The Impact of Purpose on Brand and Customer Experience

As the svp of corporate responsibility and internal communication at Paramount Pictures, Jennifer Lynch spends a lot of time at the intersection of brand engagement and community outreach. Her work at the global film giant is focused on using the brand to address an urgent social need. 

One successful example is when Paramount launched Selma, the story of Dr. Martin Luther King’s march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. After learning that many young people were not aware of King’s story, the studio gave away 27,000 free tickets to high school kids in New York City. The screenings sold out, which prompted the studio to increase its outreach nationwide. Ultimately, Paramount helped 300,000 high schoolers see Selma for free. The excitement over the giveaways generated positive word of mouth. Lynch said ticket sales tripled as a result. “It became a must-see movie. That social impact drove ticket sales,” she said.

Lynch recently sat down Lynn Schlesinger, chief customer experience officer for Forbes, to discuss the power of brand purpose during the 2021 CMO Club Innovation and Inspiration Summit.

What is brand purpose?

Brand purpose is all about a company using its brand to solve a social need. It requires company leadership asking; “What can we do to make sure our brand is helping society?”

We must remember that consumers today want it all: they want a great price, but they also want to have the sense that the brand they are supporting are helping their community

Consumers are savvier than ever. They want companies to clean up their act. They will not engage with companies with a negative environmental impact.

– Jennifer Lynch

The business value of brand purpose

  • Cost Efficiency. There is a huge fallacy that social impact costs more than it delivers. For example, during the production of the upcoming film Top Gun: Maverick, Paramount decided to focus on sustainability. The company wanted to ensure it was creating content with the smallest possible carbon footprint. The effort helped eliminate 37,000 single fill water bottles. That saved the production $10,000.
  • Employee retention and recruitment. Data shows that Millennials and Generation Z respond positively to employers that practice corporate responsibility. In fact, companies with a strong commitment to social change can see productivity spike 13% and turnover drop by as much as 50%. Employees will even take a pay cut if they feel good about the values of their employer.

Consumers have a choice of where they spend their time and money. That is very important as we think about that consumer experience from beginning to end … corporate social responsibility is really helping create and sustain customer loyalty by creating this incredible customer experience for them.

– Lynn Schlesinger

Creating impact programs that serve the community and the brand experience

  • Don’t try to do everything. If you do everything you are known for nothing. The idea of giving small amounts of money to every non-profit in your area does not make everyone happy and no one can identify what it is you do to drive social impact.
  • Choose social impact branding that makes sense for your brand.
  • Ask yourself what your brand does well and build your impact program from there.
  • Geography can also play a role. Think about where your headquarters is located. Is it near an underserved community? Think about how your employees can make an impact just a few feet away.
  • This kind of outreach can include internships, mentoring programs, and community events.