Marketing and Comms
Generating Win-Wins:
4 Key Ingredients of Successful Social-Purpose Marketing

For a purpose-driven business, marketing must transform from traditional advertising to building a social-purpose ecosystem, requiring a fundamental shift in the way marketing is integrated and delivered. In a recent webinar, BCLC, PepsiCo and CLMBR discussed how they are shifting their marketing strategies to accelerate social purpose.

Social purpose is a growing aspect of business with implications far beyond traditional Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) strategies. Social-purpose companies exist to create a better world through their core business functions, enabling an organization to create a competitive advantage and discover nascent opportunities for maximizing sustainable growth and profit.

For a purpose-driven business, marketing must transform from traditional advertising to building a social-purpose ecosystem, requiring a fundamental shift in the way marketing is integrated and delivered.

On September 15, a Sustainable Brands webinar explored how the British Columbia Gambling Commission (BCLC), PepsiCo and CLMBR are shifting their marketing strategies to accelerate social purpose.

As a gambling corporation, BCLC is responsible for administrating lottery, casinos and online gaming in the Province of British Columbia. Starting in 2020, BCLC began asking how a gambling organization could embed social purpose. After a long journey of engaging various stakeholders, BCLC adopted “Generating win-wins for the greater good'' as its social purpose — a theme it has embedded into every aspect of its operations.

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“Consumers want companies to play a role in making a better world; and business leaders are adjusting to these new expectations in part by publicly stating company values, and demonstrating that those values are integral to their processes and decisions,” said Peter ter Weeme, BCLC’s Chief Social Purpose Officer & VP of Player Experience.

Social purpose necessitates purpose-driven marketing, creating value and new opportunities for growth. ter Weeme recognizes the importance of marketing, communication and stakeholder engagement as BCLC moves to the next stage of its social-purpose journey, and how its evolving purpose will in part be shaped by marketing and engaging stakeholders.

Marketing for behavioral change

“It’s marketing’s job to influence the behavior, not the values, that people have,” ter Weeme asserted.

In a polarized society, this way of thinking about marketing is essential to connect seemingly disparate values to the same outcome. For instance, one household may embrace solar energy for energy independence, another for emissions reductions.

“Very different value sets, but the behavior is the same at the end of the day,” ter Weeme said. “Once you start to focus on people’s individual values, they become territorial and shut down to your message.”

Traditional KPIs can be deployed to measure the success of social-purpose marketing; but it’s also important to understand how the organization is driving change. This more qualifiable measurement of success means working with stakeholders to determine what indicators are relevant in determining if the organization’s social purpose is making a difference, and how that in turn influences future marketing.

Staying aligned to social purpose

A study conducted in collaboration with BCLC and Forrester identifies key themes of how a social purpose company’s marketing is different from traditional marketing. Key findings include:

  • Executives must lead and not pull company-wide efforts at building social purpose

  • The need to systematically embed ethics into the marketing process

  • The importance of listening and responding to the dialogue that marketing is generating.

The report found that social-purpose marketing is a long-term journey that requires a consistent strategy and clear implementation framework. Companies must ensure executives lead and uphold the effort over the long term. Many companies have the C-suite buy-in needed for social purpose; but intent alone won’t move the needle.

“Sometimes, you have this intention — thinking it’s inherent in your product — and assume that DNA will carry social purpose throughout the value chain, maintenance-free,” said Bridget Russo, Chief Marketing Officer at CLMBR, maker of the hugely popular fitness machine of the same name. “But people define values differently, often resulting in marketing swaying way off the mark.”

Keeping focus is key; and bringing in third-party analysis is extremely helpful in building out a guiding social-purpose framework, Russo added.

“Even though your product may have inherently been intended to do good, if you don’t have systems and frameworks in place for how you make decisions on a daily basis, you may find that things fall apart from there,” she said.

For PepsiCo, keeping on track requires a clear understanding of the mission and how each team member’s role plays out in the nuts and bolts of making social purpose a reality. Alignment starts with the CEO and goes all the way down to truck drivers.

“There's an intent to make everybody feel they have a role to play,” said Maddy Kulkarni, Global Marketing Director of Sustainability and Social Impact at PepsiCo.

Universal engagement with both internal and external stakeholders is key to getting a bead on the organization’s social-purpose progress. Identifying the “why” behind stakeholder values and organizational action is the starting line before diving into a new initiative; and staying aligned on social purpose often means focusing on bite-sized chunks of truly actionable items over taking on the world.

“If you have a laundry list of initiatives, you might find yourself stuck,” Russo said. “Pick three things that you want to go after and dig in deep for how you can have a really big impact.”

Russo also cautioned organizations against jumping on a bandwagon just because it’s a “thing.”

“You really have to think about what it is that you stand for,” she said. “Is the thing that’s happening in the world really the thing that you want to be tagging on to, and do you have the credibility to do that?”

This doesn’t mean flying through life with blinders on, but steering clear of performative actions or showboating — an all-too-easy temptation in marketing and on social media.

Motivational storytelling

The goal of purpose-driven marketing is to inspire stakeholders to deeper, tangible engagement with the organization’s stated social purpose. At PepsiCo, this means looking at what consumers want, what the world needs, how the brand can fulfill both, and how to tell stories that spur authentic change.

The panel agreed content must be rich and thoughtful, often layered in a slow, deliberate way. The best storytelling sparks an emotional connection leading to behavior change.

“You have to think inspirationally and emotionally, telling a story that is positive and one that people can feel connected to,” Russo said.

Deep listening as an organization

Deep listening is a daunting but essential task in a large organization with many stakeholders, especially as an organization scales. It’s also important to listen outside your supposed target audience, Kulkarni said, and to refrain from summarizing or paraphrasing feedback — instead, presenting it word-for-word so as to stay true to stakeholder sentiments.

Deep listening through direct conversations and surveys gauges stakeholder temperature. Effectively listening to stakeholders enables the flexibility an organization needs to weather shifts in technology, policy, markets and consumer values. With deep listening in place, getting marketing and company values on the same wavelength is the next step, Kulkarni added. With mission and values clearly stated, they must be consistently shared across all marketing channels.

It’s not about going viral, Russo explained. Real change takes a long time to evolve and grow, and will only come to fruition with commitment to the purpose that you set from the beginning.

“You create a movement through consistency,” she said.

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