• Lindsay Grace Kinniburgh


Updated: Apr 5


As we begin to bounce back from the intensity of 2020, many brands are turning to purpose-driven models and socially responsible marketing that focuses on a higher purpose.

The shift towards brand purpose will help businesses survive in 2021 and we present 5 Things Every Founder, CEO and Marketer Need To Know!

#1 Consumers are Shopping on Values

There are plenty of recent studies showing that a large majority of customers expect brands to be clear about their purpose and commitment to social and environmental issues.

In times of uncertainty, it’s common for consumers to focus more on value. This also includes re-examining their own personal values and making choices that directly impact the planet.

Trust has become a must-have competitive advantage that will become necessary for a brand’s success. According to Salesforce, 82% of business customers and consumers said that a company's trustworthiness mattered in 2020. Trust is the basis for connection, consumers today are seeking out more conscious brands that have been built on solid principles, better best practices and that stand for something beyond profit.

According to research insights by IBM:

Nearly 6 in 10 consumers surveyed are willing to change their shopping habits to reduce environmental impact.

Nearly 8 in 10 respondents indicate sustainability is important for them.

And for those who say it is very/extremely important, over 70% would pay a premium of 35%, on average, for brands that are sustainable and environmentally responsible.

The rising number of consumers shopping on values is driving brands to focus on their socially responsible footprint.


Examples of companies taking a purpose-driven approach in 2020 include Bacardi. Last month the global spirit brand revealed plans for their new biodegradable bottle that will replace 80 million / 3,000 tons of plastic each year from 2023.

Nike and Lego took a proactive stance in the way the brands responded to the Black Lives Matter movement.

In October, Adidas launched a gender-neutral store in London’s Soho district. According to the fashion retailer, the new concept store targeting Gen Z focuses on inclusivity and sustainability.

Patagonia also stood behind their political views by releasing a controversial (but brilliant) ‘vote the assholes out’ message secretly stitched to the labels of selected clothing lines.

2020 was also the year Hive opened a new online grocery marketplace dedicated to only stocking purpose-driven brands.

This year we launched Outsourced imagination - a purpose-driven marketing agency dedicated to helping businesses and brands discover, navigate and activate their brand purpose through socially responsible marketing.

#2 Luxury is Out, Brand Purpose is in!

Putting morals over money may stimulate great debate in the boardroom, but more brands are proving that business WITH purpose is more lucrative than ever.

Millennials and Gen Zers (with an estimated buying power of $44 billion annually) will account for the majority of luxury consumption in the next ten years, and women are highlighted to be the most important gender in making purchase decisions.

Most importantly:

These customers expect brands to go deeper than offering only beautiful products and luxury labels. The ‘purpose’ of the brand is what will matter most.

Focusing on sustainability, inclusivity and a higher purpose will become the guiding light for leading brands.

Gucci is already adopting a sustainable approach with their new Gucci Off The Grid Circular Lines.

Using as many recyclable and organic materials as possible, the collection, backed by Jane Fonda, was made with saving the planet in mind.

Tiffany & Co. are committing to 100% geographic transparency with their new "craftsmanship journey". The store's new brand promise offers customers the precise locations of where their diamond was sorted, planned, cut, polished, graded and set.

Tiffany Chief Sustainability Officer Anisa Kamadoli Costa says, "By procuring diamonds as rough and crafting them in our own workshops, it means there is not only traceability but also an assurance that the communities where Tiffany diamonds are made are seeing a positive impact."

To stay relevant in a changing world, luxury brands will indeed need to focus on purpose-driven goals alongside creating deeper and more meaningful engagement with their affluent consumers.

Authentic socially responsible marketing campaigns infused with personalisation and a true understanding of their customer will be a top priority for brands in 2021.

#3 Employees Must Stand for Something

A recent study by Harvard Business Review found that employees who derive meaning from their work report almost twice the job satisfaction. They're also three times more likely to stay with their organisation for a longer period of time.

Porter Novelli backs up this claim with a report that proves Executive Leaders expect companies to lead with a purpose-first approach.

Their findings show:

8-in-10 executives feel that business has the scale, speed and acumen to solve today’s most pressing problems.

7-in-10 feel that to truly be purpose-driven, a brand must be willing to take risks that address social justice.

9-in-10 executives believe that business must benefit all stakeholders (not just shareholders alone).

Your people are what matter most. Building a strong culture cemented by a brand purpose people can get behind is a powerful differentiator and go-forward strategy, especially when combined with socially responsible marketing and honest communications that flow top-down.

Truly purpose-led brands can only succeed when no one in the business is left behind.

#4 Care About Climate Change

The pursuit of a healthy planet is on the agenda like never before. A recent discussion between environmental activists Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough highlighted the real-time threat that we face not just as CEOs, marketers and business owners, but as human beings.

There is a Climate Emergency which requires immediate and radical action by governments, industries, businesses and individuals.

A Brand Purpose Tracker study by MediaCom showed that 84% of respondents agreed that brands have a responsibility to minimise their environmental impact. Not only this, but people are increasingly looking for businesses to step up and to take action.

Edelman’s 2019 Trust Barometer research found that 79% of people felt that CEOs should take the lead on change rather than wait for governments to impose it.


Brands that are moving away from traditional business models in order to help preserve the planet include Intrepid Travel. The sustainable travel tour operator has become climate positive by offsetting more carbon than it emits through its trips and tours.

Offset Earth is a subscription programme that encourages individuals to take accountability for their own footprint. Travellers can make positive lifestyle changes for the environment via climate initiatives all over the world.

Love Beauty and Planet is a new range of beauty and wellness solutions by Unilever. The brand’s plant-based ingredients are biodegradable and housed in recycled plastic. To offset its carbon footprint, Love Beauty and Planet also contribute to a carbon tax fund that helps reduce carbon emissions and landfill waste.

Avocado is recognised as the latest sleep and eco-friendly mattress. The brand is committed to using organic materials and is Climate Neutral–certified. Meaning, they offset emissions from production and shipping by purchasing carbon offsets from the nonprofit Carbonfund.

Even McDonalds is taking on a new growth-strategy that leans heavily on culturally relevant, purpose-driven marketing. A new McPlant menu is made of plant-based meat substitutes.


#5 The Benefits of Socially Responsible Marketing

Socially responsible marketing involves focusing on building connections with customers who want to make a positive difference in the world through their purchases.

According to, "The Power of a Values-Based Strategy" by Forrester Research, 52% of U.S. consumers factor values into their purchase choices — meaning they seek out brands that proactively promote beliefs and values aligned with their own.

A study by Cone Communications found that 87% of Americans will purchase a product because its company advocated for an issue they cared about.

Socially responsible marketing strategies can be implemented at various brand touchpoints, such as recyclable packaging, biodegradable products or committing to improving communities — basically, providing products or services that have a positive impact in the world.

For example, Outsourced imagination is committed to supporting the welfare of communities by supporting charity: water. As part of our brand promise, we donate 5% of every sales invoice to the charity. Once the donation has been made, we send proof of the pledge directly to our clients. Doing good and giving back is part of our ethos and gives us a great reason to be more profitable!


Investing in socially responsible marketing is a tool that can inspire and motivate stakeholders and build more responsible practices, but it must be rooted in authenticity.

Putting on appearances or greenwashing, can cause irreversible damage to your brand reputation. Customers, especially digitally-savvy consumers can find out lies and spread news fast!

Volkswagen’s emissions-cheating scandal, in which the brand admitted to rigging 11 million of its vehicles with software designed to cheat emissions tests, is one of the most well-known cases.


On the flip side:

When you're earnest and honest in your purpose-driven marketing strategy, the benefits are bountiful, especially if the campaign is rooted in the brand’s purpose. TOMS is a standout example.

TOMS’ brand purpose is to sell shoes in order to improve lives and improve communities across the globe. The company focuses on positively impacting the lives of disadvantaged children.

The shoemaker began with a "one for one" campaign: for every pair of slip-on or boots bought, TOMS donated a pair of shoes to a child in need. Similarly, for every pair of glasses, the brand paid for an eye exam and treatment.

The bottom line:

As we move further into a new decade, brand’s that take a purpose-led approach and adopt a socially responsible marketing strategy are more likely to grow favourably and will be in a better position to navigate the future.

Making a profitable AND purposeful footprint means finding and focusing on a higher purpose. Outsourced imagination’s Brand Purpose DNA Workshop helps brands Discover, Navigate and Activate their brand purpose. Click here to find out more >

Thanks for dropping by our purpose-driven marketing blog, we appreciate your support and passion for purpose!

Lindsay Grace Kinniburgh

Founder & CMO at Outsourced imagination


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