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Take a trip down memory lane with me, when not too long ago, brands owned themselves. Taglines communicated tangible value, consumers bought products and services—and that was that.
Purpose-driven marketing has its moment
Enter social media, Gen Z and brand purpose as forces for collective good. Brands shift from belonging to themselves to belonging to all of us.
The benefits of a stakeholder ecosystem are plentiful: Consumers are four times more likely to purchase and 4.5 times more likely to champion a brand that has a strong sense of purpose. Furthermore, brands with an active purpose have outperformed the stock market by 134% and enjoyed a share of wallet multiplied ninefold. The business imperative for purpose is banging at our collective brand doors.
However, it’s not as easy as declaring a purpose and watching customers roll in. The magic happens when brand purpose and customer values collide.
Consumers care about authenticity. Purpose must be central to who the organization is and how they show up in the world. Purpose means doing the right thing, even when the right thing is hard or unprofitable. Purpose should be congruent with the brand and not just a tug at the heartstrings.
Nonprofits, your trusted neighborhood impact partner
The Edelman Trust Barometer cites competence and ethics as to how consumers evaluate trust. A key finding from the 2022 report is that NGOs and businesses must act together as stabilizing forces to impact social change. Brands, your authentic purpose partner is right in front of you—just look to the nonprofit sector.
Partnerships with nonprofit organizations are a way for brands to lead with authenticity and garner trust. The nonprofit sector has historically been the keyholder to social good. They have spent decades developing stakeholder trust, critical understanding of social need and impact metrics to demonstrate the value of their work.
Nonprofit-brand partnerships can be impactful when the organizations have a shared vision of the social good and determine what assets each can bring to the partnership that demonstrates value to all stakeholders. Partners can meet those stakeholders with a compelling value proposition of how they will meet an unserved need and use shared resources to demonstrate tangible, measurable social change.
Building the partnership
Just like any relationship, brand-nonprofit impact partnerships takes time, shared goals, accountability and communication.
First, determine the problem that needs solving and deciding whether you are the right partners for the job. Hologic, an innovator in women’s health, saw a gap in health outcomes for Black and Hispanic women. They partnered with Black Women’s Health Imperative (BWHI), a 38-year-old nonprofit organization with a rich history of advancing health equality and social justice for Black women, to narrow that gap. The partners agreed on the problem to be solved and carved out a space for them in the solution.
Then, assess each organization’s capabilities to solve the problem. Determine each partner’s capacity related to the depth of expertise about the issue, as well as access to the community stakeholders and financial resources. Partners should determine whether the shared resources and capabilities are enough to make a meaningful impact.
In the case of Hologic and BWHI, the nonprofit understood the target audience and had a trusting and authentic relationship with them. Meanwhile, Hologic had a national platform and a vested interest in the issue. These shared resources and capabilities prepared the partners for authentic impact.
Partners should design a program that has a clear value proposition, a compelling story and moves the community to action. These are our tried-and-true best practices in marketing strategy—a reason to believe that humanizes the brand and spurs action. Hologic and BWHI engaged Edelman to create the “Cerving Confidence” campaign featuring Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter, Ciara.
The campaign launched with an Instagram post featuring a PSA that encouraged Black women to commit to well-woman exams to protect themselves from cervical cancer. Great campaigns like these are designed with the audience in mind. Brands take a backseat while the purpose drives messaging.
Be sure to measure social impact as well. Nonprofit partners often measure their social return on investment (SROI) to determine programmatic impact. SROI is a general look at how effectively resources and capabilities were used to achieve outcomes. The outcome measures are important to determine whether the partnership is effective in achieving its goals.
Since the launch of “Cerving Confidence,” the campaign has garnered more than 100 stories and more than 20 million views of the PSA, with social conversations continuing. These measures can be set against the resources devoted to the campaign to measure its impact.
Impact partnerships can span a campaign or years of campaigns to attain a return on social investment, impact a community and build brand affinity.
It’s up to you, brands
Brands have a business and social imperative to leave the world better than they found it. Consumers demand more from us than surface-level statements of purpose and catchy taglines. Nonprofit partners are imperative to gain trust, benefit from deep knowledge and have an authentic impact on social issues. Go out and find a partner who can multiply the impact of your purpose work.