Brands get socially responsible

Brands are going for CSR initiatives which they can then communicate through advertising, reports Ritu Tripathi.

business Updated: Sep 18, 2007 20:38 IST

As its strategic importance in brand building hits home in big dollops, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is gaining ground in brand marketing. "It helps to connect to the consumers and to society at large in a more significant, engaging way, which helps build long-term brand equity," says a Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) spokesperson.

CSR has been around, but it is now being communicated more strongly through advertising. The way the CSR initiative gets structured, therefore, needs to take into account its communication possibilities.

So we have the ongoing Little Drops of Joy—a global campaign—from Coca-Cola, advertising across media in india.

Venkatesh Kini, VP marketing, Coca-Cola India, says, "As a beverage company, the primary ingredient for our products is water, a precious natural resource that is under severe duress. As a responsible brand, we have set ourselves a target of replenishing the ground water that we extract for our beverage production. We want to be a 'Net zero' company on ground water usage by 2009. We are undertaking rain water harvesting projects in partnership with government departments, NGOs and local communities across India. We have already installed more than 300 RWH structures in 17 states."

Coca-Cola is also working with industry associations, other corporates and stakeholders on an end-to-end economic value chain for PET bottle collection and recycling.

And do you recall the Surf Excel scholarship programme ad in which two boys fight over a scratch cloth, find a scholarship award and hand it over to an underprivileged boy, who joins them at their school as a result? In HUL's view, the mission chosen for a CSR initiative should be in sync with the brand proposition. So the widely advertised 'save water' ad campaign for Surf Excel Quickwash, which needs two buckets less water per wash. Another initiative, Shakti, works to empower rural women through livelihood opportunities.

Unilever is implementing a new process, Brand Imprint, to help its brands identify social issues that fit naturally with their propositions. This sharply defined space becomes the source of sustainable competitive advantage, HUL believes.

Tetra Pak joined hands with WWF India a month ago to launch its three-year Young Climate Savers programme. In the first year, 50,000 children from 200 schools across India will go through climate change education workshops. Says Sanjay Sachdeva, director, marketing & product management, Tetra Pak India, "We hope to motivate students to contribute meaningfully towards reducing global warming and to inculcate leadership and motivation skills for promoting energy efficient lifestyles, eco-friendly attitudes." Tetra Pak also supports a recycling programme for its cartons, run by two NGOs, one each in Delhi and Mumbai.

There is wide agreement that using CSR garners big, long term gains for brands, even creating important perception cushions for the brand in times of crises. As CSR gains importance in brand building, budget allocations are bound to get more focused. "Budget for CSR is determined on a community's need assessment. As CSR programmes expand, spends will correspondingly expand," says Coca-Cola's Kini.

First Published: Sep 18, 2007 20:32 IST