Public-Purpose Marketing Should Aim for the Heart
Builders seeking an edge in selling to aging baby boomers have a thing or two to learn from companies such as Vodafone, Virgin Airlines, Mini Cooper and Target, which have been using social or public-purpose marketing to cultivate high levels of customer loyalty, Richard Steckel, president of AddVenture Network, said at last month’s Building for Boomers and Beyond Seniors Housing Symposium in Chantilly, Va.
“Soft-sell activism is not going away for some years,” Steckel said. “If your competition is using it, and you’re not, you’ll be at a competitive disadvantage.”
Builders need to be giving their customers a rationale to choose their company over the competition, he said, and “the tie-breaker is that there’s something about that company that makes me want to go there.”
Vodafone, a cell phone company in New Zealand, decided that it would help people find meaning in their lives by holding an essay-writing contest asking what they would do if they could take a year off to help others, and making that wish possible for the winners by paying their salary.
“Vodafone is a company of values,” Steckel said. Its campaign was so successful that it even started receiving an increase in applications for employment. “It touched a responsive chord in individuals. People started shifting their loyalty because that’s a brand that’s almost like a human being.”
Steckel said he and his wife feel guilty if they leave Target without spending at least $50 because 1% of its weekly sales go to local schools.
“Life is about engagement and vibrancy,” he said. “As a community builder, as a way to differentiate yourself, speak to people’s yearnings to have a meaningful life.” He added that, “This type of marketing has to be genuine. You have to say there is a sound business reason for doing this and you have to deliver on your words.”
To tap into social and cultural trends and cultivate emotional loyalty to their company and brand, builders should emphasize simplification at a time when their baby-boom customers believe that life has gotten too crazy and too fast-paced and they are ready to push back to a simpler life, he said. Builders can help their prospective buyers clarify what’s important in life. They can also address a yearning to return to a simpler time “when relationships were important, when we knew the neighbors on all four sides, when there were bowling teams.”
Soft social activism, soy and organic toilet paper are helping to redefine what’s important, he said. Consumers are saying that they want their economic power to make a difference.
Customers are looking for corporate social responsibility and Steckel cited research finding that 94% of those interviewed said they were actually switching brands to move away from brands that were “socially questionable.”
Jean Carroccio, president of Jean Carroccio and Associates, reported findings from research at the University of Maryland’s Center on Aging showing that baby boomers are looking to play new meaningful roles. “They are looking to move from success to significance, for what they can contribute,” she said.
Carroccio said that they are also interested in opportunities for life-long learning and are looking for “purposeful” social networks that will help them connect.
“Take your customers to new places,” she said. “Customers can only describe the world that is and they have difficulty discussing what could exist. They can seldom tell you what new products or services they want.”
Steckel recommended three books for builders who want to learn more about the importance of emotional branding:
He offered several examples of how to cultivate emotional loyalty among consumers:
- Provide a reward or incentive for residents in your community who learn three life-saving skills, such as CPR, basic first aid and the Heimlich maneuver.
- Help residents build a playground for children in the larger community.
- Establish a community service fund with allocations from home owner fees.
- Join the Milestones project, which is a world-wide movement to provide the tools to help parents raise their children to reject intolerance, violence and other negative values.