28 Nov 2019

Today, every business is a tech business. Whether you’re shipping socks or software, tech infrastructure shores up your company, and your shop front is most likely online.

The proliferation of internet business models and the explosion of digital channels has led to a predilection for performance marketing. Many companies invest heavily throughout their lifecycle in PPC, SEO and SEM, retargeting, personalisation and automation.

An entire industry has sprung up around it. From CRO consultants to growth gurus, and from social media managers to SEO executives.

And for many startups and scaleups, whether outsourcing growth or up-skilling internally, significant amounts of budget, headcount and headspace are expended on performance marketing.

But has the pendulum swung too far in favour of performance?

And what about the other ‘P’ which — as audience demographics and attitudes shift and change — seems more apposite than ever: purpose?

As widely reported, Gen Z has also become known as the Purpose Generation. According to Nielsen, in the US they now constitute a larger section of the audience than baby boomers (26% vs 24%).

This consumer segment are alleged to pursue purpose in professional lives as well as their purchasing. They crave connection with purposeful brands, they care deeply about provenance, and they’re captivated by impact.

In order to attract Gen Z, whether as a customer, employee or advocate, building a purposeful brand is a prerequisite. Purposeful doesn’t necessarily equate to social impact or upside — although it can. Purpose in this broad context means a business with a clear sense of itself and its reason for existence.

The terms purpose, mission, and vision are frequently confused, conflated and corrupted. However properly codified, they provide clarity for decision making, strategy setting, hiring, communicating, and scaling amongst many other things.

Purpose has a clear definition — it’s the reason why the business exists, the true north, or guiding star, which should direct everything you do as a company (we’ve written about this in detail here). And businesses which take the time to define their sense of purpose are increasingly reported to outperform those that don’t.

Once you clarify your purpose; define a clear mission (the current, specific and measurable goal you are embarked upon); and crystallise your vision of the future (the world you’re seeking to create or contribute to), you can start building the positioning and personality of the brand.

Positioning isn’t complicated — it’s essentially who we are and what we stand for. It’s about striking a pose or attitude which means the right customers can navigate towards us and the wrong ones navigate away from us. Put simply, it means taking a position.

Personality means the ingredients most commonly associated with brand — logo, name, visual identity, tonality… And both positioning and personality should have a red thread which connects firmly back to our sense of purpose.

With purpose, positioning and personality locked down, you’re in a strong place to start building out brand campaigns and messages.

It isn’t an Either/Or choice between purpose and performance. But strangely, many startups and scaleups often make a call between building a performance marketing machine or a brand-centric capability.

At Multiple, we frequently come across companies taking a short term view, investing in performance marketing, and jumping straight to tactics, all without building a foundational brand architecture. This leads to misapplication, missed opportunities and misspent marketing dollars.

Purpose and positioning are the fuel which makes the performance engine run. They should provide the message and direct the medium through which you tell your story to the world.

Don’t make a choice between performance or purpose.

Choose both.

Because purpose performs.

Katy Turner is Managing Partner at Multiple, Hanover’s Culture & Brand Consultancy.