In January 2014, MSLGroup launched a full-fledged ‘Corporate and Brand Citizenship’ practice, building on its methodology‘PurPle’ (People + Purpose) launched in May 2012. Headed by Scott Beaudoin, global practice director, the practice is on offer at MSLGroup offices in 13 countries including India, China, Canada, US, Sweden and the UK, and employs 90 globally.
In conversation with Campaign India, Beaudoin said, “We at MSLGroup want to help brands in terms of how to think about citizenship and purpose in a way that will drive reputation or preference in terms of product purchase, loyalty, and affinity. Our plans are to harness the tremendous expectations that people have from brands. Companies today need to be guided on how to craft powerful communications, messaging and platforms around purpose and citizenship. We see it as a business opportunity. We saw that as an emerging brand mandate and there is a good remunerative aspect to the business and we believe that we can build a lot of consultancy dollars globally.”
The size of the work done by the agency in areas of citizenship and corporate social responsibility is estimated to be around Euro 20 million, said Beaudoin. According to the practice head, the unit will look to achieve double digit growth in 2015. (PRWeek US reported annual global revenue to be USD 450 to 500 million, in May 2013.)
P&G is the largest global client for the practice, for which MSLGroup has created a campaigns such as ‘Protecting futures’ (for brand Always) and ‘Saving wildlife’ (for Dawn). Besides, the agency has partnered Nestle, Coca Cola, Siemens (Germany),Sodexho, and Pfizer to create branding communications in the area of citizenship.
The practice is launching a global research titled ‘Future of Citizenship’. The eight-week survey covering 500 to 700 millennials in13 countries will seek to understand what their expectations from brands are. Findings are to be revealed at the Sustainable Brands Conference in San Diego in June 2014.
The Indian opportunity
MSLGroup looks forward to the new Companies Act that will come into effect on 1 April 2014. As per the same, it will be mandatory for companies with net worth of Rs 500 crore or turnover of Rs 1,000 crore or net profit of Rs 5 crore, to spend at least 2 per cent of average net profit of the past three financial years on corporate social responsibility.
Eyeing this as a huge opportunity, he said, “MSL could provide some good thought leadership in the marketplace on some of the dos and don’ts and the pitfalls to avoid.”
And the opportunity is not just on the corporate side, he underlines. The spokesperson added, “Companies will need to invest much more than they are doing currently. They would need guidance as to what they should invest in, with whom they should collaborate, and so on. In that sense, India is a land of opportunity. Similarly, we can guide NGOs who are expecting a windfall from the new legislation. The practice would guide them to position them, the brands that they should collaborate with and so on. There is a need on both sides.”
But the arena of corporate citizenship is not something that has evinced interest in communication consultancies alone. The competition is multi-faceted.
Beaudoin explained, “The space is getting intensely competitive with the entry of business consultancies such as McKinsey, non profit agencies like FSG and other advertising agencies. Secondly, a few brands are not sure whether they should communicate some of the good that they are doing in the world.”
In India, the business would be more challenged because of the price sensitivity, he added. “Further, it is seen as a value-add,while in other countries it is seen as valuable work for which they get budgets to spend on,” he surmised.