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Planning Your 2018 Marketing Budget? Here’s Why Brand Purpose Is Your Number 1 Investment

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It’s that time of year—88 days until Christmas, the start of Q4, and days, or (if you are lucky) weeks, away from 2018 budget planning.

The start of a new year is always exciting—new goals, a gym membership that will go unused in three weeks, and of course new funds to spend on marketing efforts. Who doesn’t get excited about a fresh start?

But what if you’ve been at your job for a few years now? Things are going well. Your commute isn’t completely dreadful, you enjoy spending time with your coworkers, and you believe in the ultimate direction of your company. Perhaps you are hitting your MQL goals (but just barely), ensuring there’s enough pipeline so that the company continues to grow (but on a single-digit trajectory), or you’re out of creative ideas for breakthrough content. And you simply don’t have the time and resources to analyze your marketing budget while trying to close the year in the black, so you allocate the same funds you had in 2017 to 2018.

Well, it’s time for a wake-up call.

I understand time is a precious resource and most of us don’t have nearly enough of it. But starting the new year with a copycat budget simply means settling for the status quo. The status quo isn’t going to get you that promotion or that leap to something better. The status quo allows you to keep your semi-dreadful commute with your good coworkers. Or even worse—your boss gets tired of the status quo and shakes up the team. You may be out of a job or without a boss—more pressure, more stress, and more things to get done.

What an awful start to 2018.

Cat on bed waking up

Image attribution: Milada Vigerova

Waking Up on the Other Side of the Bed

Let’s wake up on the other side of the bed and try again. This time, let’s aim far above the status quo. To do that in 2018, you need to adjust your marketing budget, reallocate your resources, and invest in your company’s brand. I’m sure you currently allocate resources to branding, branded event giveaways, branded door-openers for your ABM campaigns, and more. But I’m not talking about these allocated line items in your budget; I’m talking about finding the funds to invest in your brand purpose.

Every brand has its own purpose, its rallying cry, its “center of good.” Speaking to the Content Standard, Tom Gerace, CEO and founder of Skyword, said: “That core [that center of good] makes them an empathetic corporation as opposed to a nameless, faceless company that’s out to pull as much money from your wallet as they can, regardless of whether they harm you or harm the world. And this has other benefits. People like working at that company better. It makes talented people want to work there. It has a halo effect for their investors. All of these things differentiate the business not just to the customers but to people across the organization.”

As Roisin Donnelly of Proctor & Gamble told Marketing Week, “Purpose isn’t about having one tactical plan with a charity or an agency—it has to be big, inspiring, simple and memorable. It has to inspire every single person in your company, as well as shareholders, stakeholders, and agencies.”

We all want happy customers, higher retention, committed and talented employees, an even better working environment, more productivity, more creativity, more energy, more authenticity, and more genuine good. To get it, invest in your brand’s purpose.

Sheep blocking the road

Image attribution: PublicDomainPictures

Removing Obstacles

But what if you don’t have a brand purpose or you struggle as an executive team to clearly define one?

Start by allocating marketing budget and resources to just that: clearly defining your company’s rallying cry. You should do this internally as a team. Once it’s clearly articulated, work with your internal communications team or an agency to ensure your whole company knows what it is and internalizes it. Work with your creative team, your brand team, and your agency partners to put together content that tells that story. Don’t sell your product or your services. Sell your purpose. Explain why your brand is different from any other because of what it makes possible for your customers and the world.

In a society that’s currently screaming for good and happiness in this world, put some back into it.

But what if your executive team only cares about immediate return, hitting numbers, and generating opportunities that turn into revenue?

Then start by aligning your increase in marketing spend to a business case. Ensure that item number one in your business case is how allocating budget towards brand leads to the numbers your boss wants. But how does investment in brand lead to increased revenue? Start by taking a look at organizations that already have a strong commitment to their brand purpose, like Unilever and Philips.

Unilever’s CEO, Paul Polman, attributes successful long-term growth to brand purpose and corporate sustainability: “That is why the company [Unilever] spends millions marketing and building brands focused on how they can help society whether that is Hellman’s [sic], Knorr or Dove. And why it constantly talks up the fact that its sustainable brands grow 30% faster than the others in its portfolio.”

Philips started allocating major resources behind their brand purpose in 2011 and hasn’t slowed down. Philips’ vision is “to make the world healthier and more sustainable through innovation. Our goal is to improve the lives of 3 billion people a year by 2025. We will be the best place to work for people who share our passion. Together we will deliver superior value for our customers and shareholders.” Last year, they initiated the next five-year sustainability program with targets clearly defined for 2020.

Reaping Major Rewards

Harvard Business Review conducted a survey of 474 executives and found that “in those organizations where purpose had become a driver of strategy and decision-making, executives reported a greater ability to deliver revenue growth and drive successful innovation and ongoing transformation.”

Most executives in the survey agreed that purpose matters, but they aren’t defining and aligning their purpose with their strategic business decisions. The question begs to be asked, if executives agree it’s important and real revenue results have been attributed to it, then why aren’t more companies making brand purpose a priority?

The HBR survey believes the problem lies at the top. They cite the need for better communication from executives, embedding purpose throughout the organization, “particularly in leadership development and training, employee performance metrics and rewards, and in operations.”

Survey respondents who had not invested in brand purpose cited their primary roadblocks as shareholder pressure, systems, infrastructure, and lack of performance incentives aligned with purpose.

Yet those that invested in brand purpose have seen increases in employee engagement and customer loyalty. They define their organizations as “market leaders” with “a brighter future than their competitors.” And they don’t see any need to slow down their investment—they will continue efforts to embed brand purpose across their organization. Why wouldn’t they? As indicated by their responses, they are all “reaping major rewards” from their efforts. Eighty-five percent of the purpose-led companies in this survey showed positive growth.

Need more proof?

According to Ernst & Young, 72 percent of global customers would recommend a company with a purpose. And LinkedIn confirms that employees are three times more likely to stay at purpose-driven companies.

So don’t be afraid to push this initiative forward. You need your executives and senior leadership to buy in and understand that this isn’t simply a one-and-done marketing campaign for 2018 but an ongoing commitment by the entire company. It’s important they understand that this simply isn’t marketing being marketing or spinning something to sound better for the next few months. It’s the company as a whole believing what they do matters. Start with what you can control: the marketing budget. Then align yourself with members of your leadership team and start tackling employee benefits, employee training and development, and operations.

Your Five-Step Plan

So let’s break it down in a broad five-step plan.

Step 1: Edit your marketing budget to include brand purpose spend in 2018.

Step 2: Build your business case (if you need buy-in).

Step 3: Clearly define your company’s center of good.

Step 4: Spend money articulating that definition throughout your department.

Step 5: Start spreading the initiative throughout your organization to gain headway on 2019.

Allocating marketing budget in 2018 to your brand purpose might be your wisest investment yet. Start by seeing where you currently have funds allocated and adjust current budgeted items to be aligned with newly dedicated resources around your brand purpose.

Now dive into that excel spreadsheet and start editing numbers.

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Megan Menesale is a boomerang Massachusetts resident after spending over a decade in our nation’s capital. She is the Director of Product Marketing at Skyword and is passionate about go-to-market strategy, sales enablement, and competitive analysis. Megan is a diehard Patriots fan, coffee addict, and P. Diddy fan girl. Follow @mmenesale for content marketing musings and strong sports opinions.

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