Companies need to draw people in and take them on a journey

In 2019, we witnessed the impact the socially conscious consumer had on marketing and advertising. At 83 million people, millennials account for a quarter of the population of the United States, making them the largest living generation. 84% of millennials don’t like traditional advertising and 58% hate advertising—and, it looks like Gen Z is on-track to mimic the same pattern.

To address these realities, businesses around the world are embracing a new type of marketing—coming to life through a range of memorable social impact campaigns. Many of these efforts have been recognized for their unique approach to making a powerful statement. In 2019, 16 of the 21 Cannes Grand Prix award winners were purpose campaigns.

In 2020 we expect to see this trend continue, but it won’t be enough. As we look to the year ahead, we’re predicting a few new trends to emerge:

  1. Brands go from having a mission to being on a mission: Marketing on its own isn’t enough. Businesses need to focus on authentic efforts that are core to their values. In 2019, many campaigns backfired because they weren’t authentic and today’s savvy consumers aren’t having it. In 2020, look for a new wave of companies to embark on social impact missions
  2. Building the marketing organization of the future: With the socially conscious consumer comes the need for a new set of marketing and communications skills. In order to build meaningful campaigns to generate leads, businesses need to develop talent in new ways. This extends from onboarding and talent development to expanding marketing functional areas to include social impact, such as market intelligence, thought leadership, and campaign management.
  3. Performance marketing is powered by purpose-driven campaigns: Converting awareness into authentic and ongoing engagement builds your audience and their loyalty to your brand. But how do you do that? We know that companies with strong nurturing programs produce 50 percent more leads at a third less the cost; and nurtured leads produce, on average, a 20% increase in sales opportunities versus non-nurtured leads. (DemandGen Report). But, more and more people don’t want to be marketed to or “nurtured” so expect to see more companies making this shift to purpose-driven campaigns.
  4. Traditional PR as a key component of purpose-driven campaigns: PR agencies have long been tasked with building trust and relationships with key constituents – even helping to drive new programs and policies. With the rise of social media, fake news, and the 24-hour news cycle, it’s more important than ever to build and maintain trust and authenticity. In 2020, PR agencies will be instrumental in executing successful campaigns by surrounding the target audience with reasons to trust a company – today and in the future.
  5. Less talk, more listening: The socially conscious consumer wants to be heard. The problem is, many organizations are too busy running campaigns to listen. Engagement is the key to capturing this growing audience, and it starts with listening and understanding their needs.

These are just a few of the trends we’re seeing at Conversion Marketing and GOOD/Upworthy. Together, we’re working with businesses to rethink their marketing strategies to better align with today’s consumer expectations.

For example, GOOD is working with a global humanitarian organization to raise awareness and attract and retain new donors. We’re doing it by experimenting with different forms of storytelling and content, using performance marketing tactics to test the effectiveness and building new audience segments to nurture new and existing donors.

Conversion Marketing is working with a major technology provider to rethink how they create, nurture, and progress leads. We’re doing it by building content and campaigns spanning the sales and marketing functions – creating a cohesive buyer’s journey. We’ve helped clients build effective nurture streams with consistent messaging and ‘natural’ hand-offs to increase qualified leads by as much as 30 percent.

To create a meaningful lead, companies need to draw people in and take them on a journey. Is it possible to create and run ‘purpose-driven’ campaigns designed to generate leads? Or is that wishful thinking? Any examples of campaigns that weren’t necessarily designed to create demand but turned out to be wildly successful?

This article is co-authored by Kevin Thompson and Matt Berry, longtime friends and colleagues who share a past at IBM Corporation. Kevin and Matt each had roles in shaping both Marketing and Citizenship programs at IBM, and have continued to explore ways of combining socially conscious brand development with marketing and revenue generation goals. GOOD/Upworthy and Conversion are seeking opportunities to jointly support innovative marketing teams with new program development. Please visit: and