There is a famous saying that “brand equity” is as important as the future cash flow of a firm. When it comes to discount strategy of a firm, a good brand is worth even more than that. The term brand has its origins in the old Norse verb “brandr” which means to burn. This relates to an ancient ritual in which animals used to stamped in order to claim ownership. In fact cattle branded( or rather stamped) by a farmer of good repute was more desirable than those by a farmer of less repute. Thus signifying the importance of branding from the early times.A lot has undoubtably happened on the way from “brandr” to brand. The focus has shifted from searing an animal’s flesh with hot iron to creating value for the shareholder. One question though still remains relative: What is a good brand ? How to define it and how to increase visibility ?
The one point quite clear from the above example a good brand should have lots of visibility- so that people know that it is reputed. While traditional form of increasing visibility includes television and print ads and celebrity endorsement and newer forms like Facebook and Twitter are no doubt here to stay as significant mediums, a new genre of increasing visibility has emerged.
Let us consider a simple fact with respect to India: Total population – 1.2 billion. A significant number of people from this population earn their livelihood through begging. In almost every street of India you will find them- Question is : Can a company employ them? How about offering them free meal once a week or offering them clothes to wear( which will be branded by the sponsor)? An even more radical thought will be employing them as sales persons and distributing pamphlets and paying them in return. The advantages are triple fold- 1. They have presence in every part so the promotion is bound to succeed 2. You appear as a socially responsible brand 3. The cost incurred in this form of promotion will be far less. The flip side is a bit obvious though- it will lower your brand value if you are targetting the niche market.
Some socially responsible Cause Marketing campaigns that have been launched recently to increase brand visibility:
1. “Bazar Kolkata”- A retail chain in India is sponsoring the uniforms of volunteers who are working on behalf of the municipality in many parts of Kolkata. It serves a lot in building its image as a socially responsible company.
2. KFC is hiring deaf and dumb people in its outlets as a way of showing its responsibility.
What it now means is the establishment of CSR campaigns as virtual Cause marketing campaigns. The aim of CSR should not be to make profit while that of marketing is to generate sales. Though both are contradictory in nature as long as the society benefits and the shareholders also benefit, it is a win-win situation for both parties.
There have been few unrelated campaigns as well to increase visibility- For instance Amity University acting as a sponsor for 5 teams in the Indian Premier League (IPL). There is no direct co-relation between the two: One is in the education field and the second is a commercial cricketing event, but there is no denying the fact that it does make more people aware of Amity owing to the popularity of the IPL. Aircel’s “Save the Tiger” Campaign can be considered as another example in this genre.
There is no denying the fact that the above unusual and unrelated campaigns does increase visibility, but whether it enhances or reduces the brand equity depends on which market segment the brand is targetting and also whether the underlying target of making profit is exposed.
Food for thought: If a brand employs beggars for promotion, will it decrease its brand equity ?