We are marketing. And we are in the business of ‘doing good’.

‘The truth isn’t the truth until people believe you, and they can’t believe you if they don’t know what you are saying, and they can’t know what you are saying if they don’t listen to you, and they won’t listen to you if you are not interesting, and you won’t be interesting until you say things imaginatively, originally, freshly.’ That wasn’t me. That was Bernbach.

Now, how often can you continuously look imaginative + original + fresh? Especially when your brand is 20, 50, or even 100 years old? Consumers are simply falling out of love with a majority of brands they buy. It seems almost every brand has a standardized template of being ‘new’, ‘fresh’ and ‘cool’. Marketers are in search for future pathways to growth as their brands now account for a growing proportion of total enterprise value. For example, the brand ‘Blackberry’ has a huge impact on the enterprise ‘Research in Motion’. A brand is increasingly seen as something that can have a considerable impact on the future earnings of a company. Brands are becoming drivers of intangible value. And the tectonic shifts in the digital, consumer and media landscape constantly poses as both a challenge and opportunity for a brand to exploit its true worth. So what can a brand do?

Enter – marketing department. And the new marketing strategy – do good and be good.

In a world where consumers can actively choose to avoid marketing, the only way to win is to create marketing that they actively chose to engage with. And ‘doing good’ or ‘being good’ happens to top that list. As an observer, you may ask – why ‘doing good’ and most importantly why now? Maybe consumers are tired of differentiation. Every brand tries so hard to differentiate today that they all end up looking and saying the same things! Maybe consumers are bored with promises. Promises to make them complete, to give them a better future or even to be different. Two shifts are operating here. First – People are choosing to engage with marketing. As stated earlier, people have the power to ignore marketing in today’s digital world. Thanks to technology. Hence the core task of marketing involves around creating something that is worthy of consumer’s time and attention. Second – for better or for worse, consumers have started to blatantly talk, write, speak and express themselves on the web about brands that adds value to their life. And many a times this goes beyond a sale or purchase of goods. Thus you will find brands doing good. In India too. Brands have claimed to save tigers. They want you to run a marathon for your city. They even promise to donate a lot of money if you buy them regularly. Ironically, brand managers think campaigns. And campaigns are short term. Thus, ‘doing good’ or ‘being good’ gets restricted to a period in time.

However, there is one company that has taken itself very seriously when it comes to ‘doing good’ or ‘being good’. And its story of goodness is firmly rooted in its strategic marketing endeavours to such an extent that it provides a compelling case to think ONLY long term when it comes to doing good. Its Hindustan Unilever.

– To challenge the hygiene habits of its TG, Lifebuoy soaps actually conducted an experiment where they went into the homes of real consumers and educated them about the importance of washing hands five times a day. They even went to extent of monitoring user behaviour and report findings such as 25 per cent less cases of diarrhoea among the target group; 19 per cent fewer respiratory infections; and 40 per cent fewer days off school among children. You may call it brilliant way of telling a story about a market research. But these stories of goodness connects with consumers.

– A brand like Pepsodent actually conducts workshops in schools about ‘right brushing practices’. Not one or two schools. 180 schools across the country every year and pledges to educate more than 150,000 children about the importance of oral hygiene.

– In the laundry care segment, one of its fabric conditioner – Comfort One – claims to require only one bucket of water for rinsing instead of three. And in a country like India where the traditional process of rinsing accounts for 70 per cent of water consumption, products like Surf Excel claims to solve such problems by producing less lather, thus requiring less water. Classic case of twisting a product attribute to a consumer benefit? Maybe.

– Globally, Unilever has also launched an initiative titled ‘Sustainable Living Plan’. It claims to (a) Help more than one billion people improve their health and well-being (b) Halve the environmental impact of their products and (c) Source 100% of their agricultural raw materials sustainably.

Now isn’t this a great example of ‘doing good’ tied up with long term strategic marketing? If Maslow’s hierarchy of needs states that as our basic desires for material possessions are met, we feel a natural urge to improve the world around us – then what’s wrong if brands are actually helping consumers to improve this world? Do good and be good.


~ by rb on August 21, 2011.

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