Purpose as a foundation for positive change

Karyn Furstman

It's been over two years since the pandemic hit and transformed the world irreversibly. Perhaps most of these transformations were due to happen in some distant future, but for some, the pandemic became the perfect catalyst.

Although a lot of focus was put on businesses' immediate need to become digitally savvy overnight, the transformation wasn't just limited to that; it was also the start of the widespread movement of 'purpose'. Once a mere buzzword for niche companies, it became a new non-negotiable starting point for doing business in almost every sector at every level. This recent but long-awaited explosion of interest in creating more meaning for businesses, customers and employees was the start of a new paradigm that is here to stay.

Many marketers tasked with leading their brands through the unprecedented year of global change unexpectedly found they were able to address long-standing challenges and innovate like never before. These companies found (their) purpose in the chaos that was COVID. In surveys commissioned by Wipro and Designit, 73% reported successful product or service offerings changes. 72% reported more streamlined processes and protocols. 69% tried tactics deemed too risky pre-COVID, and 64% adjusted their messaging to be more authentic, compassionate, or transparent. It became clear that the brands that endured - succeeded even - amid the tumult were the ones who responded promptly to the tremendous change in life around the globe and all the resulting uncertainty surrounding this. They delivered a sense of community and shared purpose, which in turn guaranteed them a share in the future marketplace.

“A lot of marketing plans were thrown out the window. Our efforts became more about relationship building than selling.” - US marketing leader, Health Care Company.

Putting humanity in the driver's seat
To meet the new cultural landscape, messaging and content needed to be adjusted. Suddenly customers and employees expected a deeper and more meaningful conversation all around: authentic storytelling and connection with colleagues, prospects, (fellow) customers, partners, and vendors. “It might sound too obvious, but everything starts with having a purpose. It puts humanity in the driver's seat.” - Karyn Furstman, VP, Head of CX Strategy & Solutions.

The change of tone might have been pushed by external circumstances, but finding purpose in hardship and adversity is a distinctly human need, and it's reflected in how we all communicate.

Leading with empathy
A whopping 68% of CMOs now posit that empathy and transparency surpass innovation in brand success. But for a company's purpose to translate into a successful brand, its purpose has to reach the whole spectrum of stakeholders. To exude trust, transparency and the right perception, it's no longer enough to have an external communication strategy based on nothing. But it pays off: according to research, consumers are four times more likely to purchase from purpose-driven companies. Brands that enable customers, clients, and employees to connect foster genuine engagement and satisfaction in the long term. It's not for nothing that 70% of executives now prioritise implementing purpose-led initiatives to become or stay market leaders. Having a purpose and communicating it well gives companies a seat at the table of sustainable success.

“The word we used for the whole year was 'empathy'. The customer does not need their problem to be solved; they need to be heard and understood.” - CMO and communications officer, delivery services company.

What needs to happen next? It seems that COVID had a greater purpose for business; to remind us that we need one. A sense of purpose lays the foundation for organisations to work towards the greater good and for customers to feel committed to a company's success. But how can it be achieved? By working better together. It's the impact we create with others that defines us. Partnering with progressive businesses and organisations, share knowledge, address more significant challenges, and create meaningful solutions.

* All data points stem from a Designit and Wipro CMO white paper 'When upheaval leads to Elevation - Marketing and customer insights from the year that changed everything'.

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