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Special Columns
Arindam Chaudhuri, Editor-in-Chief, 4Ps B&M Chief Consulting Editor's Desk
Rajita Chaudhuri
K.K.Srivastava Guest Column
Rajita Chaudhuri
The Chief Consulting Editor's Desk
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Early this month, Nike did something a lot of movie fans and shoe collectors were waiting for. It created the exact replica of the shoes worn by Michael J. Fox in the popular 1989 flick ‘Back to the Future’. He wore the shoes when he travelled to 2015 in the movie. 1500 shoes were put on e-bay for auction – they were sold out faster than one could imagine; the campaign has been evidently massively successful. This sneaker is getting Nike extra attention not just because of the ‘limited edition’ of the shoes but also because all the proceeds will be donated to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s disease research. To top it all, Sergey Brin has pledged to match the donations made to the foundation up to the next year (to a maximum of $50 million). The shoes have been auctioned for anywhere between $3,500 to $10,000 with the British rapper Tinie Tempah even paying $37,500 for his pair! The purchase of the year did help Tinie jump into the spotlight, but this has kept Nike in the news too and for some good reasons.

Brands need to be in the news for the right things. When a brand associates itself with the right cause, it gets noticed and spoken about, and that’s where it has a chance to overtake its competitors. Hugo Boss released a campaign this month for its perfume Boss Orange. However it was not the regular ‘glamour shoot’ that most perfume advertisements are about; instead, it talked of development of schools in Madagascar. Boss Orange has donated $300,000 to the ‘Schools of Africa’ initiative and through this campaign, it hopes to help at least 60,000 pre-school children in Africa. It used celebrities Sienna Miller and Orlando Bloom to propagate the idea that ‘every child has the right to an education’ – and Boss, along with UNICEF, would help do this “Today. To Help. Together”. When Bloom was chosen as the perfume’s brand ambassador in 2010, he said he identified with Boss Orange immediately because “it had a laidback spontaneous quality,” much like he had. So while Boss and Orlando were working on giving the brand a distinct identity, associating it with a cause made it stand out.

When a brand associates itself with a cause, it changes the total image and reputation of the company. Research has proved that firms that are socially responsible are considered by consumers to have a good reputation. In a study done by British Telecom in 2002, as much as 25% of a company’s reputation was dependant on its commitment to society.

She was called the ‘Mother Teresa’ of the business world, because she believed in not just doing business, but doing it with some heart too. Anita Roddick never forgot the African women who shared their skin care secrets with her, which she used to make her creams and lotions for her cosmetics brand ‘Body Shop’. The key to Body Shop’s success was not just its interesting products but the numerous social causes the brand stood for. It played an active role in Save the Whales campaign in 1985; again in 1989, it stood behind the cause of saving the Brazilian forests; and again in 1990, it energetically supported the petition against testing of animals. These were some of the numerous causes that Anita Roddick and Body Shop fought for and her customers (the young women) just loved her for it. This dynamic woman breathed her last four years ago in September 2007, but she showed the world how business does not just mean a crazy obsession with profits, but also a crazy obsession with the society. Body Shop gave crazily and the more it gave, the bigger it grew – and Anita Roddick soon became the fourth richest woman in Britain in 1990. CSR is a powerful tool and cannot be ignored. With the youth of today having a greater and louder voice in purchase decisions, companies that look after the society find increased customer loyalty as they increase their commitment towards the society. Customer loyalty is the one factor all brands would give their right arm for, and socially responsible organizations get it, since the customers respect them, and the word-of-mouth around these companies is so good that customers perceive their products to be more reliable and of better quality. As a result, they are ready to pay a higher price for these products and feel good about it.

When Bono, the legendary singer of the rock band U2, launched his brand ‘Product Red’, he got himself some real heavyweight partners. From American Express, Gap, Nike, to Armani, everyone announced their range of RED products, the sales of which would go to Bono’s Product Red to help fight AIDS in Africa. These brands and their products instantly got a lot of buzz and shot to fame and Bono raised $140 million.

Marks and Spencer has found a cause that is close to our hearts... useless hangers! According to a survey, some 100 million hangers are thrown away and they take as much as 100 years to degrade. So in July this year, Marks & Spencer tied up with UNICEF to launch a new campaign, which urged customers not to take the hangers home when they bought clothes from the store – and for every such purchase, the company would donate 50p to UNICEF to help it transform the lives of some of the poorest children in the world. All people had to do was make a simple choice and it made them feel good about it. Isn’t branding all about making the customer feel good? When you undertake socially responsible work, you not just make the customer feel good but you also do good to the world.

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