A question that normally crops up in any conversation is that “don’t we have enough on our plates to now look at something that is just 2% of the profit...?” More often than not, the request or query is diverted to the CSR head.
So let me give you 5 solid reasons why the Brand Owner really needs to look at CSR from a Brand lens esp at this stage when the whole Country is talking about it !
- Changing demographics: No secret this one that the Country is dominated by huge numbers that are below 35. Every generation has its own favorites and Youth sees things of the past as relics.
- Decreasing Product differentiation: The age of the USP is over. Even before your product hits the shelf, competition has theirs out there. And those who don’t, well they can just import & re-brand it! Last time I read somewhere, even the Indian Gods were made in China!
- Evolving Technology: Even before you have finally got your hands on the latest gizmo or got used to its features, there is a new product out there. Flashier, faster, sharper...
- The Spiritual Consumer: Today’s generation is probably far more aware, concerned and caring about the Environment, Society & the need to look beyond the immediate self. Heck, who wants Blood Diamonds or that nice Rug that came from the tears & blood of little kids who worked in sweat shops somewhere!
- Social humiliation is just a click away: And if still don’t care, there is enough out there for the Corporate’s Stock to take a beating & tumble down in the few minutes of a PR disaster.
Given the above, especially point 4; it is going to be increasingly difficult to connect with Customers’ at a higher emotional level, keep them engaged with the brand & stay loyal to it.
Here’s where your CSR can step in. However, it requires a change in thinking and that can only come if it’s driven from the top. CSR departments are generally averse to any Communication that is beyond reporting. Integration of the brand into CSR is seen as sacrilegious. Culturally we are aligned to believe that if you must “do good”; do it quietly...
However, there is a fine balance that must be kept. The ‘Cause’ must never get compromised. The Corporate can choose to do CSR that is aligned with the nature of the business that it is engaged in or even the Values that it believes in. But Communication must work towards raising awareness of the issues. The Brand must seek to engage community. It should help the affected or be seen as helping in mobilizing people, resources & Government. It should play the role of a facilitator. Its presence is incidental & only to ensure the success or sustainability of the Cause or the issues of the affected.
People trust Brands & big Brand owners. Their support & presence re-assures the Community encouraging donations, volunteering & involvement. It helps mobilize opinion and generates media visibility.
Thus creating a far larger impact than a silent donation would have achieved.
CEOs are influential people. The Organization’s Vision, Beliefs & involvement comes through & also helps in the above. It also ensures greater involvement of all their Employees beyond the CSR team. The Marketing teams can guide the CSR on Media planning & buying. The CEO's presence further attracts Customers, suppliers & other stake holders.
Finally, it creates a win –win situation for all i.e. The Cause, the NGOs & the Corporate which will be seen as a good corporate citizen.
About the author:
Pankaj Arora is the Director & Co-Founder of ACT – Asset CSR Team.