Purpose has been on the business agenda for a little while now. Companies have responded to the call with various degrees of enthusiasm, commitment and success, and people look to brands to help address and solve societal issues. And today, oh boy – do we have an issue.
This is it. This is the time for brands to step up, to reassure employees and frame their core business in a meaningful way. This is the time to engage with consumers on what’s most concerning them right now. To use expertise and resources to offer solutions and support, however small, but in a way that aligns with brand values and activities.
During the economic crashes of the 1980s and in 2008, it was the companies who continued to engage with their stakeholders through meaningful marketing and communications who succeeded. These were the brands which survived and thrived once the world returned to normal. Today’s crisis feels even more profound. Even more personal. Because it isn’t only economics we’re talking about here, but also the health and wellbeing of each and every one of us.
Despite the internal challenges every organisation will face, now more than ever, brands can play their part to reassure and support. Now is not the time to cut yourself off from those you usually engage with. Or to continue that engagement in the same way you used to. Now is the time for brands to step up with meaningful, genuine actions and communications that demonstrate a strong sense of purpose and offer real support to communities. For all the talk of Purpose over the past couple of years, this is the moment to turn it into something real and authentic.
We put together a definition for Social Purpose. It’s the way organisations make a positive impact on society through activities which are integrated and aligned with the core business of the company and which contribute to long term business growth. Finding your ‘why’ – not only what you do as a business, but why you do it – has never been more important. We know that businesses with Purpose out-perform those without, growing on average three times faster. The moral imperative today should only add more reasons to inspire others, take action and offer leadership that will leave a legacy and loyalty once this current crisis is over.
Some organisations are already stepping up. Luxury French brand Louis Vuitton is using the production lines that usually churn out high end perfumes and cosmetics to produce hand sanitisers instead. It’s made twelve tonnes of the stuff in one week alone. Louis Vuitton is communicating this as a short term initiative to help the French public at a time when its usual target market would be buying its products in high end stores rather than staying inside and washing their hands.
Whilst back home, and in the not for profit sector, Eden Project Communities have already begun a collaboration with other organisations such as The National Lottery Community Fund and Neighbourhood Watch to develop the Community Action Response, offering a structured and practical way to encourage people to come together and support each other during the Covid-19 crisis.
Pret a Manger meanwhile has been able to tap into its core business activity and support those who most deserve it by giving drinks on the house to all NHS staff. The social media response has been huge and full of warmth.
The time is right for every organisation and business leader to discover and promote the unique way it can make a difference. Relevant, empathetic and positive actions and communications can help support society through difficult times. Those who rise to the challenge will be the brands which will be remembered when – hopefully one day soon – this is all over.
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