Social activism, social responsibility and brand purpose are playing an increasingly larger role in a company’s success.

In his keynote presentation “Good is the New Cool: Market Like You Give a Damn” at IEG 2017, Afdhel Aziz, founder of brand purpose consultancy Conspiracy of Love, explained how companies can find success by leveraging business and culture as a force for good.

Drawing examples from his book Good Is The New Cool, Aziz shared examples of how Adidas, Citibank and Absolut vodka (his former employer) have leveraged technology to create socially meaningful marketing campaigns.

Below are edited excerpts from the presentation.

I’m going to start with some data that is provocative to marketers. Adobe conducted a survey that asked people to rank the four least valuable professions to society. Thirty-five percent of marketers voted for advertising and marketing. Thirty-five percent of people who worked in the marketing industry felt that what they did wasn’t meaningful.

That is fascinating. What are we doing in our day job that makes us think that way? I’m going to share what I have learned along the way and how to do sponsorship that is more meaningful, that adds value, and can help change society as well.

The Crisis Of Meaningfulness In Marketing

Our purpose when we wrote the book was to serve the world changers, the innovators and provocateurs who believe in using business and culture as a force for good. We embarked on a three-year journey, and there was an amazing zeitgeist in what we saw.

The first question we asked was ‘what is happening around us?’ We noticed this strange thing. In every single category, brands that are doing well by doing good are some of the hottest brands in the world. Toms and Patagonia in the fashion category, Tesla in the auto category, Chobani in the food category and Method in the housecleaning category These are multi-billion dollar brands that came out of nowhere, and they have all succeed by doing good.

When we dived deeper we realized it wasn’t just limited to startups. Unilever is one of the biggest multinational companies in the world, and more than half of their growth is coming from sustainable living brands. Those brands are growing significantly faster than the rest of their business.

Keith Weed, the CMO at Unilever, stood on the stage at Cannes last year and said “Doing good is no longer a moral conversation. It’s an economic conversation. How do we create purpose-driven brands that drive growth across our portfolio?”

Major Multi-Nationals Were Seeing The Same Thing

We noticed another thing going on. The architects of cool—celebrities, musicians, influencers and cultural entrepreneurs—were becoming activists. Whether it’s Beyoncé at the Super Bowl, Lady Gaga at the Oscars or Lebron James at the ESPYs, those are major artists standing up and saying ‘this is what I value. This is what I believe in.’ They’re using their cultural capital to talk about social capital and raise awareness about a whole range of issues.

The final part is nonprofits. We noticed a new wave of nonprofits like Pencils for Promise, Charity Water and the Global Citizen Festival, each of which is using the power of cool in new ways and harnessing the power of data and technology in ways that, frankly, brands could learn a lot from.

There is an intersection of what we call commerce, conscience and culture. There is something interesting happening here, where these forces are making it more possible than ever to make money and do good by harnessing the power of cool.

Each of the three entities have something that the other two can learn from. Brands have resources and reach, nonprofits have the depth and knowledge of how to fix a problem, and artists can galvanize audiences through the power of storytelling. When you put those three things together, it’s a very powerful engine.

We took a deeper dive into why this is important.

Social activism is now the second biggest driver of brand strength. Leading edge is number one, and social activism is number two. You see this when you look at the brands in the headlines. The brands that are making an impact are the brands that have figured out how to channel their values into an authentic voice in the social space.

Social Activism Is A Strong Driver Of Brand Strength

Social responsibility also builds wealth. Brands that spend money on social good have outperformed the S&P 500 by 26 percent. Shareholders are seeing the impact of social good as well.

The Average Lifespan

The average lifespan of an S&P 500 company has shrunk from 67 years to 15 years. Why is this happening? Our thesis is that brands and companies that don’t innovate and don’t have a clear brand purpose are the ones whose products people aren’t buying any longer. If you want to future proof yourself, you need to have a clear purpose and be able to bring that purpose to life through everything that you do.

Why was this happening? We realized there were three things that were driving this. One is the new expectations that Millennials and Gen-Z have of the brands in their lives. Number two is the massive technological disruption that has been created in the traditional advertising model and the opportunities that come with it. And the third is the crisis of meaningfulness within the marketing communities.

Millennials And Gen Z Have Higher Expectations Of Brands

Millennials and Gen-Z have higher expectations of the brands they choose to work for. Sixty-four percent won’t take a job if an employer doesn’t have a strong social responsibility practice. Eighty-five percent of Gen-Z employees think that companies have an obligation to help solve social platforms.

If you want to bring in the right talent, and make sure you have the right people working for your brand, you need to think about your company’s higher mission.

The global spending power of Millennials is $2.5 trillion annually. Ninety-five percent say they would switch to a brand that supports a good cause. It shows you the power of what can happen when you authentically align yourself with the right cause.

The second key driver is technology. Remember what technology did to the music business ten years ago? It’s doing it to the advertising business right now. It is causing massive disruption.

Ad blocking software is very simple. You can download the software from the App store, which prevents you from ever seeing an ad on your phone, desktop or laptop. There are 275 million users, and that number is not going down. It’s only going up.

The Global Rise Of Ad Blockers

You couple that with people cutting the cord and no longer having conventional cable or satellite TV packages. In a world where you can’t see ads on your TV screen, phone or laptop, what do marketers do? Why are we creating things no one is there to see?

This is what leads into this crisis of meaningfulness in marketing. It’s always been tough space. The agency world is a cut throat, fast-moving environment. But now there is this added layer of ‘why are we doing this? What is the point of what we’re doing?’

Our journey began with a question: ‘who is creating the new models that we can learn from? Who is inventing the future of this business?’ We interviewed 21 people for the book. They’re people who work for brands like Citibank and the Honest Company, people who work in the nonprofit space, and people who work in the cultural space. Our journey was about finding out who was creating these new models.