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Diane Primo, Purpose Brand CEO

The Purpose Report 2020 Is a Mandate for Corporate Change and a Framework to Address Race, COVID-19

Published on June 18, 2020

With social justice and public health crises at center stage, companies now must accelerate their execution of purpose with race relations and COVID-19 at the center.

CHICAGO (June 18, 2020) –  A comprehensive corporate purpose survey—covering ethnicity, generation, gender and politics—shows how purpose-driven initiatives like social justice have achieved cultural rock-star status, bigger than video games, technology and professional sports. A new report sheds light on the cultural shift to purpose, the conflict between purpose and profit, and the implications for business leaders.

The Purpose Report 2020: The Move From Brand Positioning to Purpose Positioning gives business and marketing executives tools to speak with authenticity on race relations, COVID-19 and other pressing issues that activate deeply held personal values.

“For marketers, the implications are enormous,” says Purpose Brand CEO Diane Primo, the report’s author. “A brand can define how it wants to be positioned in the marketplace by not only its value proposition, but also the values behind it. The findings in this report suggest that a purpose-engaged company must adapt to cultural value shifts quickly and with intent. The public focus on race and COVID-19 demonstrates this.”

 An extensive survey of consumer attitudes toward corporate purpose, The Purpose Report 2020 sets the agenda for a decade of change in brand marketing and business operations. The 2010s produced a corporate debate about purpose—connecting brands with lofty social ideals. The new decade will be about purpose positioning—creating the informed businesses models that can truly change society.

In a nationwide survey conducted for the report, more consumers found meaning in purpose-driven issues like civic engagement, the environment, giving back and social justice than in fashion, pro sports, technology and other lifestyle interests. Views on a range of interests vary widely across gender, generation, ethnicity, political affiliation and location. By analyzing each segment, The Purpose Report 2020 reveals causes and values that resonate universally and, notably, those that can appeal to targeted groups.

Among the key insights in The Purpose Report 2020:

  • Purpose Is at the Center of Culture. Purpose has achieved cultural rock-star status, bigger than video games, technology and professional sports. When asked about hobbies and interests, consumers say they care about and find meaning in environmental causes (64%), civic engagement (62%), philanthropy, giving back and volunteering (61%) and social justice causes (61%). These concerns were judged more meaningful than outdoor activities (59%), athletics/health & fitness (57%), technology (52%), professional and semi-pro sports (47%), computer/video games (47%) and fashion (42%). Concerns and their intensity were more fully revealed in demographic breakdowns. More than other age groups, Generation Z finds meaning in health, outdoor activities, social justice and the environment. Gen Z may view health as both a lifestyle and a social issue, given that 84% of Gen Z respondents selected mental health as a cause they care about.
  • Purpose Creates Employee Activists: Employees are not afraid to take a company to task publicly if their values are not aligned. Over 74% agree that as employees, they have a right to stand up to employers who defy their personal principles. This belief is widely held among millennials (82%), Hispanics (79%), blacks (79%) and Democrats (79%). “This is essential for companies to remember as they activate emergency plans around race relations and COVID-19,” Primo said. “This is their opportunity to build loyalty with a generation that is difficult to persuade.”
  • Equal Rights Is a Universally Shared Value: Power, opportunity and risk are at the center of messaging across demographic lines. Consumers widely share the values of equal rights, access to basic services, sustainability and job growth. But their level of commitment often is bound by gender, age, race and ethnicity, or political affiliation. The top causes for men were domestic job growth, fair and free elections, and access to clean water. Among women, top concerns were women’s health, equal rights and domestic violence. Blacks most often chose racial rights, equal rights and domestic violence, while Hispanics named equal rights, affordable housing and climate change.
  • Direct Action and Consistent Representation Signify Purpose: For every group surveyed, cash donations were cited as the top indicator of a brand’s greater social purpose. Direct action is widely seen as more substantive than words. Only 23% acknowledged the corporate social responsibility report as a way that brands and companies show a purpose beyond making money, compared with cash donations (61%), direct aid (53%), events or campaigns (39%), website content (39%), ads (38%), leaders’ statements (37%) and news coverage (37%).
  • Tech Company Collaboration Demanded: For every group surveyed, 80% or more thought social media companies needed to collaborate to create change around data privacy. This may emerge as a concern in COVID-19 contact tracing. CEOs of social media companies have twice the perceived power of CEOs in non-tech companies to address issues their customers care about. The CEO’s voice during racial unrest will likely be defining. Missteps may harm CEOs’ personal reputations as well as those of their companies.
  • Social Media Sounds the Alarm: Two in 3 (67%) say it is important to let others know through social media when a company/organization does not adhere to the principles they care about, with Gen Z (76%), Hispanics (76%) and Democrats (74%) in high agreement.
  • Consumers Disenfranchised, But Steadfast in Their Beliefs: The power needed to take effective action often transcends the power of the individual.  While 89% said they’re willing to support an issue regardless of what others do, 40% say any action they take as individuals will not make a difference. However, the individual will stand up.

“Expectations have evolved, and corporations and brands need to evolve to meet them,” Primo said. “The report provides a systematic framework for authentically building and sustaining corporate purpose, well beyond functional marketing. It provides a practical construct on proactively anticipating and responding to cultural turbulence.”

The Purpose Report 2020 will guide a conversation that demands straight talk and gives 10 practical rules to abide by.  A free download is available at the Purpose Brand website, purposebrand.com.

About Diane Primo

Diane Primo is the CEO of Purpose Brand, an award-winning, Chicago-based public relations, branding and digital marketing firm. She is the only African-American female CEO of a purpose-driven communications agency. Diane’s focus on impact marketing stems from her belief that to be successful today, brands must be purpose-driven and committed to consumers.

Primo has been recognized by her peers as a communications trailblazer in a groundbreaking 30-year career leading some of the country’s top marketing organizations. She serves as a board member for Call One, a telecommunications company, and P33, the private sector initiative to promote Chicago’s standing as a technology center, and is a committee member of World Business Chicago’s ChicagoNEXT. She is a member of the Economic Club of Chicago, the Chicago Network and the Business Leadership Council. Primo is being honored by Ragan Communications with its 2020 Top Women in Communications Trailblazer Award.

About Purpose Brand

The Purpose Brand agency is an award-winning, full-service public relations, brand and digital content marketing firm in Chicago. Purpose Brand always puts purpose into practice–making brands relevant and communities stronger. Services include media and public relations, brand strategy, content creation, web design and development, content strategy, special events, video marketing and training.

Working across disciplines, Purpose Brand develops and executes end-to-end PR and marketing initiatives that capture audiences’ hearts and minds. Contact Purpose Brand to learn more about its services or to set up onsite training in purpose positioning.

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