’

Before a brand can align itself with a cause, there must be an ‘authenticity check’ between the company and cause. This simply means that how a company conducts its business across all functions and with its stakeholders must pass the scrutiny of investigation by the public and demonstrate that what the brand stands for, is indeed true and defensible.

A good example of such incongruence is in the coffee business. Say a coffee company espouses fair practices in its supply chain, but consumers find out that some farmers are using child labor, the fallout for both farmers and coffee chain will be immediate. There will be both financial and reputational consequences that can at best take years to rebuild.

At FreshXperts we have developed a comprehensive framework to identify such incongruencies and a scoring system which helps you understand how well placed your brand is to start looking for a cause that will enhance your brand purpose.

Pairing your brand with the right cause

Knowing your company and brand stand up well to public scrutiny, the question then becomes which cause(s) do you adopt and for how long?

This should not be a simple case of picking a cause because it is the flavor of the month but should be a well thought through plan that reinforces your brand purpose and identity.

Unfortunately, in the produce industry, there are very few brands that truly have a brand identity that means something to the end consumer. Too often farm labels are thought to be brands that resonate with consumers when this is in fact not the case.

This is not to say that a recognized and respected farm label at retail or omnichannel level cannot find a cause to get behind. It just means finding a different approach to lock-in product flow to the end consumer. A good example of this is where farmers or marketing entities get behind a campaign such as Produce for Kids. Your brand does not directly benefit from this association at the consumer level but does earn reputational value with produce buyers.

For those produce brands that do have consumer appeal, your brand identity and development goals in relation to the ‘authenticity check’ will guide which causes are the best fit and how to support them moving forward.

If you need assistance in this area, FreshXperts can help you position your brand in a meaningful way. Feel free to contact us at freshxperts.com

 

 

 

 

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Jennifer Lawson



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