Experts Speak: The true purpose of Purpose Driven Campaigns

impact of cause campaigns

Purpose driven campaigns or causevertising is aimed at advocating the greater good. But what is the shelf -life of a purpose driven campaign? How well do consumers remember it & implement it? Experts weigh in.

Mera baba desh chalata hai”- this one line by a kid in Tata Trust’s campaign, #TwoBinsLifeWins – triggered a reaction & action amidst users in many ways. Conceptualized by FCB Ulka, campaign urged citizens to segregate biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste. As Ratan Tata presented hard hitting facts while sharing the film, virality spiked. Purpose driven campaigns have been a strong pillar of Tata Group’s communication. Tata Power’s ‘Club Enerji’ has been advocating simple energy saving through and campaigns.

“These kinds of campaigns spark the required conversations that may otherwise just come and go leaving only temporary impact,” asserts Shalini Singh, Corporate Communications and Sustainability, Tata Power.

The question here is – once the agency-brand take a causevertising campaign live for how long can they keep the conversation alive? What are the metrics that lie deep under to gauge the success of purpose driven campaigns ?

We talk to industry experts delving further as we do the math to calculate the shelf life of purpose driven campaigns.

Do brands really need a purpose?

A 2018 Shelton Group’s ‘Brands & Stands: Social Purpose is the New Black‘ study stated that 86% consumers believe that companies should take a stand for social issues and 64% of those who said it’s ‘extremely important’ for a company to take a stand on a social issue said they were ‘very likely’ to purchase a product based on that commitment. 

According to Communications Consultant Karthik Srinivasan, good, and relevant to the target audience, purpose helps in 2 ways: it becomes a path to remember the brand and helps create awareness for something important and topical in the society or with the target audience. “The key is to get the link between brand relevance and purpose’s relevance to the target audience perfectly.”

We are in a world that is moving towards a value driven collective, activism, passion, inclusivity. Babita Baruah, Managing Partner, GTB India is of the opinion that despite the divisiveness and some severe socio-political challenges, technology and connected-ness have clustered people beyond geographies.

She added, “Purpose, if aligned to such values, and if delivered by the brand, can be a powerful tool to “sell”. Or else, it’s a case of jumping onto a bandwagon for a short ride”.

Meanwhile Dinesh Swamy, Chief Creative Officer, BC Web Wise observed that every brand exists for a reason and purpose. “It would be futile otherwise. They are selling a product or offering a service, but they are very much doing it for a reason, they are filling a need”.

A brand will only be able to sell the product and generate RoI if their audience buys into their purpose.

Success Metrics of a Purpose Driven Campaign

In September 2019, Pornhub discarded millions of tonnes of plastics polluting the world’s oceans. A global aggregator of porn movies, the company released an ad film titled ‘The dirtiest porn ever’, shot on a dirty beach.

Every time the film was viewed, Pornhub claimed to make a donation to Ocean Polymers – a non-profit organisation . Alongside the video, it also created a website that advises its viewers how they can help avoid single-use plastics ending up in the ocean.

An adult video website rooting for an environmental cause- a rather odd fusion, was hailed by brand custodians as a noble cause.  While the campaign hit a right chord, a few also mulled over the distribution strategy of it (for eg: The question is how many people follow PornHub on social media) and how successful was the company in raising the awareness. How do we measure its impact?

Also Read: Cause Marketing campaigns that gave the cause a purpose

“At a tactical level, the metric should be planned for the call-to-action mentioned in the communication. This could be visits to the website (awareness) or a sign-up (potential intent), or even a show of interest/support on social media (visibility that may lead to more awareness),” shares Srinivasan.

He further informed that at a more thematic level, the metric should ideally be long-term impact for the cause and the brand. The brand alone cannot expect on-ground change (regardless of how much money it can throw into the campaign), but if people strongly associate it with the cause and it leads to better recall for the brand, that’s a great metric at a brand level.

Swamy shares that sending an authentic message to the audience and context of the communication is key. The metric you should consider while measuring the success is whether the cause instills a positive change within the public and how important the message is in the current social context.

“One campaign cannot bring about change. Change has to be sustained,” stressed Baruah.

Discussing RoI

A well thought purpose driven campaign helps carve distinction for brands, especially in competitive categories where product differentiation is minor. Srinivasan points out that when all product features across all rivals are the same, a purpose-led communication helps the product stand out.

A study from Porter Novelli/Cone found that three out of four customers expect companies to go beyond just making money. About nine out of 10 say they would buy from a company they think is making a do-good effort, and eight out of 10 consumers think they are helping do good when they buy from a purpose-driven company.

When a campaign resonates with the audience and society as a whole, there is a direct impact on how the audience feels about the brand, and it does generate brand love, feels Swamy.

He added, “If done within the context of the brand, and seen through with all integrity, essentially genuine efforts of the cause-led campaigns in my observations leads in enhanced brand equity which then directly impacts business objectives”.

Bringing a Real Change

Post the launch of campaigns weaved for the greater good, do brands and companies strive to bring out a real change? With Ariel’s Dads ‘Share The Load’ dedicated to addressing the cycle of gender prejudice, launched in 2016, the brand claimed that the movement sparked conversations across multiple touchpoints, leading to a massive participation and 2.1 million men pledging their support to the cause. 2600 men showed their solidarity towards gender equality by creating a Guinness World Record of most number of men washing clothes together.   

While it is justified to quantify the participation and overall consumer activation for a cause through signups and footfalls, the question which still remains – do they bring about the real change on-ground? How many of these men started contributing to household chores in real life?

“The litmus test of a brand effecting change is to measure that change itself- not how much we liked watching the film,” opined Baruah.

Brands that can drive change through their proposition are in a strong place to activate real change. However, the positive response and buzz that social change “campaigns” get from the industry, and recognition in the form of awards, make some brands create a forced connect. 

For Swamy, the sincerity of the effort matters here. The lasting effect will be present if brands see it through and continue weaving their efforts into their everyday content and messaging. “The gap that needs to be filled is getting tangible responses from audiences after a settling period, whether they remember the campaign and what change did it create within them.”

On the other hand, Srinivasan emphasized that brands are not in the business of social change. “They are in the business of selling products or services. A cause becomes a way for the brand to utilize its voice in the service of a specific reason that is important to its target audience. So, a brand alone shouldn’t expect, like a political party, to bring on-ground change – that’s taking its role way too seriously and away from the core purpose”.

Shelf Life of Purpose Driven Campaigns

What happens once the campaign has had its share of virality and acceptance? How long do these campaigns remain in the minds of the consumers. A few months done the line, consumers end up remembering the purpose but not the brand.

Srinivasan adds,  “If they think of it as a tactical, one-time push, that’s the kind of fleeting and flippant attention audience would give it too. If the brand team picks a cause that works perfectly at the intersection of the brand’s appeal and the audience’s needs, then they can extend the use of such a purpose for a longer time, helping both the brand and the purpose,”

If brands wish to increase the shelflife, they should look to sustain the campaign’s messaging for a longer period and believe in their content. Swamy comments, “It is as strong as its messaging and its context”.

Concluding it on a broader note,  Baruah remarked that campaigns are just the message of the actual action. True impact will only happen if the brand has purpose at its core. “Or else, it has very limited shelf life, with a temporary spike in what we call buzz creation”, she signed off.

Editor’s Note

The discussion around shelf life of purpose driven campaigns was initiated by us in the early days of March, that is Before Corona. While the topic is still contextual, the purpose of a purpose driven campaign & its shelf life, having an altered and evolved attitude now.

Just last week, we discussed how the A & M industry, globally and back home, has moved on from Advertising to Empathizing & Humanizing. Not only brands are putting their money where their mouth is, but have also added a consumer first element to all their communication. How can we add value to a consumer’s or a human’s life in a pandemic? The question while haunted us in the first few days is now being tackled beautifully by many.

Purpose is now something as small as keeping consumers motivated, occupied (not engaged), and informed through creatives or UGC challenges or homemade videos. The industry circled back to becoming truly purpose driven – where campaigns, spends, and communication all focus on driving a change instead of rolling out one hard hitting video.

The shelf life of the new purpose is something still up for discussion. However, a statement by Maya Angelou might help us get some context here –

People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.

If a brand made the consumers feel safe, looked out for, cared for, and happy they are bound to remember it.