We have heard the term CSR thrown around quite a lot in the past decade. What's the first thought that comes to your mind when you hear the term 'CSR'? Be honest. Charity, social cause, free PR, tax exemptions - do these thoughts pop up in your head when you hear the term CSR? You aren't the only one.
CSR - Corporate Social Responsibility is by definition a type of international private business self-regulation that aims to contribute to societal goals of a philanthropic, activist, or charitable nature by engaging in or supporting volunteering or ethically-oriented practices.
We have in the past seen companies as a part of their CSR initiatives launch various social campaigns, promote and aid various causes. We have also seen companies partner with various sports institutions (especially ones catering to kids and women) as a part of their CSR initiative.
But the approach towards CSR by majority of the companies has been the same - since we are making so much money, we need to do something to help out the society. Although in recent times this mentality has now started changing especially when it comes to some very big brands. Brands have started looking at CSR as not just something they have to do, but as an activity that can become the talking point among their customers and something that defines the brand and it's image.
Value for the customers
As times have progressed, customers have become smarter. Their purchase decisions are no longer limited to price or due to a certain advertisement they see. Buyers are becoming more conscious about what they buy and from whom they buy. They are concerned how the product is made, is it a sustainable product, is it environment friendly, is the product or the company harming the society or nature in manner and so on.
As the modern consumer has become 'woke', it has become even more difficult for brands to influence their purchase decisions using some marketing gimmicks. And this has led a lot of companies to focus more on the social and environmental impact that they create.
In the race to earn brownie points from the modern consumer, many brands have started looking at CSR as an marketing activity. Campaigns are built around social issues, products are designed and branded around the same campaigns and even the communications and messaging is aligned to the issue at hand. These issues range from women empowerment to labour conditions to recycling and global warming.
We believe that as the consumers grow more aware of the issues around them, they will eventually start seeing through the CSR Marketing that brands have taken as a tool to paint a happy picture of the brands. In a few years time, actions are going to be much more important than the words that a marketing / PR professional would draft for you as a brand. Brands will have to move from the current CSR Marketing approach to what we call the responsible marketing strategy.
In responsible marketing the brands not only care about how much money is being spent but also on where the money is being spent and what value does it bring to the society. The onus is no longer on what is the story being told, but what is the impact that is created. Sponsorships especially in sports are one of the most important tools within the Responsible Marketing domain as the brand not only associates itself with something which is significant to the community, it also ensures that the money that the brand pays to the club is actually again being reinvested into the community and the academies and the kids within the community. This will not only garner brownie points but also generate loyalty within your consumer base.