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Purpose Driven Brands: Using Purpose to Unite Consumer and Employer Branding

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Quick. Think of a piece of corporate content that fires you up, can make you cry without saying a word, and invokes action in their audience. Even if that action is just to call your mom.

Those are three of my all-time favorite ads from Gatorade, Extra Gum, and P&G. What do they all have in common? They don’t focus on the product that they’re selling you. Gatorade fuels athletes’ ultimate victory; Extra is there for the little moments that actually mean a whole lot; and P&G supports moms who need to be able to support everyone else.

The marketing concept of leading with purpose isn’t a new one. Traditional consumer marketing has led with their ‘why’ for quite some time, which is probably why the first examples that popped into my head (and yours, too, I would bet) were consumer-facing.

Roughly 9 in 10 consumer respondents said they would buy from a company that leads with purpose. Also true: 70% of adults across all generations want purpose in their work.

So in a world where both consumers and employees are making decisions more purposefully than ever, why are consumer brand and employer brand so isolated from each other? Aligning both purposes — and brands — sends a unified message to consumers and candidates alike.

Let’s explore two different companies that merged EB and CB through purpose, and nailed it:

Taking a stand on diversity: Netflix’s “The First Time I Saw Me” campaign

By its very nature, Netflix is a brand that connects audiences with characters and stories.

In honor of Pride Month this year Netflix partnered with GLAAD and interviewed eight transgender actors and actresses. Each was asked a single question: When was the first time you truly saw yourself represented in media?

Their answers were honest and raw and demonstrated how far media still needs to go to do a trans person justice on-screen. But they also showed the power, and purpose, that authentic characters provide: a route to understanding and acceptance. Both for trans individuals of themselves, and for cispersons struggling to understand the trans community.

In August Netflix released a video featuring answers to the same question, only posed to Netflix team members.

Those interviewed identified as African American, adopted, Dominican, gay and bi-racial, just to name a few. As they told their “First Time I Saw Me” stories, one individual shared that had he had a character like this earlier in his life, the “representation” and “validation” could have helped him embrace his own identity sooner. Seeing someone who looks like you on screen, or at an organization, can have that much impact.

From a consumer brand standpoint, this initiative showcases Netflix’s commitment to authentic diversity in their content, and by extension their support of these minority groups. For EB? It’s not all that different of a message — Netflix embraces and celebrates the whole person and doesn’t try to put all members of a minority group in a box.

Additional kudos that the employees interviewed were team members that theoretically could do their work “anywhere” — Talent, Legal, Finance. Of course writers and actors and producers would want to work for Netflix, but what are these people’s motivations?

Because it is a place they can be themselves.

Blurring the patient lines: Merck’s “It’s Personal” campaign

Pharma, medical, and health related organizations are ‘lucky’ from a branding standpoint — what stronger purpose can you ask for than saving lives? Many of these organizations do in fact utilize patient stories to keep both patients and team members engaged in the “why” of their organization.

Merck took this approach a step further in their “It’s Personal” campaign by featuring patient stories of their employees. There is a noticeable lack of name-dropping and forced branding throughout the videos; the patient’s story stands alone as a testament to their journey back to better health from conditions such as diabetes and breast cancer.

“It’s Personal” sends a two-fold message to candidates and employees. First, that team members are directly engaged in the patients and causes they ultimately serve (a huge branding win in it of itself).

But by creating and supporting a series like this, Merck is also demonstrating to candidates that they care. When something happens to the health of an employee, they understand and do their best to support you. And that empathy really matters to candidates.

For customers consuming these videos — you are trusting Merck with some of your most vital health decisions; don’t you want to place that trust in a company filled with people that truly care about your story, not just the bottom line?

Build a brand that brings people together

Yes, consumer and employer brand are two independent brands with their own audiences and goals. But why your customers and candidates are choosing to buy from and work for your company may not be all that different from each other.

Purpose is a platform meant to bring people together. Use it!