By Ann Gynn published August 22, 2014

Purpose-Driven Content Marketing: Brands That Give and Get

arms and handsPurpose-driven content marketing is a way for a business or brand to bond with a target audience based on their shared needs and interests — including interest in supporting a worthy cause. But while most organizations recognize the importance of “giving back,” they aren’t always accustomed to creating content around their efforts in a way that will both engage their audience and drive them to participate. Success in this arena is all about developing the right strategy and executing it in an authentic, organic way that brings mutual benefit to everyone involved.

“The public broadcasters do a great job: NPR, BBC, etc. As journalism-driven enterprises, they’re natural content producers, unfettered by concerns around selling advertising,” says Rebecca Lieb, an analyst at Altimeter Group. “PETA has done some high profile and groundbreaking campaigns. I love American Express’ efforts around Small Business Saturday.”

To get some additional perspectives on the topic — and some best-of-breed examples — CMI asked a group of blog contributors, Online Training instructors, and Content Marketing World speakers for their answers to the question, “What companies do you know of that are doing purpose-driven marketing well?” Following are some of their answers:

For profit, for good

Taxi-alternative provider, Uber, does cause-based content marketing well. Its Mothers Against Drunk Driving campaign is a perfect example. For the July 4 weekend, Uber promoted a unique discount code that, when redeemed, resulted in a $1 donation to MADD ($10 for new customers.)

Nestle Crunch’s Let’s Get Her to Camp campaign tells the business tale (Girl Scout-branded candy), does good for others (donations to send girls to camp), and encourages customers to further the story for a chance to win themselves (evangelization of customers).

campfire-toasting marshmallows image-get her to camp

e-Cycle, the leading wireless buyback and recycling company, partnered with Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, to launch Reuse and Recycle for Autism Speaks, a philanthropic wireless recycling campaign. The three-month campaign began in Autism Awareness month. Scott P. Abel, Content Marketing Strategist, The Content Wrangler, Inc. | @scottabel

Market the mission

The fact that Wistia doesn’t get mentioned in more content marketing articles is a travesty. The CEO, and really the entire team, believes in one simple thing: Most products are boring, so market a mission instead. The company doesn’t talk about the best cameras to use or offer analytics tips for video — at least not all the time. Instead, Wistia’s mission is to help you do more with video. Its mission is broad enough to grow reach, yet relevant enough to gain qualified traffic, not just empty page views. Jay Acunzo, Director of Platform & Community, NextView Ventures | @Jay_zo

Go timely and reactive

One of my favorite examples of a cause-based marketing campaign is by Namecheap. When news agencies reported that the GoDaddy CEO had killed an elephant on a hunt in Africa, Namecheap capitalized on it. The company provided discount codes for anyone who wanted to switch from GoDaddy, with part of the proceeds going to an elephant conservation organization. This was attractive to consumers like me in three ways: It made me feel good to get off of GoDaddy, I got a similar product for less money, and I got to help a good cause. Pawan Deshpande, Founder and CEO, Curata | @TweetsFromPawan

elephant images-namecheap

Target your targets’ causes

Fifty-four percent of Americans made a purchase decision associated with a cause in 2013, according to Cone Communications. Millennials in particular care about cause-related marketing.

The challenge for businesses is to ensure they support causes that their target audience feels are important without sacrificing product quality or profitability. Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream is the poster child for cause marketing. They’re known for donating a portion of their profits to charity. Heidi Cohen, President, Riverside Marketing Strategies | @heidicohen

A lot of animal-focused businesses do this really well. BarkBox, Thundershirt, Kong, and FroBowl all have programs that help to give back to the animal community, thus getting them in front of their target audience in a way that helps build trust and loyalty. Gini Dietrich, CEO, Arment Dietrich, Inc. | @ginidietrich

dog image-thundershirt

Keep the commitment

The best corporate cause marketing isn’t about a fleeting sponsorship. It’s about a long-term commitment to a cause that supports the core values of your business. Liberty Mutual’s long-term involvement with the Special Olympics is a perfect example of this. As a side note, the cause-oriented content they create is spectacular. Andrew Davis, Author, Brandscaping | @TPLDrew 

Use talents to benefit others’ missions

For the last four years, we’ve done an annual pro-bono program called Chicago Cause. Working with five other companies, we give away our services to needy nonprofits (selected from a pool of applicants). The benefits are huge for everybody. We:

  • Form stronger relationships with partners in related fields (partnerships)
  • Leverage the marketing horsepower of those partners for the program and ourselves (awareness)
  • Get our entire team involved and feeling good about making a real difference (morale)
  • Use all our talents and skills to make a real difference for people who need it (impact!)

I encourage every reader of the post to steal this idea. Please. There are nonprofits near you that really need the help. Andy Crestodina, Principal, Strategic Director, Orbit Media | @crestodina

images on big-screen tv

Humanize it

From a B2B perspective, look to GE for their work in bringing the human experience into focus. It’s hard to do with complex and high-stakes products. GE Health Services, for example, brings the emotive human experience of helping patients and patient families. Its content and messaging are less about the product and more about the touching the human experience. It demonstrates how your content can be purpose-driven, stand behind a cause (such as cancer survival), and align employees to a purpose. Tony Zambito, Creator and Leading Authority in Buyer Personas | @tonyzambito

Don’t forget fun

The Rainforest Alliance with its brilliant “Follow the Frog” film is a great example of confident, fun, insightful marketing. And “Dumb Ways To Die” by Australia’s Metro Trains is utterly inspired. Neither follows the worthy, weighty approach that so many nonprofits fall into. Doug Kessler, Co-Founder and Creative Director, Velocity Partners | @dougkessler

little cartoon figures-dumb ways

Looking for more inspiration on creating killer cause-based content? You won’t want to miss Content Marketing World 2014, September 8–11, 2014. Register today

Author: Ann Gynn

Ann Gynn edits the CMI blog. She also serves as the Tech Tools editor for Chief Content Officer magazine. Ann regularly combines words and strategy for B2B, B2C, and nonprofits, continuing to live up to her high school nickname, Editor Ann. Former college adjunct faculty, Ann also helps train professionals in content so they can do it themselves. Follow Ann on Twitter @anngynn or connect on LinkedIn.

Other posts by Ann Gynn

Join Over 150,000 of your Peers!

Get daily articles and news delivered to your email inbox and get CMI’s exclusive e-book Launch Your Own Content Marketing Program FREE!

  • http://www.RobToth.com/ Rob TheGenie Toth

    Purpose driven marketing is so beautifully perfect… even executives and advisor boards who many not inherently want to pursue a purpose or support an awareness campaign or cause, will do so when presented with the reality of the good-will their brand gains and the often increased returns from such campaigns. So it supports a company’s bottom line and growth goals, while also supporting something worthwhile.

  • http://annejanzer.com Anne Janzer

    Purpose-driven marketing is very powerful when the purpose is closely aligned with the company’s core mission. A great example of this is DICK’S Sporting Goods and their Sports Matter program to raise funds for youth sports teams that were losing funding in the schools. Customers and employees alike can get behind this kind of marketing, and it reflects well on the company’s core values and offerings.