“Sustainability,” “socially conscious,” and “mission-driven” are phrases that get thrown around a lot these days. Customers expect more than ever from brands right now, but brand trust may be at an all-time low. In fact, a global study recently released by Edelman revealed that 81% of consumers consider brand trust in their purchasing decisions. Yet, 53% of consumers said they don’t trust that brands are as committed to making an impact as they claim.
The good news is that a growing number of leaders are stepping up and coming together to develop purpose-driven practices that scale impact for a sustainable future, including gender equality. Plus, let’s not forget women are uniquely positioned to land top jobs in a world where creativity, intuition, and empathy are more valuable than ever.
In The FQ Lounge @ Cannes Lions, world-class CMOs across the technology, finance, and entertainment industries gathered to share valuable insights on the link between brand purpose and performance. Read on to find out why it’s possible to do good and do well at the same time.
Look to Your Company’s Origins To Drive Future Success
Your company has to be able to demonstrate a clear sense of purpose. Though it may seem counterintuitive, looking back at the past to reflect on why your company was originally founded is the key to securing your company’s success in the future. Alicia Tillman, Chief Marketing Officer at SAP, calls it a “napkin story,” meaning, “Any company that was ever founded, more often than not, started with a napkin. Someone scribbled down their dream about what they could do differently to change or improve the world.”
Your napkin story will give you a comprehensive perspective that is needed to align your business objectives with broader social and environmental challenges. We know that C-suite leaders are more successful when their approach to business combines “feminine” and masculine” traits. If your company is responsible, it will focus on retaining female talent in leadership as a strategy for ensuring long-term growth and advancing gender equality. So, regardless of whether or not your business model has evolved, Alicia insists that “You have that napkin story—you just need to find it.”
Purpose is Profitable
Without a purpose beyond making money, it can be challenging for companies to connect with consumers and, therefore, thrive in the future. If you can capture your founder’s authenticity to prove that your company is benefitting society, your company will reap the rewards. Just look at how brands recognized for their strong commitment to purpose have grown twice the rate of others over the last 12 years.
Why might customers want to hold companies accountable for solving global problems? “We’re seeing the government recede from the global stage,” says Frank Cooper, Global Chief Marketing Officer at BlackRock. “What’s left in the void? International corporations, that are bigger than countries in many cases. It’s now the obligation of those companies to step into that void and serve people.”
Taking a Stand Increases Employee Satisfaction
Research shows that, when companies take a stand on issues that matter to employees, like closing the gender pay gap, the bottom line improves. According to Meredith Verdone, Chief Marketing Officer at Bank of America, remaining consistent is just as important as finding your napkin story. “Part of responsible growth is to be client-centric rather than product-centric,” says Meredith. “The sole purpose of our company is to make financial lives better. If you veer too far from your original purpose as a company, it will lead you to make different decisions.”
It’s simple. Employees across every job function, in each region of the world, and at all levels and ages, want to work for a company where they feel like they are contributing to a higher purpose. Embedding purpose into your brand boosts employee loyalty and engagement, which improves customer service. “It all starts with your employees,” as Meredith says. “You have to make the lives of your employees better first and foremost because they’re the ones who are serving your clients.”
Making an Impact Matters to Millennials
Most of us would agree that the original purpose of business is to deliver products and services that we all need as individuals. “But then enter the connected world,” says Alicia Hatch, Chief Marketing Officer at Deloitte Digital. “In the connected world, it’s not just what ‘I’ need— it’s what ‘we’ need and what ‘we’ demand from the companies ‘we’ purchase.” With the rise of social media, everyone can have a voice. And when it comes to millennials, they’re using social media platforms to amplify that voice, share information, and support purpose-driven companies. As a matter of fact, Deloitte recently found that 63% of millennials think a company’s main role should be to make a positive impact on society.
While “Millennials get a bad rap for being entitled, they’re ready, willing, and able to roll up their sleeves and get involved when there’s a belief or purpose they believe in,” says Kelly Campbell, Chief Marketing Officer at Hulu. This holds especially true for millennial women. Research shows that two-thirds (64%) of millennial females have bought a product associated with a cause in the past 12 months (vs. 54% millennial male). Millennial women are also the most likely to seek out responsible products whenever possible (86% vs. 76% millennial male). And they’re among the most likely to hold companies accountable for producing results (86% vs. 77% Millennial male). Marketers, take note.
Fighting gender inequality won’t only impact women and girls—it will stimulate growth for the economy and prosperity for everyone around the world. The creative community, in particular, has the opportunity to leverage its collective voice to accelerate change and deliver tomorrow’s solutions. But they can’t do it alone. It’s time for all business leaders to break the wheel because change happens when we work together.