February 21, 2018 • Zenobia Kozak
Purpose. If you don’t have it, 91 percent of millennials say they’ll switch to a brand that does. Purpose-driven marketing isn’t a new phenomenon, but corporations are increasingly aligning themselves with a cause in an effort to attract and retain a younger generation of customers. But convincing consumers that there is meaning behind a brand requires this purpose to extend beyond the marketing team.
Purpose is inherent and authentic, and it permeates the entire culture of an organization. Corporations with a strong brand history have a clear advantage. Drawing on their heritage (such as corporate archives) enables corporations to more easily identify and articulate their purpose.
Wilson has been the NFL’s official ball sponsor for the past 75 years and has made every football used in every Super Bowl. Unlike other brands shelling out a fortune for commercial airtime, Wilson’s product achieves glory out on the field each year—representing an essential part of the most watched televised program in the world each year.
Through heritage. Wilson has hand-crafted every football used in every Super Bowl out of the same factory in Ada, Ohio. Multiple generations of families have worked in the factory, passing down expertise and craftsmanship using the same vintage machines that were used to manufacture game balls for the first Super Bowl.
Wilson also owns the Louisville Slugger brand. Over its 130-year history, Louisville Slugger has sold more than 100 million bats, making it the most popular baseball bat of all time.
Louisville Slugger’s bats are handcrafted using the same processes in use since the 1880s. The factory where the bats are made also functions as a museum, preserving the manufacturing traditions of Louisville Slugger as well as the traditions of America’s pastime. The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory has attracted more than 4 million visitors to date and is “all about celebrating the extraordinary role of Louisville Slugger in baseball’s past, present and future . . . to delight our guests and create joyful, lifetime memories.” To have the production floor so closely aligned with the brand’s history is a testament to its recognition that heritage is integral to its mission and purpose.
One of the most popular attractions is the “Hold a Piece of History” exhibit. Guests are invited to pick up bats used by such legendary players like Mickey Mantle and Derek Jeter — genuine artifacts, real pieces of history. These items have transcended their original purpose as a piece of sporting equipment. They are a physical representation of Wilson’s purpose.
Wilson doesn’t just manufacturer sporting goods; it’s in the business of making memories and preserving traditions. Sports are a shared experience, whether it’s the “big game” or playing catch in the yard. Wilson exists to nurture those relationships by providing the necessary tools to play together.
Sporting goods manufacturers like Wilson create highly sought after collectibles as well as everyday equipment. Even the equipment of the typical variety may hold sentimental value, such as a baseball mitt passed down through the generations. In either scenario, brands like Wilson and Louisville Slugger aren’t producing equipment to be used and forgotten. Their purpose is to preserve traditions and pass down the love of the game.
The introductory page of the Louisville website reads: “Others make bats. We make history.” A brief history of the Louisville Slugger baseball bat follows, tracing how 17-year-old John A. “Bud” Hillerich starting making bats in his father’s woodworking shop in Louisville in the 1880s. This timeline, as well as the rest of the website and the blog, are illustrated with a rich variety of archival images—the authentic content that helps drive growth by illustrating purpose.
The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory is a great example of how marketing through purpose, such as memory-making and preserving tradition, can translate from heritage to product to experience. In the way a family or team can share the love of a game, they can find new ways to share an experience and create new memories—and play witness to history in the making.
Successful purpose-driven marketing is a challenge. It may not be immediately clear what a corporation’s purpose is. In the case of eyewear company Warby Parker, correcting vision around the world is its cause. Working with a handful of partners worldwide, Warby Parker’s Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program has distributed over 3 million pairs of glasses to individuals in need. If the meaning behind a brand does not match its ethos, consumers will recognize it.
Nothing is more authentic than a company’s unique story. The tangible assets that help tell this story are preserved in a corporate archive and on display in company offices globally, ready resources for articulating purpose and contributing meaningfully to a brand’s intangible value. What’s your purpose? At The History Factory, we have helped the world’s leading organizations find stories inside their organizations’ history that emphasize their purpose. Drop us a line. We’d love to help.
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