Experts Recommend Channeling Purpose Beyond Profits

Simon Mainwaring

Broadcasters need to find a purpose beyond making money in order to hire and keep the best employees and survive at a time when brands can get crushed by young, fickle consumers adept at social media. That was part of the message delivered by marketing experts who say “the future of profits is purpose” during an NAB Show session Monday.

Simon Mainwaring, founder and CEO of We First Inc. and author of the book “We First: How Brands and Consumers Use Social Media to Build a Better World,” laid out the case for broadcasters becoming “a cause with a company” instead of a company with a cause. He said the role of business in society has evolved to this point, and cynics ignore that change at their peril.

Some statistics: “Belief-driven consumers” are about 30 percent of the total, and of them, 57 percent would buy or boycott a brand based on its response to a social issue. And 65 percent will not buy a brand that stays silent on an important topic — a chilling figure to companies that would rather stay on the sidelines and not risk polarizing sectors of an audience.

As for being fickle, 61 percent have changed a favorite brand over the past 12 months, Mainwaring said. These trends have accelerated over the last year and a half and are in the news with issues like gun control, women’s rights and responses like the “delete Uber” or “delete Facebook” movements.

Brands need to have an affirmative association with purpose and values to survive. Finding a purpose — what you’re for — can help to determine what you’re against. Uber, for example, positioned itself against the typical taxi ride, and Airbnb was against the homogeneous hotel experience.

Mainwaring said brands, including broadcasters, also must be careful to focus on the impact of their actions on people in the community rather than on the actions taken — be celebrants, not celebrities. Find a need in the community you are uniquely suited to help and take action.

Good examples he cited in the broadcast realm included Gray Television’s “KOLO Cares” initiative that gives free airtime to nonprofits, and radio station KOSI 101.1’s “Pay it Forward Fridays” that encourages acts of kindness. Also, iHeartRadio’s work with New York Cares.

“As an outsider who cares deeply about this industry, I look at what you do as community stewards and go, ‘You are absolutely not only mandated but best qualified to do this.’ You are the voices of local communities at a time when we’ve got more challenges than ever.”

Later in the session, Roy Spence, chairman of ad agency GSD&M, said having a purpose is critical to staffing. “If you don’t have a purpose beyond making money, you will not get the best talent, period,” he said.

As for why the purpose movement is happening now, Spence said, “The world needs purpose, not politics; the world needs purpose, not bosses. The world’s looking for a higher calling. “The old model was, ‘I’m going to build a business, get rich and be charitable,’” he said. “The new model is, ‘Every day I’m going to improve somebody’s life,’ starting with your employees first, your associates, your vendor partners, your community.”