American consumers are looking for more than a good product or service—they’re also looking to do business with companies that support causes they care about.
And with studies showing that younger generations, in particular, want brands to take a stance on issues that matter to them, connecting with customers on a deeper level is more important than ever.
In response, many U.S. businesses have begun focusing on more purpose-driven strategies: 
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42%have increased mission-based marketing Mission-based strategies use a brand’s core mission as the foundation of its marketing.
41% have increased cause-based marketing Cause-based strategies center marketing efforts on a specific idea, cause or goal.
37% have increased brand equity marketing. Brand equity strategies aim to make a business more memorable and well thought of.
Put Purpose-Driven Marketing to Work
To increase your brand equity and help ensure success into the future, you can get started with these simple tips:
1. Maintain Tangible Connections
Over the last several months, many consumers have begun straying from familiar companies, exploring new options to meet their shifting needs.
In fact, 75% of U.S. consumers have tried different stores, websites or brands during COVID-19, and 60% of these consumers expect to integrate them into their post-COVID-19 lives.
To help keep your company top of mind, staying connected with your customers is key—and during these unpredictable times, highlighting your commitment to certain causes can go a long way in humanizing your brand. Remember that customers may be dealing with difficult personal, professional or financial situations right now. For some audiences, promoting an extravagant, niche or expensive item may come across as insensitive and out of touch.
How can you best connect with different segments right now? Some customers may be eager to use a discount code for working-from-home loungewear or office supplies, while others may just appreciate a simple message of support.
How Direct Mail Can Help
The physicality and immediacy of direct mail make it an ideal medium to showcase what your brand stands for while keeping customers connected to your company as a whole.
To create a compelling, memorable narrative that keeps them in the loop, think about what sets your brand apart and how you can help them feel involved in something bigger.
Nearly 60% of the U.S. public wants brands to give an opinion on topics like social justice and climate change.
Are you committed to fair wages or eco-friendly practices? Is your company minority- or female-owned? If you’re not yet invested in any particular cause, this is an opportune time to start brainstorming. What does your target audience care about? What do you care about?
As an example, you may want to send out postcards that highlight your brand’s charitable donations—perhaps with an exclusive discount code included that can be used in your online store, and messaging that highlights how much of the customer’s purchase will be donated.
71% of U.S. consumers age 18–34 will pay more for a product if they know some of the proceeds go to charity.
Pro Tip: The Informed Delivery® feature gives you even more opportunity to connect with customers, providing them with a digital preview of incoming mail, along with any related digital content you want to include—whether it’s a link to an informative video or a newsletter sign-up.
As COVID-19 continues to upend nearly all aspects of daily life, brands must be especially thoughtful when communicating with customers—even if the new strategies don’t necessarily generate revenue in the short term.
Think big-picture about what customers want and need now, as well as what they may need down the line. Also consider any struggles they may be facing. Focus on building trust, making it clear that you understand what people are going through on a day-to-day basis—and how you’re giving back or supporting your own employees.
Consumers are 4.1x more likely to trust a company that they perceive to have a strong purpose.
Positioning yourself as a company that cares can build customer loyalty and brand equity, setting you up for long-term success. However, keep in mind that different customer segments will have different needs and concerns right now, which means personalization is key.
Fifty percent of consumers now rank financial security as one of their top three concerns—a rise of 36% since March 2020.
Include your employees in discussions and brainstorming; they’re familiar with day-to-day company activity and may have valuable insight into the needs of your customers. Also consider asking customers directly how you can best serve them during this time.
Finally, be ready to shift gears as the market changes—and know when to communicate these shifts to customers as well. This will help establish you as a transparent, down-to-earth company that’s tuned in to real-world concerns, not just the bottom line.
How Direct Mail Can Help
Using direct mail in your campaigns can help you uniquely position your brand to each segment—whether you’re highlighting your philanthropic work, how you’re supporting employees, or how you can help solve your customers’ problems or lighten their load.
If you want to focus on your commitment to fair wages and ethical labor, for example, you could send out an eye-catching mailpiece showcasing your brand’s values and practices.
An included QR Code® could lead to an immersive digital experience, offering a behind-the-scenes look into the eco-friendly processes that go into creating a certain product line. The experience may also include an online discount code for any item within the featured line.
You may not see an immediate uptick in sales, but customers are likely to remember these communications, and may even spread the word to their friends and family. And in times of collective uncertainty, customers may feel even more excited to support a brand that’s helping others.
Pro Tip: While you want to keep your customers’ interest, you also don’t want to overwhelm them. Be mindful of how frequently you send out mailpieces, and consider asking them directly how often they want to hear from you.
The numbers are clear: Consumers are increasingly seeking out brands that align with their values. To remain relevant, today’s marketers must focus on improving overall consumer perception.
Public perception can impact several areas of business, including:
The type of customer who buys your product
How much customers will pay for your product
Which retailers will stock your product
The partnerships you form and influencers you work with
Overall return on investment
Start by brainstorming what your customers are passionate about, what your brand is getting right, and what aspects could be improved upon to better meet consumer concerns. Perception can improve or degrade slowly or quickly, so be sure to consider every aspect of your brand reputation.
For example, if you had a highly publicized product recall that was considered to be handled poorly, perception may have dropped rapidly. If you recently were featured on a well-known influencer’s social media channel, on the other hand, you may have noticed a rapid improvement in brand equity.
How Direct Mail Can Help
Better brand perception and equity begin with better trust, and you can help build trust by strengthening your relationship with your customers. Personalized mail can help make your audience feel valued and understood.
2/3 of consumers say receiving relevant marketing mail improves their perception of a business—and most will respond, typically by visiting the company’s website.
What do you know about your different customer segments? Do they buy organic? Live in an area hit hard by COVID-19? Try to support brands that are transparent about their labor practices? Create messaging that speaks to customers’ specific situations and concerns.
A personalized URL (PURL) on your mailpiece could lead to a custom landing page, for example, that features the customer’s name and an eye-catching infographic that shows how much customer purchases are helping to fund community-based initiatives you’re sponsoring in the areas you do business.
Perhaps the web page also highlights some of the products the customer has shown interest in, along with a limited-time discount to thank them for their support.
Pro Tip: More than a third of U.S. internet users strongly agree that “too many brands use societal issues as a marketing ploy to sell their product/service.” Make sure you’re only supporting causes you really care about, and keep messaging simple and sincere—not overly promotional or “salesy.”
Gen Z and millennials believe that brands have a responsibility to help make the world a better place; in fact, three quarters say they actively seek out brands that support the causes they believe in—and two in five say they do so always or often.
This means your brand must set itself apart, creating marketing that’s memorable, meaningful and makes customers feel part of a community of like-minded people. Purpose-driven marketing can give your brand the competitive edge it needs to make a lasting impression.
If you’re not sure what will resonate with your customers, start with some basic research: What do they post about on social media? How do they interact with your brand, and what are they saying in the comments? Take in the feedback and respond thoughtfully in a timely manner.
This shows that you’re listening, and customers are likely to remember your responsiveness, ultimately improving your brand equity.
Surveys can also help you better understand what your customers look for in a brand; incentives such as discounts or freebies can help encourage response. Everything you learn can then be used to shape future omni-channel campaigns. No matter what direction you take, remember that authenticity is key; so don’t overdo it, and communicate the way real people speak.
How Direct Mail Can Help
When done right, digital marketing can be highly effective—but with so much messaging to compete with, it can also easily get lost in the shuffle. Incorporating direct mail into your campaigns can help you stand out from the crowd.
In fact, studies have shown that direct mail is more effective than digital ads in leaving a lasting impression—and this holds true for consumers ranging in age from 18 to 68. In the age of digital, a physical, tangible mailpiece now holds an air of novelty.
This makes mail an ideal medium for conveying what your business values or supports. If you want to highlight the COVID-19 relief efforts you’re contributing to, for example, you could create a mailpiece that’s meant to be saved.
Along with a simple letter outlining how your brand is helping, you could include a beautifully designed postcard or mini-poster, personalized with the customer’s name and an inspiring quotation. This could easily be displayed on a refrigerator or in a working space.
The focus here should be the customer, so keep branding and logos to a minimum. You may also want to consider sending out something practical, like a calendar, bookmark or small notepad—something that serves a purpose while reminding the customer of what your business stands for.
Pro Tip: Think about how your company’s offerings relate to your overarching purpose or values. If you sell gourmet food items, for example, showing how you’re helping to support community food banks or meal centers may resonate well.
Today’s consumers have become increasingly concerned about the ethics behind the brands they do business with. The companies that succeed in the long run will be the ones paying attention to customers’ shifting values and concerns.
Maintaining tangible customer connections, investing in the future, improving brand perception and making a lasting impression can all help you create purpose-driven strategies that set you apart from the competition—and spur your customers to act.
As you continue to adjust and adapt your marketing efforts, you can refer back to this article for guidance and inspiration.
“The Corporate Social Mind: The Public's Expectations of Companies to Address Social Issues,” The Corporate Social Mind, June 2020.arrow_right_alt
“5WPR 2020 Consumer Culture Report: Insight into the complexities of the modern consumer’s motivations, influences and purchasing habits.” 5W Public Relations, 2020.arrow_right_alt
Exterior images are only provided for letter-size mailpieces that are processed through USPS’ automated equipment. Package tracking information on Priority Mail®, Priority Mail Express® and other trackable parcels is also provided.arrow_right_alt
“2020 Zeno Strength of Purpose Study,” Zeno, June 17, 2020.arrow_right_alt
“How is COVID-19 changing the retail consumer? — Data-driven insights into consumer behavior — Accenture COVID-19 Consumer Pulse Research—Wave 7,” Accenture, August 2020.arrow_right_alt
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