Marketers seek employers with purpose: World Federation of Advertisers

A strong and clear corporate mission, followed by the presence of strong brands in the portfolio, are most important to today’s marketers when considering taking a job, according to new research from the World Federation of Advertisers.

“Marketing talent is more selective than ever; seeking to work for brands and companies that have clear values and a vision that goes above and beyond driving business performance and delivers meaningful and measurable societal benefit,” said WFA CEO Stephan Loerke.

“Purpose” has been a much discussed and debated industry topic in recent years—although the debate usually results from mistaking purpose as simply doing good for society, as opposed to having a clear articulation of how a brand can deliver meaningful benefit to the consumer without doing harm to society.

The WFA survey of more than 430 marketers from 12 national advertiser associations found that purpose was the most important attribute for marketers when considering taking a job, and vitally important for companies hoping to attract and retain the best talent.

Asked to rate workplace attributes from 1 (least important) to 7 (most important), “strong/clear corporate purpose and mission” scored 4.8, followed by “strong portfolio of brands” at 4.6. A “solid track record of performance” was third at 4.3 (see the full table below)

“As marketers around the world look for a more meaningful workplace experience, companies standing for more than functional delivery of products and services will set themselves apart in the future of work,” wrote the study authors.

The WFA also reshared the seven steps to getting corporate purpose right, taken from its 2019 “Putting People First” report (see below). “The most important thing that a company needs to have to compete today is a very clear and deliberate sense of purpose,” said HP CMO Antonio Lucio in that report. “Your purpose or vision will set the parameters for which fights you want to lead on, which fights you want to fly as a flock and which fights you’re going to avoid.”

The survey also revealed differences in preferences by cohort. Purpose was less important for media and digital marketers, as well as those based in South East Asia and entry-level marketers.

Men were more likely to want to work for companies with strong brands in the portfolio, while women and those in Europe over-indexed on sustainable and ethical business models.

Respondents were also asked what they want to see in their marketing department by scoring each attribute from 1 (least important) to 8 (most important):

  • “Strong consumer centricity” was an easy top choice, scoring 6.2;
  • “Strong product innovation pipeline” was second at 5.2; followed by
  • “Highly regarded marketing talent reputation” at 4.9.

At the bottom of the list were “known for award-winning marketing campaigns” at 3.0 and “strong presence of agency partnerships” at 2.0.

In the minds of marketers, some of the most famous brands in the world are also the ones they consider the most attractive to work at. Respondents were asked what company’s marketing team embodies most of the attributes they prefer, with rankings as follows:

  • Apple: 8.9%
  • Unilever: 7.5%
  • P&G: 6.5%
  • Nike: 5.8%, and
  • Coca Cola: 5.5%

Most respondents said that what they want in a workplace is not what they’re getting at their current job, with just 7% saying their marketing department most closely aligns with the job attributes they desire.


In its “Putting People First” report, the WFA outlined seven steps to getting purpose right:

*Pick the right issue: “It needs to be something that the business is in a credible position to address. People need to be able to see and believe that it makes sense for you to take the lead on it.

*Start internally: Inspire your workforce to be a part of what you are creating.

*Be authentic: Don’t do it as a one-off campaign because people, and millennials in particular, will smell the bullshit.

*Don’t tell the story, be the story: Intentionally integrate purpose into the core of your company.

*Take a stand: You might take some flak along the way, but if you’re true to your purpose people will forgive you.

*People make the difference: Stop thinking of people as consumers, targets, demographics or dollar signs.

*Be more creative: Every space is a crowded one. Like it or not, the brand must connect, must be attractive, must feel elevated. Brand aesthetic, tone and voice are important.

David Brown