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HomeOpinions#MeToo and beyond: how social purpose can supercharge your brand

#MeToo and beyond: how social purpose can supercharge your brand

Karen Kahn, HP

Women’s voices are finally being heard, and there are compelling business reasons for brands to listen

Karen Kahn, HP


In recent weeks, many industries have been wrestling with how to react to the growing wave of women’s issues rising up around the world. The entertainment industry found itself rewriting the Golden Globes as the #MeToo and #TimesUp initiatives dominated the program. And as the tech industry descended upon CES earlier this month, its organizers were scrambling to address a heavily male-centric conference – both in its lineup and attendees.

Women’s voices are finally being heard, and there are compelling business reasons for brands to listen. Women are the highest investors in social causes – they will financially support companies that represent their values. When 85% of purchasing decisions are driven by women, brands that authentically integrate purpose throughout their business will reach this important group and gain much in terms of reputation and impact in society.

Cynics will argue some are simply being opportunistic, capitalizing on society’s enlightened state of political and social engagement to generate profit. In some cases, they’re right. We’ve witnessed brands miss the mark badly, such as Pepsi and its protest ads featuring Kendall Jenner, which many felt made too much light of the serious issue of global unity and peace.

Real drive and purpose

On the other side of the spectrum are companies that drive purpose with authenticity and make it central to how they operate. BlackRock CEO Laurence Fink recently announced his investment firm will only support companies that contribute to society and will hold them accountable to their commitments. Coming from a company that manages more than $6 trillion, this could have enormous impact.

In the not-too-distant future, though, companies won’t have a choice. It will be sink or swim when it comes to purpose. Here’s why:

It’s the right thing to do. When companies take an active role in addressing issues such as gender parity, the potential to unleash societal impact is tremendous. If women had similar jobs to men, by 2025 they would, according to McKinsey & Co. research, add as much as $28 trillion to the global GDP, more than the combined GDP of China and India. Women are more likely than men to invest in their community on issues such as healthcare and education, so wouldn’t the world be better off if companies invested in systemic change to drive parity for women?

It’s good for business. Integrating purpose at your core strengthens long-term business stability by enhancing reputation and creating an emotional tie for consumers. Yet this must come from an authentic place. By understanding what is important to your audience and your business, your genuine commitment to purpose will create lasting connections with consumers, who will then become your biggest ambassadors.

Purposeful impact is at the core of what HP does, how it thinks, and what has guided its behavior in the market for decades. CMO Antonio Lucio is fearless on diversity and in driving systemic change across the marcomms industry. It also helps when your company’s commitment to creating opportunity for all is a values issue, as well as a business priority.

Stakeholders expect it. More than ever, consumers expect the brands they support to be active advocates around the social and political issues they care about. In fact, 51% of consumers believe brands can do more than the government to solve social ills, while 37% of women are more likely to pay attention to brands that are committed to an environmental cause. Investors care, too. When consumers support brands they believe in, companies can invest in the issues that matter. In turn, investors will support them – creating a full circle of engagement by a number of stakeholders that perpetuates the value of purpose-driven companies.

So what will your brand do next? In today’s world, there’s too much at stake for companies to be bystanders. These conversations will only intensify. Purpose-driven companies must play a role in addressing society’s challenges alongside consumers, nonprofit organizations, and governments. In fact, corporations and brands have the responsibility – and the opportunity – to move beyond opportunistic campaigns and effect change at a global level.

Karen Kahn is chief comms officer at HP.


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