As consumers identify ways to make a difference in the world, they expect the brands they engage with most to do the same. That’s why purpose-driven marketing is here to stay—it positively benefits both consumers and brands. During an Advertising Week New York panel led by Megan Cunningham, chief executive officer and founder at Magnet Media, Tripadvisor and key industry experts discussed how to build out a strategy with real impact

Tripadvisor’s business model centers around travel, which, during the pandemic, was almost non-existent. The company was forced to make drastic cuts and dramatically restructure, yet amid the hurdles, it decided to invest further in two teams: its DE&I and social teams. According to Christine Maguire, general manager and vice president of global media business at Tripadvisor, that consistent progress, authenticity and doubling down on values—despite an uncertain economic future—are what purpose means to a travel brand like Tripadvisor.

According to Yesenia Bello, iHeartMedia senior vice president of diversity and inclusion, the company didn’t have a strong focus on diversity and inclusion before 2020. The pandemic changed that and the interest of iHeartMedia’s audience, so a dedicated role ensued. iHeartMedia dove into its mission of giving everyone in America a friend, and transformed the meaning behind that into one of “being there…for diverse audiences,” said Bello. iHeartMedia received feedback and responded by stepping up in moments replete with uncertainty. Bello said it’s important to remember that, “We are all on the path of determining our purpose as individuals, consumers, marketers and companies.”

Reflecting on the past 18 months, Lindsay Stein, the new chief of social impact at Havas, said that the pandemic changed “purpose” from being nothing more than a buzzword a few years ago to an entire movement in marketing today. Consumers, especially younger generations, have been pushing for purpose for years and have shown that they want to purchase from purpose-driven brands, according to Stein. 

Seventy-eight percent of consumers will choose a brand that’s purpose-driven rather than one that isn’t, noted Stein. To capture that business, talent recruitment and retention are vital. Before brands can acquire the best talent and young talent, they must have and live a purpose. As Stein mentioned, there are a plethora of issues in the world, from climate change to hunger, that brands have the option of tackling.

When asked about ensuring that a brand’s purpose isn’t a slogan-only performative element and is actually resonating in the behavior and values of the brand, Stein said:

“Walking the walk is imperative to a brand’s success when talking the talk. It starts from top-down. The brand Thinx centered around and promoted female empowerment at every possible turn, though when it was discovered that its female CEO was creating a toxic culture internally, the brand nearly imploded until she stepped down.”

Still, the notion of purpose is complex and there’s no silver bullet, according to Maguire. Tripadvisor serves three cohorts—employees, partners and travelers—and research has shown how important it is to serve all three, said Maguire. Failing to provide employees with authenticity will translate to them not serving partners and consumers with authenticity. 

Citing a recent study that found 95 percent of people have permanently changed at least one thing about their behavior or values since the pandemic, Maguire said that Tripadvisor believes that there’s good out there and that one of its purposes is to help travelers find that good. In that sense, Tripadvisor’s purpose comes through in the way it services travelers, how it speaks to consumers via its creative assets and language, and ultimately how it shows up externally. Walk the talk before you can sell something through.

Key Takeaways:

  • There are several benefits to brands and consumers of purpose-driven marketing, namely excelling in business but also improving the world. Brands must engage innovative ways to reach consumers through purpose-driven campaigns and cannot simply talk the talk without walking the walk. 
  • Strategizing on how to create brand trust with consumers will produce competitive advantages given how highly valued purpose-driven brands are to consumers. 
  • It is critical to the evolution of purpose-driven marketing that the effectiveness of strategies in this context is measured.