Once you’ve launched your brand, what next? First, give yourself a pat on the back, getting to this point has no doubt required focus, persistence and a lot of optimism. It’s a huge feat, but the real work has only just begun.
A large part of being (and growing) a conscious brand is taking conscious action to reinforce your purpose, values and vision consistently. A brand requires repetition, consistency and alignment to build share-of-mind and positive association. If you’re pursuing a purpose, that purpose needs to guide everything you do, which means every action needs to be considered and steered towards the positive impact your organisation wants to have.
When it comes to marketing and promotion, instead of talking about strategy or tactics, which you can find ‘top ten tips’ for everywhere, I find it’s more important to talk about the guiding principles for meaningful, positive and purpose-driven communications.
To understand the importance of good principles, let’s start with the problem we’ve created…
Since the dawn of time humans have created meaning by telling stories. Stories are powerful, they influence societal values and culture. Over the past century the quality of our stories has regressed at the hands of businesses chasing short term results.
We hear thousands of stories a day about how incomplete we are, which has led us to see ourselves as consumers first, and human citizens second. It’s driven us to unsustainable consumption, not to mention all the other problems it’s contributed to (we could go as far as obesity, depression, addiction, gambling…).
Building a conscious brand is about making a choice to stop producing unconscious marketing and treating customers as merely a means to an end. Instead, it’s choosing to understand why you exist, and how you make a real difference in people’s lives.
There’s another side to marketing – stories that instead raise us up, help us grow and mature. They shift us towards positive and intrinsic values, towards a fairer, more equitable, healthy and empathetic society. Conscious businesses and brands accept radical responsibility for that kind of marketing.
‘Conscious Marketing is not about corporate social responsibility or philanthropy. It’s about building something so fundamentally good and compelling right into the heart of your offering that people simply want to buy from you. It’s about ensuring your marketing activities are aligned with your higher purpose – the WHY behind what you do. It’s about pricing and packaging your offering with deep regard for the client and their needs while taking care of all stakeholders in your business eco-system.’ – Carolyn Tate, Conscious Marketing
So, with the help of experts like Carolyn Tate (Conscious Marketing), Jonah Sachs (Winning The Story Wars) and Seth Godin (This is Marketing), here are a few guiding principles for purpose-driven, conscious marketing:
Call out inadequacy
Instead of making customers feel bad, help them see the truth. The truth about human nature is that it goes beyond our improper desires and leans more toward a higher potential.
Embodying this human truth provides a foundation for empowering storytelling that can build your next breakthrough communication – and your entire brand. Of course, as Caroline Tate says, putting a new, positive spin on marketing is not an end in itself. There are broader things to consider to ensure your marketing message is grounded in business truth and not hypocrisy… but by refusing to go down the inadequacy route and instead calling it out, we create opportunities for deeper and more powerful connections with our audience.
Speak to the hero not the child
Marketing often relies on our most childish impulses and emotions – jealousy, greed, selfishness, vanity. It highlights where we are deficient, instead of appealing to our inner human potential to overcome, grow and do incredible things.
“Reorienting our stories away from the adolescent, depressed consumer mind-set and toward the empowered citizen worldview is a powerful first step in reshaping our society for the better.” – Jonah Sachs, Winning The Story Wars
Traditional marketing has deeply ingrained in us the assumption that audiences treasure ease and convenience and avoid making sacrifices at any cost – we’re better than that.
Forget the consumer, call on the citizen
Inspired citizens make better brand evangelists than helpless consumers.
Remind customers of their core values. Inspire them to do the right thing. Invite them to be part of something bigger. Give a message that promises hope, not the kind that is delivered to people as consumers, but the kind we work together to earn for ourselves as citizens. Tell the truth about human nature, glorify optimism over fear, collective sacrifice over individual greed, and engaged citizenship over pre-packaged, convenient solutions.
Be purpose-driven not marketing-driven
When you’re marketing driven, you’re only focussed on the latest social media data hacks, the design of your new logo, or the latest SEO tactics. On the other hand, when you’re purpose-driven, you’re heading towards something greater, you think a lot about the hopes and dreams of your customers and people like them. Being purpose-driven is long term, it lasts.
Being purpose-driven in your marketing and communications sometimes means sacrificing short-term wins for long-term collective betterment (yours, the people you serve, and society as a whole).
Marketing-driven companies believe that the role of marketing is to create a need for their products, whereas purpose-driven companies know their customer deeply, and create products and services that uniquely serve their needs and bring communities of values-aligned people together.
“Time to get off the social media merry-go-round that goes faster and faster but never gets anywhere. Time to stop hustling and interrupting. Time to stop spamming and pretending you’re welcome. Time to stop making average stuff for average people while hoping you can charge more than a commodity price. Time to stop looking for shortcuts, and time to start insisting on a long, viable path instead.” – Seth Godin, This is Marketing
Short-termism drives the business world today. And this directly impacts the marketing in most companies. Short-term campaigns are developed to take advantage of people – usually to suit quarterly financial goals.
The alternative is to find, build and earn your story, the arc of the change you seek to produce. This is a generative position, one built on possibility, not scarcity.
Do less. Do it well
Instead of selfish mass, effective marketing now relies on empathy and service. For a long time – large-scale advertising was really effective – money spent equalled sales made. But then it wasn’t true anymore, and now marketing requires a lot more depth.
Promotion doesn’t need to be selfish. It doesn’t need to be about hype, scams and pressure. There’s a more effective way. It’s not always easy, but its right. Promotions work when they’re seen as generous or unique or tied into our needs and dreams.
As Seth Godin says, mass makes you boring. It forces you to be average because it requires you to offend no one and satisfy everyone. The best brands in the world are for someone, not everyone.
Remember you’re here to serve
It’s not all about you and what you want. It’s about understanding people and helping them get what they want. Here are some things you might resort to in your promotions if your focus is on yourself instead of serving your customers:
- Misleading people: Some companies exaggerate benefits of their products and services in order to try and ‘sell more’.
- Contacting people without consent/ spamming: Things like buying a list of email addresses so you can bulk up your company’s subscriber list.
- Emotional Exploitation: Drawing on emotion is one of the most powerful ways to engage people – but you can also go too far and exploit emotions in a way that’s irrelevant to your product or service, which is unethical.
- Insensitive Controversy: When you enter into a world of controversy for the sake of it – in a way that it totally unrelated to your brand or industry, things will go horribly wrong.
- Bad mouthing competitors: Emphasising the flaws in a competitor’s product is a lazy and immature practice, and it corrodes trust. No one trusts someone who belittles other people.
- Using fear tactics: Focusing on fear and inadequacy to motivate people to buy your product or service
- Sexualising women: The list goes on…
Consider these principles when building your marketing, communication and content strategies. If you truly want your business or organisation to have a positive impact, an extra layer of thought is required in everything you do, and it’s worth the investment to grow an engaging, conscious brand that inspires deep trust.