By: Paul Sparrow and Philippe Harousseau
It was a watershed moment for consumer advertising, with shock waves that are still being felt today – the 2004 launch of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. The groundbreaking marketing initiative challenged more than traditional beauty standards – it challenged the conventions of advertising at its core. Eschewing airbrushes and retouching, the personal care brand presented women of various sizes, ages, and ethnicities – without makeup, and without prejudice.
In the 20 years since, the societal conversation has shifted, consumers have demanded more authenticity, and most importantly, the public has insisted that the companies behind these images back up their “reality ads” with a purpose-driven approach to how they come to market.
In our previous blog, we talked about how an understanding of the preferences and values of different generations is crucial for successful brand communication.
As we discussed in a recent conversation with our friend Traci Philips, an exceptional executive leadership coach in Raleigh, NC, the concept of purpose-driven marketing intersects with generational dynamics, particularly with the influence of millennials and Gen Z. In this blog, we’ll drill deeper to uncover the trends in purpose-driven marketing and, particularly, the importance of authenticity in connecting with diverse audiences.
The Dove Beauty campaign was the spark that created the flame. Today, the marketing landscape has been consumed by purpose-driven brands. According to a study by Cone Communications and Echo Research, 87 percent of consumers in the U.S. and the UK said they would purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about. Moreover, 76 percent of respondents stated that they would boycott a company if it supported an issue contrary to their beliefs.
Translated, that means that companies must no longer demonstrate an exclusive focus on making profits; they must also show alignment of their values with social and environmental causes. This demand for authenticity is a common thread among different generations, but it holds particular significance for millennials and Gen Z. These younger demographics seek brands that go beyond profit-making and show a genuine concern for the world and its inhabitants. They want to support companies that share their values and make a positive impact.
Of course, purpose-driven marketing goes beyond appealing to consumers; it also plays a vital role in attracting and retaining talent. As millennials and Gen Z become the dominant workforce, they prioritize organizations that offer more than just a paycheck. They want to be part of something greater, a cause or a mission that aligns with their values. They seek out organizations with a global mission and a commitment to social and environmental responsibility. By embracing purpose-driven initiatives, companies can create a compelling narrative that attracts top talent and fosters employee engagement.
As we touched upon in our last blog, effective communication is the swinging bridge that stretches across the gorge between generations. Particularly, Gen Z has grown up in a world of rapid and instantaneous communication. However, they are also highly sensitive to the meanings behind words and actions. They crave security and certainty in an increasingly uncertain world. This has implications for marketers who must navigate the fine line between delivering clear and direct messaging while addressing the deeper emotional needs of this generation.
As marketing continues to evolve, purpose-driven brands and authentic communication will become increasingly essential. In Deloitte's Millennial Survey 2020, 57 percent of millennials and 49 percent of Gen Z respondents indicated they have either started or deepened relationships with brands that have taken a stance on social or environmental issues. This demonstrates that younger generations are actively seeking out and engaging with purpose-driven brands that align with their values.
“There have been enormous shifts over the last decade,” said Traci, who had recently researched findings uncovered by generational strategist Katherine Jeffery. “The question becomes, how do you meet your markets given the way marketing is looked at and how it is utilized?”
In our view, it’s actually quite simple. By understanding the unique characteristics and preferences of each generation, marketers can tailor their strategies to build trust and foster long-lasting relationships. As a result, those brands that connect with consumers on a deeper level, addressing their values and concerns, will be well-positioned for success.