Three ways brands finding purpose are also finding profit

This article originally appeared in Chief Marketer. I shared my thoughts on a recent speaking engagement on “The Evolution of LGBT+ Consumerism” at OPEN Finance and talked about our work with Love Has No Labels.”

Femvertising. Purpose-driven branding. Micro-niche marketing. No matter what you call it, it’s undeniable that brands are increasingly pushing themselves to find purpose beyond their products and services.

And let’s face it—it’s a delicate step for a brand to stand up for a cause it believes in that’s greater than profit. Recent studies have revealed that many consumers feel it is important for brands to use their influences to help shape social and political discussions. A stellar example of this from last year was with Patagonia. The brand blacked out its homepage declaring, “The President Stole your Land,” in a blatant protest (including a lawsuit) against President Trump’s declaration to decrease the size of several national parks.

The outdoor retailer is no stranger to supporting causes, particularly those aligned with its mission to “use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” The brand often literally puts its money where its mouth is—and is willing to potentially sacrifice profit to support its beliefs.

So why do it? Because buyers in today’s market respond to more than just products on a shelf. It is this type of advocacy that helps strengthen the connection between brand and consumer. People are looking for brands that reflect their own values and are prepared to take action on the issues that matter to them.

Recently, an OPEN Finance & Nomura’s event addressed “The Evolution of LGBT Consumerism” and how brands can do business with a market that is estimated to have $917 billion in buying power in the U.S. I was lucky to be part of the discussion during which time we reviewed the topical example of the digital and content marketing work for the Ad Council’s Love Has No Labels campaign, a collaborative effort focused on combating bias through love. The most recent effort on Veterans Day honored the love Americans have for the extraordinarily diverse community of people who have served our country, representing a wide range of races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, genders, ages, and abilities.

During this discussion, we considered how brands can be successful when wishing to pursue a purpose, while also pursuing profit. Three key themes emerged:

1. Beyond the Base Brands considering associating with a cause are wise to think about the appeal of their efforts beyond the core group. Accenture reports that 78 percent of LGBT adults and their friends, family, and relatives would switch to brands that are known to be LGBT-friendly. Similarly, brands supporting female empowerment are wise to consider that 33 percent of men also identify as feminists, according to the Washington Post.

2. Efficient Emotional Connections Modern marketing requires balancing consumers’ emotional and rational behaviors. Yet, Google reports that only 10-40 percent of B2C brands and 50 percent of B2B brands have an emotional connection with their audiences. Aligning brands with passions and values of audiences is a clear path to emotional connection. And with the power of targetable media based on user-provided data (via Facebook, DMPs and more), brands can now target their affiliations and purpose-driven initiatives to exactly the right populations, leading to more efficient media buying and better results.

3. Meaningful Contributions, Not Messages Brands must go beyond messages to actually make meaningful contributions to populations. If brands are seen as being opportunistic or disingenuous in their efforts, that can mean being held accountable by the media, customers and powerful digital influencers. For example, for brands trying to reach LGBT+ communities and their allies, it’s critical that they score well on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, support social causes surrounding equality and demonstrate a commitment to the community, even when it’s not convenient. In other words, it’s not enough to put a same sex couple or a gender non-conforming model in an ad. The community expects to see what you’ve done to support those people and make a difference in the real world.

In the case of the Love Has No Labels campaign, which, is supported by brands including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, P&G, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, State Farm, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Google, each brand has been able to appeal to a broad audience of Americans who support inclusivity and an intention to be aware of the role implicit bias plays in our lives. The campaign boasts broad awareness among about 60 percent of Americans and the brands that support it will ultimately make a true contribution to the fabric of American culture.

And like Patagonia, if brands can find their purpose and profit at once it’s a win-win for marketers.

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