Four Ways To Market Your Purpose More Authentically

Four Ways To Market Your Purpose More Authentically

Carolyn Butler-Madden (lead image) is the author of two books on social purpose – For Love & Money and Path To Purpose. As chief purpose activist of her B Corp certified consultancy, The Cause Effect, she helps leaders define and embed purpose strategically into their business and brand to deliver meaningful impact. In this guest post, Butler-Madden gives her four tips to more authentic marketing…

One of the most common questions I am asked by marketers of businesses that are navigating their path to purpose is “how do we market our purpose?”. They want to know how to tell people about the good they’re doing, without coming across as chest-beating. Yet the very way that question is framed reeks of manipulation. So, how do you market your purpose authentically?

We all know how powerful marketing can be when it’s done well. The problem is that no one likes to feel manipulated. That is the very reason that many people view marketing as the “dark arts”. But if we accept that marketing is incredibly powerful, what happens when we consider how to use it as a force for good? It becomes a platform for a purposeful organisation to scale their positive impact.

To do this, it’s essential to reframe our perspective on marketing. Here are four ways to do this and to market a purpose-led brand authentically:

1. Action over advertising

Instead of thinking about how to advertise or market your purpose, ask yourself what actions your organisation can take in service of its purpose. The defining characteristic of a purpose-led business is the action, beyond business as usual, that its purpose has inspired.

A great example is Patagonia, whose purpose is to save our home planet. This purpose inspired them to launch Patagonia Provisions, stepping the apparel business into the sustainable food category.

What inspired Patagonia to branch into food? The simple fact that the food industry has the single-greatest impact on our environment. The people at Patagonia realised that if they were serious about saving the planet, they had to show that food can be produced sustainably and that there was a market for it. Patagonia Provisions is the result.

Your organisation will become known by the actions you take, not by telling people how purposeful you are.

2. Collaboration over communication

A purpose-led brand should think less about communicating ‘the good its does’ and more about how it can collaborate with others to scale its impact. Marketing then becomes an invitation to others to join your business in creating impact. So instead of thinking of your customers as consumers, view them as potential collaborators in supporting the change you are committed to creating. I love the example of Airbnb’s Australian campaign supporting the marriage equality postal vote.

In 2017 Australians were asked to vote on whether LGBTQIA+ people would be given the same rights as heterosexual Australians. In the lead-up to the vote, Airbnb launched the campaign “Until We All Belong”, inviting Australians to show their support for marriage equality. The organisation commissioned the design of a ring, featuring a gap in it, representing the gap in marriage equality. Airbnb made the ring available for free and invited Australians to wear it as a symbol of their support for marriage equality.

When marketers view their target audience as collaborators instead of consumers, it changes the dynamic, increasing their ability to scale their impact.

3. Position others as the heroes of your story

Another common mistake is to try to make your brand the hero of your story. That’s always going to be viewed with scepticism. So instead of asking your audience to see your brand as

the hero, make others the heroes of your story. Make your customers or clients the heroes. Make your impact partners the heroes. Make your employees the heroes. Make anyone the hero other than your brand.

To understand what this can look like, let’s revisit the Airbnb example. Who were the heroes of their “Until We All Belong” campaign? Every single person who wore the ring as a public declaration of their support for marriage equality. Those rings started important conversations. Airbnb empowered ordinary Australians to lead those conversations. Heroes.

4. Create movements of change over marketing your purpose

Think about how you use marketing to build a social movement. Airbnb’s purpose is to help people feel like they can belong anywhere. Patagonia’s is to save our home planet. Both organisations use their marketing as a channel to build their respective movements of change.

Once you accept the power of marketing to influence and shape movements for change, you can then choose how to use it positively. It’s that simple. It’s also that powerful.




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Carolyn Butler-Madden

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