Purpose First. Selling Later.

Why committing to purpose will require more than just thinking of new ways of selling stuff, says best-selling author Daniel Goleman. 

Daniel Goleman, author of the best seller Emotional Intelligence and host of the podcast First Person Plural: Emotional Intelligence and Beyond, is a regular contributor to Korn Ferry. His latest book, Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body, is available now. 

Amazon Ads recently commissioned a survey to understand the values that matter most to consumers. They found 83% of U.S. respondents think more brands should do their part to help the world, especially when there is heightened difficulty or challenge.

“To reach consumers, brands must be aware of and take part in the larger societal conversations happening in real time,” Vann Graves, the executive director of Brandcenter at Virginia Commonwealth University, told the New York Times.

I touched on this recently in a piece about “purpose-driven marketing”, explaining that many experts see purpose as the future of marketing: a world where values and a sense of meaning are embedded into advertising and promotional campaigns.

I argued that if purpose-driven marketing is the future, brands are going to have to dig deep. Companies will need to tell the stories that show they understand the critical issues faced by their consumers – and then, they will need to back those stories up with their day-to-day decisions. Actions speak louder than words

An example of this comes from the job seeker website, Indeed. This year, the organization will once again support the Rising Voices Program, teaming up with the production company Hillman Grad to award $100,000 production budgets for 10 short films featuring stories created by a diverse group of filmmakers and storytellers around the power and meaning of work.

Explains LaFawn Davis, senior vice president of environmental, social and governance at Indeed: “We thought, ‘What if, instead of spending $1 million on a big TV ad, we invested $1 million for 10 BIPOC creators to produce short films about the meaning of work? How would their unique perspective on work and life show up in these stories?’”

Last year these films, which premiered at The Tribeca Festival in New York, created over 600 jobs.

This is a real twist on conventional marketing. Instead of directly aiming to sell something, Indeed focused their efforts on opening up a conversation and directly supporting marginalized communities.

Indeed's decision to refunnel ad dollars prevents “purpose-washing” – diversity, equity and inclusion aren’t just being talked about, but are the heart of the effort.

Meanwhile, Amazon Ads played their own role in promoting the campaign, offering Indeed and Hllman Grad access to a wide audience through Fire TV’s Stream It Forward program. Not only did Amazon Ads promote Rising Voices at the top of the screen, but for every hour the program streamed on Fire TV, Amazon donated $1 to Indeed’s chosen charity, Goodwill Industries International, up to $200,000.

Filmmakers Deondray Gossfield and Quincy LeNear Gossfield (a married couple) participated in Rising Voices to produce their short film “Flames.”

“It was incredible,” says Gossfield. “Our faces were everywhere: on the Fire TV home screen, Prime Video, websites, social media — everywhere. Quincy and I have been doing independent filmmaking for so long, but we’d never ever had that kind of ad backing. We got so many phone calls and text messages. We felt seen. It was very, very humbling.”

In this time of war and violence, organizations will be wise to consider how they can reroute ad dollars and be part of the conversations that matter to their customers and clients. After all, 55% of consumers are willing to pay more for a product or service if it stands for a social issue that is important to them. In the long run, staying out of the big issues may no longer be the smart business decision.

Click here to learn more about Daniel Goleman's Building Blocks of Emotional Intelligence.