As Brands Become Increasingly Purpose-Driven, They Can Look to Nonprofits for Inspiration


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If one thing is clear in today’s climate of social and political upheaval, it’s that the expectations of brands and companies are changing. More than ever, people want companies to address some of the most challenging issues of our day. From space travel to ocean plastics, from free speech to public safety, companies are increasingly taking on responsibilities that were formerly the domain of government, NGOs and even 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations.

As a result, corporations are becoming more purpose-driven, which in turn is causing them to seek new ways of engaging with customers, employees and shareholders. It’s new territory for marketers and their brands, and one way that can help is to look more closely at the nonprofits they are beginning to emulate.

As mission-driven organizations, nonprofits have a fundamentally different orientation from commercial enterprises on what defines success. But in a more purpose-driven world, they have a lot they can teach marketers.

Measure value

What gets measured gets done, so metrics are key. Nonprofits have been under mounting pressure by grantmakers and donors to prove the value of their work, so they prioritize the numbers that support accomplishing their mission. Emerging standards, including many social impact metrics,& are leading the way. These new methods for setting goals and measuring progress are transferable to the private sector and deserve a place on the dashboard.

Do more with less

Famously thin on budgets, nonprofits create ways to get more done with less. As more marketers and agencies toil under ever-tighter constraints, there are behaviors they can adopt. Perhaps the most impactful is literally doing less and getting more: When a person is part of a team that is clear about its mission, both priorities and distractions get easier to see. Tackle the former and ignore the latter, knowing you will have the support of your manager. A second win comes from planning ahead so our creative assets do double-duty—or even more—having a second life across social media, in presentations, etc. Finally, take to heart that “perfect enough” is a great strategy for most applications in our high-volume, short-life world of social and digital media.

Define your purpose

Quick, recite your company’s mission. Its values? Chances are you can’t. Even greater are the chances that in addition to mission and values, marketers and agencies are regularly asked to embrace a brand promise, brand attributes and now, the latest trend, a purpose. In the face of many competing and indistinct mantras,

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