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How to be Purposeful With Your Purpose-Driven Content [Examples]

Editor’s note: You may have missed the original version of this article published a few years ago. Purpose-driven marketing is an even hotter topic today so we’ve updated the post and included some fresh examples. 

Most marketers (and many businesses) recognize the value of developing content based on a shared interest in supporting a worthy cause or taking a stand.

Success in purpose-driven content marketing, though, requires you to go beyond that. It demands that you execute the right purpose-driven content marketing strategy in an authentic, organic way that brings benefit to everyone involved.

Successful purpose-driven content marketing must feel like an integral part of the brand, not a one-off. For example, simply changing your company’s Facebook profile image to a cause-colored ribbon for a month is an isolated tactic, not an element of an organic, purpose-driven content marketing strategy.

Changing a Facebook image to a cause-colored ribbon isn't purpose-driven #contentmarketing strategy. @AnnGynn Share on X

A successful strategy is built for the long haul and speaks to the goals and interests of the brand, its employees, and the customers (or prospects). And that shared interest doesn’t revolve around profits for the business. Nearly eight in 10 Americans say they are more loyal to purpose-driven brands than traditional brands, according to a 2018 study from Cone/Porter Novelli. In that same research, 68% say they are more willing to share content from purpose-driven brands with their social networks than content from traditional companies.

68% Americans are more willing to share content from purpose-driven brands than traditional companies. @Cone Share on X

Purpose-driven brands also resonate with their employees. As Content Marketing World presenter Jeff Fromm says, “(Purpose) is important because it impacts employees and consumers. I can’t find too many examples of successful brands that don’t have incredibly powerful employee cultures in addition to consumer cultures.”

An excerpt from Kantar Consulting’s Purpose 2020: Inspiring Purpose-Led Growth report offers a simple way to understand the breadth of purpose for a brand: “Today, employees want to do more than sell cars. And today customers want to do more than buy cars.”

Know your purpose

The first step in empowering your brand’s purpose is to recognize what that purpose is. The Kantar Purpose 2020 report explains the differences among purpose, vision, mission, and corporate social responsibility. Simply put, your purpose should be about your positive impact on the world. Your purpose should not be about the positive impact on your company (though that’s an indirect benefit).

Now, let’s get into detail about some brands that know their purpose and are executing it successfully.

Answer burning questions

Axe, a Unilever brand of grooming products, focuses on a young male demographic. It created a content campaign around Google search requests that start with “is it OK for men to …?” The purpose was “to break the cycle of toxic masculinity by providing guys with resources to live more freely,” according to this AdWeek article. That purpose speaks to both the brand and its audience.

As part of the initiative, Axe, according to AdWeek, developed partnerships with three nonprofits – Ditch the Label (to create a digital network to support guys struggling with toxic masculinity), Promundo (to research stereotypes and subsequent challenges), and The Representation Project (to sponsor the campus tour of its film The Mask You Live In). And Axe asked influencers to share their #itsokforguys stories.

Make the cause logical to brand

Taxi-alternative provider Lyft has partnered with several voting-advocate organizations to encourage people to vote in the U.S. elections. It used its social media channels to remind people about voting deadlines. It has given its drivers voter registration handouts and key voter information to distribute. And it’s hosted in-office voter registration for employees.

Lyft also smartly connects the purpose to its reason for being in business – offering free rides for underserved communities where residents may not be able to afford transportation to get to the polls and discount codes for others who use Lyft to get to their voting locations.

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Teach and empower

Eighty-seven percent of surveyed U.S. consumers in 2017 said they’d purchase a product because the company supported a cause they cared about, according to a Cone survey.

Mattel – known as the creator of Barbie – is a good example of a brand that recognizes its products’ purpose can have a societal purpose too. Its purpose is fueled by the findings of a study revealing that “girls lose the confidence to imagine they can be anything they want to be. That pivotal moment where she loses her former confidence is called the dream gap.”

Mattel launched the Dream Gap project, a long-term initiative to fund continuing research exploring why young girls often lose confidence, as well as efforts to close the perceptual gap between boys and girls. It also is developing content on its popular Barbie platforms to speak directly to girls and their parents, including its YouTube channel with over 5 million subscribers and a dedicated site with tips and insight for adults.

Use your differentiator

Dave’s Killer Bread used its founder’s story to become a thought leader in the second-chance employment movement. Before founding the bakery, Dave Dahl was an ex-con who was given a chance by his older brother. DKB hires the best candidate for the job – regardless of any past criminal background, as David Hessekiel explains in this Forbes article.

.@KillerBread founder became thought leader in 2nd chance employment & sales grew 75%+ in 1 year. @anngynn Share on X

Through sharing stories of second chances and redemption, the brand resonated emotionally with consumers. In 2017, Dave’s Killer Bread grew by more than 75% over 2016. A winner of a Halo Award, the DKB Foundation in 2017 hosted Second Chance Summits in Seattle and Atlanta, created a Second Chance Job Fair in Seattle and had 750 unique users of its Second Chance Employment Kit. Dave Dahl has become a go-to resource on the topic of hiring people with criminal backgrounds.


Target your targets’ causes

Heidi Cohen, president of Riverside Marketing Strategies, points to Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream as the poster child for cause marketing embraced by its customers.

Ben and Jerry’s donates 7.5% of its annual pre-tax profits to its foundation, which supports community-oriented projects locally and globally. “We believe that the strongest bond you can build with your consumers is over shared values,” CMO Dave Stever told the American Marketing Association.

Image source

The graphic above illustrates how Ben and Jerry’s defines its mission in three parts – it doesn’t forget the traditional business side (product and economic), but it makes sure to include its social mission or purpose (its positive impact in the world).

And, the company notes, “All three parts must thrive equally in a manner that commands deep respect for individuals in and outside the company and supports the communities of which they are a part.”

Animals always win

Gini Dietrich, CEO of Arment Dietrich, says a lot of animal-focused businesses do purpose-driven content really well. BarkBox, ThunderShirt, Kong, and Frobo 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.

Take on an issue

Global beauty care company L‘Oréal partnered with Opinionway to do a study of Europeans to better understand the reasons women encounter disparities in the field of science and the obstacles they face in their professional career. In 2015, it released the survey results (e.g., two-thirds of Europeans didn’t think women were capable of achieving high-level scientific positions).

That same year, L‘Oréal launched #ChangeTheNumbers, a digital campaign to engage the public to help change attitudes and stereotypes. While the campaign is over, mainstream media and research publications continue to report on its study results.

Tell inspiring stories and inspire others

Author and marketer Anne Janzer offers Dick’s Sporting Goods as a good example. Its Sports Matter initiative donates money to youth sports teams that have lost their funding. “Customers and employees alike can get behind this kind of marketing, and it reflects well on the company’s core values and offerings,” she wrote in response to the original version of this article.

Dick’s created a website, (Note: it doesn’t use the brand name in the domain), where it shares powerful stories – in video, images, and text – of those who have benefited from the effort. The website also highlights ways to donate and how to apply for funding. This video tells the story of female high school hockey players in Alaska who thought they were kicking off their final season of organized hockey – until Dick’s Sporting Goods stepped in.

.@DICKS doesn’t use its brand name in its purpose-driven site: @anngynn @AnneJanzer Share on X

Find your purpose and build a strategy

Given the growing interest of consumers in patronizing brands that have a purpose beyond selling products or services, developing a purpose-driven content marketing strategy is essential. It enables you to clearly state your company’s larger purpose – something your employees, customers, and prospects want to know. Then you can build your content, delivering text, videos, social media, live events, and more that serves your business and your targeted audience.

Done well, purpose-related marketing will enable you to build trust and rapport with your targeted audience. That’s not altruism, it’s good business.

What brands have you seen doing purpose-driven content marketing well? Share in the comments.

Want practical guidance and inspiration to give your content marketing strategy more purpose? Make plans to attend one of the CMI Master Classes this December. 

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute