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Is your purpose-led campaign just a box-ticking exercise?

Is your purpose-led campaign just a box-ticking exercise?

The last 12 months have seen purpose-led campaigns explode – and this is only set to accelerate into a new year. We are firm believers in the power and importance of purpose-led campaigns (so much so that it was top of our list of trends for communications in 2021). We have also discussed why purpose-driven sponsorship should be the way forward, with a staggering 87% of consumers saying they purchase a product because the seller advocated for an issue they cared about.

We know purpose is potent to connect with target audiences, particularly among millennials and Generation Z (see The Purpose Report 2020). We know that campaigns which are relatable and tap into a shared experience can be the most powerful. But it can’t be done half-heartedly – CSR should not be a box ticking exercise. Short memories among consumers aren’t as common as we might be led to believe – they are taking stock. People want to see tangible change. A brand that fails to meet its purpose target risks being seen as breaking a commitment to its consumers.

Even the highest profile of organisations can find it hard to strike a balance between well-intentioned campaigns and the need to keep stakeholders on side.

Formula 1, for example, has spent a great deal of time and effort in recent years to overhaul its image in a bid to attract a younger, more diverse audience. After coming under increased pressure from fans – and Lewis Hamilton – to support the movement against racism and do more to promote equality in the sport, F1 launched its initiative, #WeRaceAsOne, in June 2020. Its ‘visual display of support in the fight against racism’ was, after a rocky start, a regular occurrence every weekend. There was promise of a task force and pledges to increase diversity and opportunity within the sport. For the most part, it was well received by F1 fans, although it did seem lacking in tangible change.

Then, however, the behaviour of one of the 2021 driver line-up, who shall remain unnamed in this blog, appalled the community and beyond. Fans condemned the actions and called for action in line with the #WeRaceAsOne message, and F1 made the headlines for all the wrong reasons. While fans continue to demand appropriate action, the radio silence threatens to undermine all the positives built up through the #WeRaceAsOne initiative.

This example serves as a reminder that CSR initiatives need to be authentic, meaningful and consistently applied. It is not enough to pledge support to fight against racism, stand up for equality, or combat climate change. It has to become embedded in a company’s culture. Get employees bought into it and help them further the cause. Most importantly, if you face a crisis, your response and your actions should always come back to your purpose. Purpose campaigns are not just nifty slogans on t-shirts, after all.

We’re always happy to help you navigate these tricky waters, so if you’re looking to build a meaningful and powerful purpose campaign, why not drop us a line?