In recent years, purpose-driven marketing has become a buzzword in the advertising industry. Many digital agencies have jumped on the bandwagon, claiming that incorporating purpose into their strategy is essential to success.
But is it really?
Purpose-driven marketing makes sense for companies whose products or services align with social responsibility. But when it comes to the digital marketing industry, sometimes positioning yourself as purpose-led can do more harm than good.
In this article, we will explore the myth of purpose in digital agency strategy and why it’s not essential in the current marketing climate.
Section 1: What is Purpose-Driven Marketing?
This section will define purpose-driven marketing and explain why it has become so popular in recent years. We will also examine the potential benefits of incorporating purpose into a digital agency’s strategy.
Purpose-driven marketing is a strategy used by organisations and businesses to centre their brand messaging and external communications around an esteemed social cause or stance. It can also refer to a style of marketing where companies use an emotional backstory or vision as the basis for their brand identity. Purpose-driven marketing has received a lot of attention in recent years, especially since so many consumers now demand purpose-led products.
There’s a reason why purpose-driven marketing has had such a grip on marketing trends in recent years. It can bring many benefits, such as:
- Shows that you see the bigger picture – Companies that have a long-term perspective on the future tend to be perceived as more trustworthy, thus boosting their public image.
- Staff can become more motivated – It’s not just consumers who appreciate a bit of purpose. Staff do too. Employees who work at purpose-driven companies tend to be happier, more fulfilled, and more productive.
Ultimately, incorporating a purpose-driven strategy into your overarching marketing strategy can bring some useful benefits. But not all those benefits are necessarily relevant to the goals and needs of a digital marketing agency. Move on to the next section to find out more.
Section 2: The Myth of Purpose
A lot of the brands that utilise purpose-led marketing position themselves as socially invested world-savers. But here’s the thing: not all brands need to save the world.
A big part of purpose-led marketing is authenticity – that’s really what consumers are after when they align themselves with purpose-driven brands. But digital marketing isn’t about social transformation. It’s about helping other brands reach their engagement, profit, and visibility goals. And that’s perfectly okay. There are some risks associated with focusing too much on purpose when it isn’t naturally there, such as:
- Coming across as inauthentic – There’s only one thing worse than no authenticity, and that’s false authenticity. Consumers can pick it up from a mile away, effectively alienating you from your target market and losing traction with existing clients.
- Missing your target market – Most digital marketing agency clients aren’t regular consumers. They’re brands and businesses of varying sizes and budgets that simply want to expand their reach and grow profits. Is purpose really so important to them?
- Underperforming in other areas – If you put too much focus on developing a purpose-led brand, you might drop other, arguably more urgent priorities, such as stable profits, client acquisition, or employee satisfaction.
If you’re in an industry that naturally aligns with the concept of social improvement (such as a sustainability label), using purpose as a part of your marketing strategy is a highly effective plan.
But if you’re in the marketing industry, it’s important to be realistic about the kind of services you offer and the needs of the clients you serve.
Section 3: The Importance of Strategy
Digital marketing agencies might not need purpose to be at the epicentre of how they market to clients. However, incorporating it in subtle but meaningful ways can still be beneficial. A well-crafted strategy can lead to success for digital agencies – that is true for all types of businesses.
The point being made here isn’t so much that purpose is useless to digital marketing agencies – just that they don’t need to rely on it for connecting with audiences and driving business growth.
Digital agencies should look at the realistic and relevant ways in which purpose can inform their business strategy, such as: supporting businesses that do have social motivations, delivering high-quality work, and aligning with brands that have similar goals and values.
Section 4: Case Studies
If you ask most businesses whether purpose is important to their marketing strategy, they’ll say yes. But as more companies become aware of the risks and relevancies associated with this strategy, more are making the choice to focus on other areas of consumer engagement.
Take Hellman’s mayonnaise, for example. In 2021, they started a marketing campaign that emphasised their take on “fighting against food waste”. This attempt to align themselves with a social purpose backfired, as cynical consumers saw it as a poor stab at greenwashing.
Hellman’s mayonnaise learned something important through that failed experiment – their product is a condiment, not a tool for saving the world. Consumers saw through the guise and Hellman’s quickly reverted back to their original strategy, providing customers with a high-quality product.
Find Your Digital Agency’s Purpose
There are many instances in which purpose-driven marketing can be beneficial. Chances are, your digital marketing agency already has some aspects of it woven into its marketing strategy. But if you’re looking at your approach and wondering if it lacks social awareness, think again.
Digital marketing agencies work hard to provide their clients with well-researched, highly skilled marketing strategies for attracting customers, driving online traffic, and reaching their respective growth goals. It’s a pretty straightforward business. That being said, it is always important to think critically about your marketing strategy and find ways to improve it over time. In this ever-changing industry, adaptation is key.
Purpose can be a useful tool for connecting with certain audiences. However, it’s more important to consider your current target market and create a marketing strategy that meets both yours and their needs, rather than just following the latest trends that come and go.