11th January 2019

Take a stand or stand down: the value of social purpose


A societal revolution is upon us and for brands, it’s time to lead or follow. Recent shifts in consumer opinion demand that brands serve a social purpose. This demand impacts not just stakeholders, customers and the communities in which companies operate, but employees and their direct social circles also.      

In short, social purpose sees brands making a positive impact in society. Adopted correctly, and implemented strategically, social purpose generates long-term business growth and boosts employee engagement and satisfaction.

According to Accenture Strategy’s annual Global Consumer Pulse Research survey, nearly two-thirds of consumers now expect companies to create products and services that “take a stand” on issues that they feel passionate about.

While price, product quality and customer experiences have been, and still are, important attributes, competitive agility comes when brands find ways to differentiate themselves from others.  Brands that take a stand, quite simply, stand for something—this sets them apart from competitors and boosts appeal for consumers.    

This ‘something’ could include encouraging a healthy lifestyle, boosting wellness in the workplace, sourcing sustainable products and manufacturing processes, and transparency on everything from ingredient provenance to fair employment practices.

The positive impact of social purpose brings opportunity for brands in Ireland and beyond to lead the wave of change while shaping consumer opinion. This practice allows for a more differentiated, authentic and genuine connection between brands and their customers at a far deeper level than we’ve seen before.

Know your audience

When determining a company’s social purpose, involvement of employees, consumers and wider company stakeholders in the process is crucial to gaining a real understanding and holistic view. A company-wide survey to gain these insights sparks conversation, and empowers people to provide opinion. 

Building an effective communications strategy from a thorough knowledge of what matters to your brand and your audience shapes consumer opinion and, in turn, drives sales of products or services.

Be authentic

2018 brought the rise and fall of the social media ‘following’ age. We lived through the shift of focus from following to engagement, and the value of authentic relationships and brand representation reigned.

Essentially, consumers won’t be fooled by ad hoc artificial partnerships. Authentic social purpose resonates with and influences consumers.

Once a company’s social purpose is established, building relationships with influencers who align with this purpose provides a natural communicative link to a brand’s target audience.

Be creative 

A strong social purpose allows brands to be bigger than the product or service they provide, empowering and influencing consumers like never before.

This month, the launch of the Greggs Vegan Sausage Roll broke the internet by sparking a global conversation about a simple £1 pastry treat.

It was no accident that this one is vegan friendly. For the everyday consumer, and Greggs’ target audience, choosing this treat over the meat alternative just so happens to empower consumers to feel like they’ve single-handedly contributed to solving the growing issue that is global warming… food for thought.

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Defining and delivering a brand’s social purpose through strategic communications will resonate with target audiences and drive sales of products and services, directly impacting the bottom line.      

The social purpose leaders, rather than followers, will be the real winners in 2019.


Heather-Ann is a Senior Client Manager on the brand team at PR360. She develops and executes strategic communication plans to build brand profile and reputation through creative flair. She brings the positivi-TEA to the team!  

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