Zag Ed. 16 – Purpose Washing, Driving a 2500% Increase in Sales from TikTok, and Not Selling Red Roses on Valentine’s Day

💼 Purpose seems to the marketing buzz word to rule all marketing buzz words from the last couple years. So much of what we see in the industry, as well as so many of the conversations we have directly with CMOs, touch on or focus on purpose. As culture and consumer expectations change, it’s no longer enough to offer the right product at the right price with the right placement and the right promotion – there also needs to be an emotional connection and sense of fulfilment in a purchase.

The data is there to support the anecdotal evidence and the buzz we’re all hearing. 94% of global consumers say it’s important that the companies they engage with have a strong purpose, and they are 4x more likely to purchase from a company that has a strong purpose. Unilever also reported a couple years ago that the brands in their portfolio taking action for people and planet” grew 69% faster than the rest of their business.

But are we as an industry starting to take this whole purpose thing too far? Can a mayonnaise brand really be about saving the world? All this ‘purpose washing’ can sometimes feels like brand purpose is a way for CMOs to feel important and ad agencies to make money…Sometimes you just want to buy mayonnaise.

Trends always go through ebbs and flows, even if the overall direction of travel stays the same. We’re in a funny place with brand purpose right now. There are some brands, your Tom’s Shoes,  your Patagonias, your Tony Chocoloneys, that genuinely do have purpose at the core of their business. And there are others that are slathering purpose on their products to try to make more money.

It all comes down to authenticity. That’s really what consumers want and what they respect. They want brands that represent who they are. If that’s a genuine commitment to positive change in the world, great. If that’s not something you can deliver on right now, don’t make the commitment. Hopefully your business has more to offer the world than just a higher shareholder return in the next 90 days. Figure out what that is, even if it’s not saving the world, and stay true to who you are. The real risk with all this purpose conversation isn’t not having one, it’s having one you can’t deliver on.

🍋 Challenger marketing is as much about reacting quickly as it is planning well. Challengers find their competitive advantages, internal or external, and make the most of them. They don’t just double down. They 10x the opportunity. They squeeze very last drop from the lemon when the business world gives it to them.

Take eos. They have a fantastic CMO in Soyoung Kang (who you’ll be hearing from on Scratch in a couple weeks) who has built a challenger mindset and model in her team. The culture and strategy she’s developed allowed her team to identify and move quickly on a viral moment on TikTok that ultimately drove a 2500% (yes, two zeros) increase in sales of one product.

Read the full case study here. (Note – it’s not exactly safe for work…)

💌 Happy Valentine’s Day. What if we told you there was a challenger flower delivery business that chose to not sell red roses on Valentine’s Day last year? Crazy, right? Nope. Bloom & Wild honed in a consumer insight around red roses and made the thorny (too much?) decision to cut them out, which actually managed to drive a 4x increase in sales.

Two thing here – 1) all growth ultimately comes from consumer insight. Whether it’s a product innovation or a marketing campaign, the ones that work build on a deep and ideally differentiated understanding of the needs and beliefs of the customer you are trying to reach. 2) often the biggest opportunities are held hostage in the assumptions we have about the world around us. Try to wipe the assumption slate clean as much as possible and apply a beginners mindset to the work you do. Start from scratch and work backwards from data (qual or quant) you have about your customers – it will always lead you in the right direction.

🤓 Traditional advertising is a creative process. People try to come up with interesting ideas of new things they can do. There is certainly creativity in abundance in challenger marketing teams, but when it comes to content that, coming up with new campaigns is not the only thing they rely on. Challengers focus on capturing the storiesideas, and expertise from the business that’s already happening every day.  They think more like journalists than artists. They look around the organization and find the people that have something to say that their audience would find valuable and set about finding ways to share that with the world. Usually, there’s a relevant but differentiated POV that already exists at the core of the business and inside the heads of its key people – challenger marketers view themselves as the hunters and gatherers of those ideas and insights, as much as the creators of new ones.

🎲  Luck plays a big role in success or failure. We all want to believe we’re in full control of our professional lives and the growth of our businesses, but we’re not. So much of what we accomplish comes down to timing, serendipity, and ending up in the right place at the right time. But that doesn’t mean we are passive passengers on the path of fortune – creating your own luck is a real thing.

We love this concept of increasing the surface area of luck in your life. It’s meant more to apply to your life (personal and professional) as an individual, but it applies just as much to the life of your brand and business. Challenger brands increase the surface area for luck in the culture they build (being able to react quickly to opportunities that come up) and in the strategy they have (always investing in what’s new and next, not just what’s right now).


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