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The lines between the way consumers and professionals buy have never been more blurred. And it’s no surprise. Businesses, after all, are a collection of people and we are either working or living so it’s only natural there is going to be some correlation! The same behaviors that drive us at home, influence how we operate at work. And, much of the intersection is happening around value – people are buying based on their values and what brings them greater purpose.

We all have something we’re passionate about. And research shows we want to buy from and work for companies that stand for something, too. Per the 2017 Cone Communications CSR Study:

  • 87% of Americans will purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about.

  • 70% believe companies have an obligation to take actions to improve issues that may not be relevant to everyday business operations.

  • When a company supports a social or environmental issue, 92% have a more positive image of the company (up from 85% in 1993).

  • And, nearly nine in 10 respondents would switch brands to one that is associated with a good cause (up from 66% in 1993).

And that’s turning Marketing on its head, as purpose is fast becoming the number one driver of brand value. In the recent BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands 2017 study, they see the digital world creating overlap between business and consumer environments, and therefore the border between B2B and B2C is disappearing, creating what they call B2H – Business to Human – brands.

At the end of the day, brand is not a “Marketing thing.” It encompasses the value that a company delivers to its customers through solutions and services that help to tackle issues they care about and therefore is a strategic driver of customer loyalty, and ultimately, business success.

When you look at the way people make purchases today, they aren’t just buying things that can help them in their day-to-day activities. They have a choice, and they are partnering with companies whose solutions can also help them solve problems in the world at a global level. Like poverty. Modern slavery. Inequality.

In the old days, purpose was only managed as part of a company’s Corporate Social Responsibility programs. Today, it is a strategic initiative in which every function, and especially Marketing, can play a critical role. How?

Find Your Purpose. Social causes aren’t limited to consumer companies. There is an abundance of ways that companies can do good. Any company. Think about the core of your business and how you can leverage it to serve a higher purpose that aligns with the issues that are important to your customers and the industries you serve.

Rethink Product Design. Creating products that simply drive cost savings or efficiencies no longer cut it. Consumers expect that. Where the increased value is being delivered is through products that impact issues at a higher level.

At SAP Ariba, for instance, we operate a business network that connects more than three million companies in 190 countries. And we’re using it to help our customers stamp out things like slavery, poverty and inequality in the supply chain. The companies connected to our network buy nearly a trillion dollars in goods and services a year. They have the buying power to ensure that they provide fair labor practices across their supply chain. That they make opportunities available to minority and women-owned businesses. And that no slave labor is being used to make their products. And we provide them the transparency and technology they need to do it.

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is. Once you’ve identified the issues that matter most to you and your customers, seek out organizations that have made it their mission to expose and fix them. Most don’t have the scale and financial capabilities to achieve their goals. But with your resources, they can amplify their message and be heard.

The goal of every business is to do well. But in doing so, you can also do good. Your customers want you to. And your brand will thank you. And the Marketing function can take the lead in defining the strategy and play a big role in business success and transformation in today’s modern business.


Alicia Tillman is Chief Marketing Officer of SAP Ariba

Follow her @AliciaTillman