Ananya Saha
Sep 16, 2013

Spikes 2013: ‘Never apologise that social responsibility drives profit for your brands’

Lowe and Partners’ Tony Wright and Unilever’s Samir Singh underlined how social missions are best integrated into business models

Spikes 2013: ‘Never apologise that social responsibility drives profit for your brands’

Lifebuoy's 'Stamped Roti' campaign at the Kumbh Mela reached out to five million people. Its 'Help a child reach the age of five' film from India bagged metal at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity this year. Befitting then, that a global VP (personal care) of Unilever took stage, alongside Lowe and Partners’ chairman, at Spikes Asia to speak on a related theme.

Tony Wright, chairman, Lowe and Partners and Samir Singh, global VP, Unilever (personal care), explained how brands can create authentic campaigns around social responsibility.

‘Social mission has to be driven by core purpose of the brand’

"It is not about a guilt trip," Singh asserted, talking about the tenets to follow while indulging in social campaigns. He added, "And it is definitely not about CSR - a term I do not like. If you do it because of those reasons, then you are doing it for wrong reasons." 

Citing Lifebuoy's example, he explained that Lifebuoy, invented in 1894, was the first brand to be named not after its founder but after its purpose - of saving lives by standing against dirty hands. Since then, Lifebuoy has taught 130 million people hand-washing techniques using the same 120-yr-old idea, he explained.

The social mission purported by the brand, should therefore be driven by the core purpose of the brand, he reasoned.

With the example of Droga 5's campaign about engaging people to register as bone marrow donors through the ‘Help I've cut myself’ campaign, Wright said, "Mission statements are not good enough. You have to show people how they can make a difference by being a part of your social mission." The bone marrow helped the sales of the bandage shoot up by 1900 per cent, Wright added.

On brands' sales growth coming from social initiatives, Singh said, "Never apologise for the fact that social responsibility drives profits for your brand. The best of the social missions are integrated into the business model." He added that social responsibility should not be treated as an overhead.

Wright added, "You cannot do it alone. Partners will help you to achieve your mission."

The talk shifted to ‘Operation Christmas’ initiative undertaken by the Colombian Army to get the guerrilla fighters back home by decorating the tallest tree in the jungle with X-mas lights and telling the fighters through banners, 'If X-mas can come to jungle, you can come home'.

Wright said, "The campaign had a resounding success. The strategy was replicated across the country, across Christmas, which became a long series of engagement."

But Singh cautioned, "While it is important to measure output rather than inputs in a social campaign, the brands need to ask themselves if they need a social mission at all. And if you still choose to do it, do it with your brand at the middle of it all."

Also read: Six tips from Unilever and Lowe

Campaign India