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(Editor’s note: “The Purpose-Driven Brand” presentation is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Fri., Sept. 27 at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, part of IdeaFestival.)

In today’s business climate, it’s not enough to produce something that works as intended.

No, companies that produce goods and services must adopt at least one cause that makes the world a better place – a practice known as “purpose-driven” marketing.

That’s the view of Kris Sirchio, who’s leading an Idea Festival panel Friday on the topic. A former marketing guru at Brown-Forman, Sirchio is an evangelist, preaching the evolution of branding.

Sirchio, who had the lofty title of executive vice president and CMO at Brown-Forman, walked away last December after three years in a well-publicized shake up at the Louisville-based, global spirits firm.

Before that, he’d spent two decades in Europe, mostly with Procter & Gamble.

In addition to hanging out with his family and consulting on triathlons, he has put plenty of energy into what sounds like a must-see presentation for modern marketers, inviting some of the biggest names in international marketing to participate in Friday’s event.

“It’s clear that the new story for business and brands is to deliver financial results AND make the world a better place,” he said. “It’s a higher ideal and they must build relationships with customers.”

The question the panel will answer is this – what is the real value of being a good citizen? Sirchio says that for corporations, it’s become an essential ingredient in the marketing mix for three reasons – the increase of available data, access to technology and the penetration of social media.

His first example is the evolution of Pampers. At P&G, Sirchio marketed the product for its ability to keep babies’ skin dry. But then competitors caught up with the technology and Pampers began marketing that it cared about the development of babies, and the business tripled in 10 years.

“Brands must evolve to be held accountable,” he said. “People are more demanding that brands make money and make the world a better place.”

One study  showed that 87 percent of global consumers expect brands to place equal weight on society’s interests and their business interests. And 53 percent say they would not invest in a company that does not actively support a good cause.

The business influences that have created this environment are transparency, empowerment of consumers and the real-time world in which brands are discussed by consumers in social media, Sirchio said.

Another example is Coca-Cola, which is using purpose-driven marketing to address two areas affected by its product.

Coke has a plan to become “water neutral,” replacing the water it uses to produces drinks, and it is involved in fighting childhood obesity in young people.  Starbucks made it a corporate policy not to allow guns in its stores, challenging the powerful gun lobby.

“They’re taking a proactive stance, standing up and not waiting for politicians to get on board,” he said. “Brands are taking on tough challenges.”

On Friday, the “Purpose-Driven Brand” panel will open with a video message from Jim Stengel, former P&G global marketing officer, who has written a book called “Grow” about the topic.

The live panel includes Kelly Mooney is CEO of Resource, a national branding ad agency, and author to two books on branding.

Donald Lassere, who has been CEO of the Ali Center since 2012, will discuss how he’s building a global humanitarian brand using a Louisville icon.

Sirchio brings plenty of enthusiasm to the topic, and promises a few surprises as well.

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Rick Redding
Rick Redding is a Louisville native who’s been a part of the local news scene since the 1990s. He’s written for Business First, LEO and other publications. In 2006, he launched TheVilleVoice.com, and was later voted the city’s Best Blogger by Louisville Magazine. In 2011, LEO readers voted him “Best Local Feature Writer.” He’s also appeared frequently as a guest on local TV and Radio shows, discussing local media and issues. He operates a local site, LouisvilleKY.com.

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