Raahil Chopra
Feb 26, 2015

Double Standards: Is CSR differentiated enough to be an advantage?

Ad veteran Ramesh Narayan and brand consultant Harish Bijoor speak about the trend of CSR-driven brand campaigns

Double Standards: Is CSR differentiated enough to be an advantage?
Is CSR differentiated enough to be a competitive advantage?
Ramesh Narayan, founder, Canco Advertising (RN): Yes, some of them are.
For brands, if you’re related to watches, you’re in the space of time and if your CSR activity is related to time and its management it makes sense. If it doesn’t make sense to the category, then it won’t necessarily work.
Jaago re of Tata Global Beverages certainly worked. The beauty of that campaign is that a lot of people don’t look at the campaign as CSR. Dettol and Swach Bharat is bang on right too, but if Titan associates with something like Swach Bharat that certainly won’t work.
Harish Bijoor, CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc (HB): ​I believe CSR-driven campaigns, if they are well thought-out, relevant to the brand and properly executed, could be great differentiators for the brand communication.​
Are too many brands using CSR and focussing on social causes?
RN: Yes, there is a clutter. But the beauty is that social awareness is increasing in the country.
HB:  I don’t think so. It is just that we suddenly have a few prominent brands communicating via social causes. In real terms it would be a miniscule number compared to the total number of active brands.​
Is there an issue of perceived insincerity on the part of brands doing CSR?
RN: Yes. Lots of brands are going to be called insincere CSR players. At the moment, CSR is a stylish thing to be in just because brands want to say they’re doing this. Whenever one is doing CSR, the integrity and purpose is most important. What I typically tell companies to do is, like a vision and a mission statement, one should also have a CSR vision and mission which guides you. Companies and brands should try and marry their CSR vision and mission statement to the company vision and mission.
HB:  ​If there is, it is because brands have not aligned with causes actively so far. Those that have a track record of doing so would never be viewed as being insincere. A sudden wild card entry could possibly be viewed as jumping onto the band wagon, but the onus is on them to stay the course and show their good intentions.​
Is there enough differentiation in causes when it comes to CSR?
RN: In the market in-large there are enough things to do and enough number of causes to back. There’s no cause shortage in a country like India and so there is a case for enough differentiation when it comes to CSR.
HB: As I said, I believe the communication itself can be a differentiator. If no difference is perceived it speaks poorly of the thought process and execution of the creative.​
Is brand fit with the cause needed? Is it evident in the market?
RN: It is needed, but it isn’t evident in the market. Right now, people are groping in the dark with CSR. They have a mandate about associating a brand with CSR, but the fit isn’t there. Give it time and people will find the right fit.
This trend will continue and then die soon. Very few brands will survive this. It’s very difficult to attract the space in a mind of a consumer. Brands which use CSR as a part of strategy will succeed. Bulk of the brands are using it in the activity; in their advertising.
HB: Well, it definitely helps enormously. However in some cases it may not be there but still if the intention of the advertiser is good and the communication reflects that, it’s a great fit anyway.​
Are we seeing CSR being added to marketing budgets? Should it be? Will it be?
RN: Every company is a marketing company. Companies must note that they have shareholders and consumers. The objective of the company is to increase the shareholder value. That only goes up with more sales. When you do CSR and apply your marketing budget, there’s nothing wrong with it. Similarly it is fine with CSR budget going to marketing.
HB:  Communicating CSR activities should be added to marketing budgets.
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