The Need for Mission Marketing

By Niamh Murphy.

Any business looking to future-proof needs to commit to mission marketing. Why?

Because increasing amounts of new businesses entering the marketplace have purpose, meaning that the enterprise has purpose and, in turn, the brand has purpose-built into its DNA. So you are at a competitive disadvantage by not committing to mission marketing. Coupled with this, there is a new youth activism culture – a culture where everyone is an activist to some degree or another, and the prevailing belief is that brands absolutely need to be doing the right thing.


Today’s 16-35 year olds are more aware than ever before of all the potential issues that they could care about. They know they have the power to effect change in an era where traditional power structures have collapsed. Plus, they are on a quest to be their best selves and live a life with purpose. Julie Hanna, US Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship, describes today’s young consumers as the most socially and environmentally conscious genera on ever.

We are at a critical juncture point: any business looking to futureproof needs to commit to mission marketing.”

But, as many of our clients have asked, ‘Is it just all talk and no ac on? Do they really give a damn?’

Yes, they do, but we (businesses and agencies too) are not making it easy for them to act according to their belief system. According to our 2016 Youth Culture Uncovered Report, which surveyed 1,000 16 – 35 year olds, nearly seven out of ten respondents always make an effort to buy brands ‘based on their ethics’, however eight out of ten respondents ‘find it hard to make ethical brand choices despite trying to’. They feel forced to compromise due to price, choice, headspace to engage, and lack of belief in a brand’s best intentions.


More savvy than the savviest marketer, your audience will see right through a pinkwash or a greenwash job. Brands who have jumped on bandwagons, taken shortism views or activated without impact have given fuel to an already cynical and sceptical youth audience. The key to success? Activating with commitment.

Commitment begins by firstly having a clear mission that reflects the heart of the company and by activating it in very tangible and accountable ways that reflect key consumer behaviours and attitudes.


While every 16-35 year is an activist these days, not all are created equal. To help brands better understand the sliding scale of youth activism, The Youth Lab designed five consumer mind-sets:

THE ARMCHAIR ALTRUIST: Wondering if they ever found Kony in 2012, they are ‘seen to care and know’ about a cause more than they probably do. They want easy ways to engage with trending causes, whether that be through low-cost or low involvement means.

THE EDUCATED EMPATH: Knowing and caring enough to believe ‘someone’ needs to make a change, they don’t believe they can be that someone. They want contextual information and digestible content that helps them to form opinions.

THE COMMITTED CONVERT: Knock, knock, knocking on everyone’s door, they campaign in the streets and yell in your newsfeed trying to make a difference. They seek a platform to engage and an opportunity to feel like an active member of a community that can deliver impact.

THE CHANGEMAKER: Forget getting the ball rolling, they are throwing a bowling ball at the status quo of societal norms to start the conversation change and see it through to success. They want to make a difference, seeking brand partnerships and using each brand’s reach to amplify their expertise.

THE EXPLICIT EXTREMIST: The modern Robin Hood of twitter troll culture, they are taking down the bad guys and celebrating the heroes – one tweet at a time. They want to make waves, whether that’s in a brand’s favour or against it, and crave credibility from branded causes to feel it is more about social good than paying CSR lip service.


How you activate your commitment and engage the different mind-sets of youth activists is as important as being committed.

Make it cool and easy: Bring the right thing and the cool thing together in a fun, shareable way. Participation should be as easy as sending a tweet.

Involve young people in the process: Don’t just include young people in identifying the societal issues that are relevant to them; include them in determining a solution.

Make it credible: To overcome consumer cynicism, take a long-term view and engage in on-the-ground partnerships. Have goals, plans and deliver with impact.

Get activating, or get left behind.


Niamh Murphy is Insights Manager in
 The Youth Lab at Thinkhouse UK and Ireland. This piece was written as part of thenetworkone’s 2017 essay collection “Cause Marketing”.

To download the full “Cause Marketing” collection, click here.