ANA takeaway #2: purpose doesn’t have to mean saving the world

Almost every aspect of marketing is affected by purpose, but it can often be a loose and ill-defined idea, and this theme was picked up by several speakers at the ANA Masters of B2B Conference in Chicago.

Thoughts on this topic came in two related but discrete trains; 1) what does purpose mean for B2B marketers? 2) What do we do with it?

The excellent Andrea Brimmer, CMO of Ally Bank, tackled the first of these head-on: “Purpose doesn’t have to be about saving the whales, doesn’t have to be lofty. What makes your company special? Lean into that.”

Ally Bank’s purpose was anchored by the sense that many commercial banking customers feel that the world of finance is broken. So, rather than try (and fail) to fix the financial world, Ally focused fully on delivering the best possible banking experience for their customers.

They articulate their customer purpose as: “We want to be a relentless ally for your financial well-being.” What’s really impressive is that Ally is committed to walking the walk, as well as talking the talk.

To answer the ‘What do we do with it?’ question, Alicia Tillman, CMO of SAP, puts purpose front and centre for delivering on brand growth, and offered the following steps:

  1. Be authentic and purpose driven
  2. Get to know your customers transparently
  3. He human and show empathy
  4. Use creative to power experiences
  5. Be inclusive

But purpose, however grand or focused, always requires authenticity.

“Being purpose-driven requires more than just the right words. Brands should be strategic, authentic and thoughtful.”
– Alicia Tillman, CMO, SAP

Many brands are born to simply meet a customer need or serve a market segment.  But there can be pride and dignity in doing this well – so long as the brand story around this is genuine, honest and true.

Purpose, however grand or focused, always requires authenticity. It can’t just be an empty claim you make to sell more products.

This idea was touched upon by a number of speakers, including Allison Womack, CMO, Enterprise Community Partners.  As part of a joint presentation with Adobe, she advised brands to focus on doing the work:

“Being perfect is not achievable. Be real. Be authentic. Embrace change.”
– Allison Womack, CMO, Enterprise Community Partners

For Womack, this is closely linked to understanding your customers, describing it as a move from ‘trend based’ to ‘truth based’ thinking.

By asking and understanding ‘what is our customer’s North Star?’ brands will be much better prepared to answer, honestly and authentically, the question of ‘what is our purpose?’

Though, as Andrea Brimmer from Ally reminded us, “you can’t talk about purpose without the action.”

Ally employees now end every customer call with “Is there anything else that I could help you with today?” This is small, but perfectly-formed expression of brand purpose is also the essence of  ‘Banksgiving’.

For evidence of purpose that is both lived and authentic, you can’t do much better than ‘Happy Banksgiving’. Here are three and a bit minutes well worth your time and, if you’re prone to tears, you might want some tissues at the ready:

Ally gave away a total of $500,000 to demonstrate their commitment to the financial wellbeing of their customers.

Whether they were small businesses, non-profits trying to fund their mission, or everyday customers who just needed a helping hand, ‘Banksgiving’ was Ally living its purpose.

“You can’t have great marketing and bad business experiences. Work toward the higher purpose of your brand”
– Andrea Brimmer, CMO, Ally Bank

Alicia Tillman from SAP said that brands were normally started to do one of two things:

  1. Create/bring something innovative and new to the market
  2. Provide a better than the competitor solution.

These are excellent grounding principles when it comes to thinking about the authentic purpose of your B2B brand. And as for your purpose as a B2B marketer? That’s easy:

“Economies grow when businesses grow. It’s that simple. How do companies grow? Marketing.”
– Penry Price, VP-Marketing Solutions, LinkedIn


This is the first in our series of key takeaway posts covering the 5 main themes that came out of the ANA Masters of B2B Conference in Chicago

[Header photo by King Lip on Unsplash]


This is the first in our series of key takeaway posts covering the 5 main themes that came out of the ANA Masters of B2B Conference in Chicago

[Header photo by King Lip on Unsplash]