Purpose adds meaning to content marketing.

Inject Purpose into Your Content Marketing

Last week, we explored how great content marketing makes your customers smarter. But should content marketing serve an even higher purpose?

Russell Sparkman of Fusion Spark Media emphatically answers, “Yes!”

“The most important content marketing question to ask is: What’s your purpose?”

He says, “Life is too short to make content that doesn’t matter. Content that matters does well as it does good.”

Citing the Millward Brown ranking of the top 100 most valuable global brands, Sparkman sees 3 ways for marketers to build brand equity:

  • Being meaningful
  • Having a brand purpose
  • Being trustworthy.

Companies that have defined their purpose perform better.

“Organizations driven by purpose and values outperformed the general market 15:1 and outperformed comparison companies 6:1,” he says, citing the Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras’s book Built to Last, Successful Habits of Visionary Companies.

“Sales teams driven by making a difference for their prospects or clients outsell their colleagues who are driven by the numbers in a sales quota,” he notes. That finding comes from Selling with Noble Purpose, a book by Lisa Earle McLeod, who researched firms such as Apple, Kimberly-Clark and Merck.

It boils down to this: customers want to feel good about the brands they spend money on.

“Customers are spending money, but they’re more inclined to spend it only with businesses they feel good about,” he says, citing the Gallup Business Journal. “Customers will support businesses they feel emotionally connected to, but will ignore those they don’t.”

Yet, the purpose is a big idea that extends beyond your customers.

Customers, employees, and shareholders all seek meaning and purpose from the people they buy from, work for or invest in, Sparkman says.

It’s about tech-empowered, values-driven, aspirational customers. Aspirational consumers believe they can change how a company behaves with their purchase decisions.

Aspirational consumers want companies to act in the best interests of society, are willing to pay more for products produced in a socially and environmentally responsible way, and encourage others to buy from responsible companies.

“Your purpose becomes part of the consumer conversation about your brand,” he says.

Companies such as Chipotle, Whole Foods, Tom’s, and Patagonia have a purpose and act accordingly. Here are more examples of purpose-driven companies.

Sparkman cautions marketers not to confuse defining a purpose with having a mission.

“Mission and goals are about your business. The purpose is outward-facing, focused on your customers,” he says.

Purpose serves to differentiate your brand and your content marketing from others. “Your purpose is uniquely yours, not easily replicated, giving you a competitive content advantage. Purpose can be, and should be, a shared value with your employees and customers.”

In short, “Purpose is about improving lives while you improve the bottom line.”

Not all marketers resonate with the idea of purpose. Sparkman says he hears 3 typical reactions to the idea of purpose-driven content marketing: “WTF?” “Meh.” And “Yes!”

He believes we need purpose-driven content to cut through information overload.

He cites the Eric Schmidt quote, “There were 5 exabytes of information created between the dawn of civilization through 2003. But that much information is now created every 2 days, and the pace is increasing.”

He notes that ComputerWorld invoked a higher purpose when it started its “Search for New Heroes” in 2001. It recognized the use of information technology to promote positive social, economic, and educational change.

How can marketers actually apply purpose to content marketing? “Through purpose, find meaning. From meaning learn what matters, find alignment, create content that matters.”

Sparkman offers two approaches to injecting purpose into your content marketing:

1. Purpose can be about practicing your values. 

As Sparkman elaborates: “One of the best examples of this is one of the most recent. The media and business world have been close to “rocked” by REI’s big move and announcement to close its stores on Black Friday.

REI’s #OptOutside campaign is a reflection of the insight they have into the values of their customers and their employees. They’re showing empathy for both groups, and it’s hit the mark.

“As this pertains to content marketing, they’re able to ‘prove their purpose’ by supporting the notion of getting outside through their content. For example, they provided a zip-code-based way for people to find a trail near them.

“Also, they empowered user-generated content by asking people to share photos of where they plan to #OptOutside. That hashtag reveals tens of thousands of shares, already, on Twitter and Instagram.”

2. Purpose can be about providing practical value.

“I turn to the Procter & Gamble BeingGirl.com website as a practical value example, driven by purpose.

“It’s plain to see that the ‘purpose’ is to offer health care tips and services to young women going through puberty. The site offers a plethora of advice, education, tips, and other information. It is, for the target demographic, a site offering tremendous depth in practical value content.

“But that’s not the big story here. The big story is that this has been an active site since 2007. According to reports, they spend about $1,000,000 per year to manage and maintain it. While the exact numbers are hard to find, you have to assume they would not continue that annual expense if the project were not returning the needed ROI.
Deliver social currency, practical value, emotion, and stories to get your content widely shared.”
To learn more about purpose-based content marketing, follow Fusion Spark Media on Twitter at @FusionSpark.