Saturday, February 6, 2016

Perspective - Cause Marketing || Anubandh & Sudipta Mondal || TAPMI, Manipal || January 2016 edition

Cause Marketing

Anubandh & Sudipta Mondal
TAPMI, Manipal

CSR and CSR policy in India

Cause Marketing is aimed at achieving social benefits while creating business value for the company. It, however, is interpreted in many ways in the business world. It is based on the idea of giving back to society and forming a strong relationship with the consumers. Take ‘Save our Tiger’ campaign for instance. It not only improved the population of tigers in India, but also strengthened the image of NDTV and Aircel (campaign initiators) in peoples' minds.
On 28, February 2014, as per the Gazette notification of India, it became mandatory for every company meeting certain financial criteria to formulate a CSR committee and spend 2% of its three years average net profit on CSR activities. With the passing of this Gazette, the debate over forced philanthropy and ‘tick box’ behavior took the back seat. The law is there, whether you like it or not. ‘Options’ create ‘dilemmas’. When the order was passed, it left companies with no other option (and hence no dilemma) but to direct 2% of their profits towards CSR.
Thus, by means of this law cause marketing, under the armor of CSR, gained substance and much recognition from being abstract and debatable to becoming an integral part of the ‘type of marketing’ pedigree.
The smarter companies decided to use this opportunity for welfare of the society, as well as extension of the core values of their brand. That is when they went out one step further and formed CSR policies that applied globally, not just in India.

Cause Marketing and CSR

Cause Marketing usually falls as a sub-set to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), though a clear demarcation is difficult. A company’s CSR work enlists several initiatives, but not all are marketed. The decision of ‘which initiative to market’ is subjective to the company. Indian FMCG giant HUL runs many CSR programs like Shakti, FAL etc. but it specially markets Sanitation & Preventive Healthcare program through Domex Toilet Academy. 

Youths’ perspective

Today's generation proudly collaborate towards mitigating the grave issues of society. What makes them more active as compared to the previous generations? Partially, it can be answered from the fact that there has been a considerable increase in the per capita disposable income in the last two decades. In addition to that, technological revolution has caused a dramatic shift in the ways of information exchange. This has entirely change the dynamics of how youths perceive their society and how they react to its problems. Social media has subsequently appeared as an added benefit. Emergence of online petition websites such as or is the best example of how youths are using cyber space to improve their habitat.

Need for participative environment

‘Youth’ signifies passion and a desire to bring ‘change’. CSR gives them a common platform to align professional goals with their willingness to contribute to the society. In the current scenario, our work life and personal life has become one and there is hardly any time left to do something for a cause. CSR, thus, caters to both dimensions of life- professional and societal.

Moral incentives

Corporate world is awash with awards and recognitions given in the field of CSR. The idea is to motivate the companies as a whole and give their employees a sense of ownership for the cause they are involved in.

Company’s perspective

When questioned by his CEO about his goal in life, Bruce Burtch, ‘father of cause marketing’, answered by saying, ‘do well by doing well’. His reply has pioneered the significance of social responsibility in the corporate world since then.

Demographic Dividend

CSR activities have been focused at sensitive issues like women empowerment, vocational training to the underprivileged youths, environment & sustainability etc. This reflects companies' understanding of the truth that India has entered in a demographic dividend and training and educating the young population as well as providing them employment will eventually benefit the companies directly or indirectly.

Improving social image

It was surprising for some, when Mattel Inc. appeared in the top 100 corporate citizens list of Forbes magazine. Mattel has been severely criticized in the past for portraying poor/objectified women role models for children through their "Barbie" dolls. Their efforts to appear in the ‘good corporate citizen’ list clearly emphasize on the importance of having a good brand image in peoples' minds, which the company understood very well.

Marketing Aspects in Cause Marketing

Umbrella Branding in CSR

This can be best exemplified through the ‘Jaago Re’ campaign by Tata group. Jaago re in itself is not a CSR initiative. It rather acts as an umbrella brand, encompassing several different burning issues of the society, which demands cognizance from the society viz. tax awareness, child adoption, gender stereotyping etc. under its canopy. 

Brand switching/preference                                                                            

From time to time, market research studies like Cone Case Evolution, Edelman Good Purpose etc. have proved that consumers would switch to a brand that supports a cause when price and quality are equal. Study showed that 85% of job holders claimed that they would quit their job if the company had negative CSR practices.

Cause Marketing - Social Media Marketing

Social media has acted as a catalyst for cause marketing. Digitization has made it easier for the companies to reach new target segments. Similarly, it has become convenient for people to participate in social causes. It is because of social media that awareness campaigns on complex diseases like Ebola or ALS have become successful worldwide.

Brand’s core values-Natural extension

The very premise of CSR is based on 'mutual benefit'. And extension of a brand's core values should be the result of any effective cause marketing campaign. P&G’s Parivartan- the Whisper School Program initiative is worth mentioning here, which educates girls about menstruation and prevent them from unhygienic sanitation practices.

Issues with Cause Marketing

Double-edged sword

Although cause marketing creates a good image of the company, excessive marketing may discourage consumers, as they might think that the company is trying to reap profits behind the veil of social service.

Selfish motives

Companies use cause marketing to get monetary incentives/relaxations from the government.  They also indulge in certain campaigns to boost sales of their product for short-term and later on, disengage from the cause.

Cause-marketing myopia

The company managers at times get too involved with the social campaign and forget that not only the primary motive of the company is to earn profits, but also, the values and practices of the organizations need to align with the cause they are fighting for. In the infamous British Petroleum incident, where they telecasted 'Beyond Petroleum' ads on one side and carelessly allowed the Gulf oil spill to happen on the other, cause marketing efforts backfired and created a feeling of frenzy among the public.
To conclude, there is a clear association between youth, CSR and cause marketing. Together they create a healthy ecosystem for all strata of people. Effective CSR will lead to brand longevity, due to stronger connect with the emerging population. As for Cause Marketing, it will slowly intermingle and diversify with other, more traditional concepts of marketing. And when approached deftly, companies will be certainly be able to mitigate certain issues related with this marketing approach.

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