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How to and how to not do: Purpose marketing

Purpose marketing is essentially a marketing strategy used by brands and organisations to centre their external communications efforts around a social cause that aligns with its core values. For example, this month, Brewdog brilliantly promoted itself as the ‘anti-sponsor of the World F*Cup’. Let’s unpack.

Scotland-based beer brand Brewdog has taken a shot at World Cup host Qatar—and its poor human rights record—by positioning itself as the anti-sponsor of the World F*Cup. The brand on its website states: “Football is meant to be for everyone. But in Qatar, homosexuality is illegal, flogging is an accepted form of punishment, and it’s OK for 6,500 workers to die building your stadium,” referring to allegations from activists that thousands of migrant workers have died from the heat and poor working conditions while constructing World Cup venues in Qatar.

Brewdog backs it up by pledging to donate 100% of the profits from every Lost Lager sold during the tournament to “registered charities that demonstrably and directly help those who have been affected by human rights injustices and violations in Qatar.”

This move by the beer company situates itself as a forward thinking, open company. However, the situation becomes complicated as critics of the campaign have noted that Brewdog is hypocritical because its beers are sold in Qatar. They have also said the brewer is still profiting off the Cup by showing games in its bars. 

Another recent example of purpose marketing this month is Mentos’ recent pro-recycling campaign which sees racoons digging through trash cans on the streets of Simi Valley, California, gathering Mentos paperboard gum bottles and putting them in recycling bins. Highdive handled the ad.

Mentos says the bottle, which debuted in February, is 90% recyclable. It cites a statistic fro  Green Print Survey showing that only 32% of Americans recycle, even though 78% of the population is more likely to purchase a product that is clearly labelled as environmentally friendly. Using a cute mascot like the live racoon to promote the message is great marketing. The brand has encouraged consumers to text “RACCOONS” to 1-833-RACYCLE to request that the Raccoon Recycling Force visit their town. 

On the other hand, bad purpose marketing can steer you away from values that, as a brand, you’d hope to be associated with. 

The “Closing America’s Smile Gap” by Oral B is a very bad example of purpose marketing. The ad calls attention to the fact that in the US, Black and Hispanic children are two to four times more likely to have cavities and other dental problems. While this may be a valid statistic, the advert shows Black and Latino kids brushing their teeth with their fingers…

Since the campaign lacks interesting compelling storytelling, the ad comes across as stereotyping kids of colour and suggesting that Black and Latino are bad at parenting. Watching it as a Latina, I cringed.

Another controversial campaign in the UK has been HSBC’s posters seen in London and Bristol which read “Climate change doesn’t do borders. Neither do rising sea levels. That’s why HSBC is aiming to provide up to $1 trillion in financing and investment globally to help our clients transition to net zero.” However, the ads omitted significant information about HSBC’s contribution to carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions. 

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