CSR x Design
Sustainable CSR programs are important. Donations and volunteering may be responsible, but are quite often unsustainable in the long term especially when underlying issues and causes are not resolved.
I will be sharing some of my work experience and tips on Designs and Sustainable CSR. I would also love to engage others in the industry to share their stories so that we can consolidate best practices and positive to share and learn together.
Effective CSR – Buy Local, Support Local
Running an effective CSR campaign does not need to be expensive or complex. You do not need to be rich or a big corporation before you can start your CSR journey.
It is important to be aware of the local community and be updated with the news and current affairs. I have worked in various clients on CSR communication and projects and found that a lot of simple ones are the most impactful and effective.
With the backdrop of the Australian Bushfires, we are reminded again that our actions do have consequences. Consumers want to know that the businesses they support are doing to support the environment, and every little thing a business does, good or bad does accumulate and it does affect the decision of the consumer.
Restaurants and others in the food industry have a big role to play. Ethical sourcing can have a big impact on the environment. Consumers are increasingly worried about food and how it affects the environment as horror stories of bad practices are being exposed. Many consumers are looking for products that are organic, pesticides free and now — local.
Buy Local Support Local is a movement where many consumers support local farmers and would not mind paying a little extra to get fresher products that they know exactly where it is from. Being local, it also allow the customer to actually visit some of these farms to learn more about the source of their food.
As a restaurant, one simple CSR strategy is to build a local supply chain. Getting local products would also mean that there is more security as anything that affects the supply chain would be made known quickly to trace and find a business continuity plan. Supporting local farmers is a sure way to help local businesses and the collaboration can strengthen both brands. It creates employment for locals and support the local economy. With less logistics involved, it lowers the carbon footprint and there can be more transparency on the source.
The Singapore is quite serious about food security, and the amount of local farms are growing. Do you know that there is a goat farm in Singapore with more than 30 years of history?
Hay Dairies is the only local goat farm in Singapore. It produces more than 1,000 litres of milk a day and this milk is sold at Cold Storage and Prime Supermarkets.
If any restaurant want a new idea for a new product, I would recommend looking at trying out some recipes with fresh local goat milk. Goat milk is a better choice compared to cow milk for digestion. Goat milk have less lactose than cow milk and might make it easier for you to stomach. Goat milk does tastes different and it is worth giving goat milk a try for unique recipes.
Is Singapore Ready for Circular Economy?
With the increasing negative perception of plastic, many consumers are influencing brands to move away from plastic due to the technical issues of insufficient infrastructure to collect, sort and recycle plastic waste. There are a lot of alternatives being developed but many are short-lived, as they may deplete more natural resources or are simply too expensive for the market to afford.
Paper packaging is a contributing factor to deforestation, increase paper consumption with 55% attributed to packaging can be blamed for the loss of forests and biodiversity.
Glass packaging production also requires quartz sand and high consumption of this material can lead to depletion of its reserve and damage to the environment. Recycling glass requires a large amount of heat to melt the glass and has a high carbon footprint.
PET packaging — the most popular bottle packaging for soda and mineral water — is also widely used in containing oils, cleaners and other household items. It is cheap, light, easily molded, non-breakable and is rather inert to most products. In many countries, PET packaging is recycled but insufficient understanding of their responsibilities by consumers in many countries for the disposal of used packaging and poor collection infrastructure results in a lot of these waste contaminated and unable to be recycled.
In Singapore, we do have recycling but it seems to be far from ideal. Singapore has a National Recycling Programme having big blue recycling bins in many public housing estates. However, much of the recyclables are contaminated, resulting in the contaminated recyclables ending up in the incinerator.
Singapore does have various Green Stores that support the Green Movement. The Green Collective have a lot of Eco-friendly alternatives such as reusable wax wraps, reusable silicon bags for Sous Vide and other organic and sustainable products to help you reduce your carbon footprint. Unpackt and Zero Ways are stores which sells products in bulk, allow you to buy what you need putting them in your own containers.
TerraCycle — a private recycling company that focuses on capturing and repurposing hard-to-recycle items — has a new initiative, Loop. Loop is a circular economy online store that bridge the gap between consumers, corporations and waste. They work with brands to provide reusable packaging for common consumer products and has already launched in many cities with offerings of 300 different items.
With the growing focus on sustainability, many recycling companies have seen more investments and growth. The governments are also playing a bigger role to push to reduce waste. Singapore’s only landfill will run out of space by 2035. There is limited space for building new incinerator plants or landfills in Singapore. There are a lot of talks to reduce plastic waste but till date, Singapore has not successfully banned any single use plastics.
With Loop and the growing movement of circular economy, along with other refilling station projects and growing popularity of bulk groceries like Unpackt, Singapore seemed to be a perfect place to launch a circular economy initiative as the Island is relatively small and the top down government can pass legislation easily to make it happen. With our scarce land use, the threat brought by climate change and our landfill running out of space, will we see the big brands take on a bigger role of starting a circular economy initiative to reuse their containers, or will the government mandate companies to reuse packaging as more countries are doing so?
Corporate Communications during the COVID-19 Outbreak
Panic, shutdown, confusion and misinformation, how brands can communicate effectively and ethically in this time of crisis.
COVID-19 does not seem to be anywhere close to being contained. In China, we have seen big brands close stores, airlines cancel flights and businesses badly affected.
In Singapore, tourist arrivals are down, locals are only beginning to go out, many events are still canceledµ, and retail affected badly.
There is a lot of anxiety and uncertainty, and this increases stress in the community. Companies can play an important to play in support of this situation, but they need to keep calm and manage communications internally and externally effectively. So how should companies manage their communications during this trying period?
- Business continuity
Employees and other stakeholders will be concerned about the business continuity plans for their companies if the virus were to worsen. Organizations should have proactive and transparent policies which will protect the livelihoods of their employees. Organizations should include newer additions such as flexible work arrangements and remote working to contain the risks to the workforce and the economy.
- Employee safety
Employee safety should be the highest priority on the list. Organizations should have clear and simple to understand safety guidelines to assure employees that they will provide a safe working environment. Public facing employees need to know that they have support and equipment where necessary to keep them safe.
Constant engagement and monitoring are required to find out the problems early so corrective actions can be taken.
- Customer safety
Safety guidelines and new processes should be designed and incorporated in view of the current situation. Disinfectants or hand-sanitizers should be within reach of touchscreen ordering-kiosks at fast food restaurants as these surfaces can potentially be a medium to spread the virus.
Food handling staff of restaurants may also need heighten level of supervision to sure safety guidelines are followed.
- Employee mental well-being
Opening channels of communications and developing a platform for employee feedback and providing flexibility within the company’s capacity can help remove anxiety of many employees in this stressful situation.
Being transparent and providing timely updates on projects whether it may be delayed or canceled will help reduce anxiety and concerns.
- CSR Communication
A company should not take advantage of the situation if it wishes to engage in support of the community in the fight against the spread of the COVID-19.
Companies should help amplify correct information from the government and WHO and curb fake news from spreading. All communications should be simple, transparent and fact-based.
All companies have a major role & responsibility to play, especially in times of public health challenge. Together with the community and the government, we can do our part to ensure all of their stakeholders, employees and customers have the information they need to feel safe and supported.
There are already several companies providing free food for our medical staff in show of support. It is important to show support to all service personnel during this crisis.
We are all in this together, let us support those in need and come out of this situation as one.
CSR is not Complicated and Expensive
Many companies think that only large corporations can engage in CSR, and CSR costs a lot of money. On the contrary, many social enterprises are thriving in Singapore, and all they practice is sustainability and inclusivity.
All it takes is creativity and innovation.
Working on a project with Milo, they wanted to do a gift-with-purchase, giving a ceramic mug with a purchase of 3-in-1 Milo sachets. In many other gift-with-purchase projects, the mug would be packed separately in a box with cushion and placed together with the 3-in-1 Milo sachets. They decided to reduce plastic use and packaging materials and after several iterations of designs, the above box was created.
The result of thinking a little more for packaging design can have a big effect. Having a smaller form factor reduces materials used, shipping size, shelf space and is good the the environment. If the solution could be kept simple with no new materials to support the structure, there is a lot of cost savings as well.
This is actually true for a lot of new CSR projects. As long as more thoughts and considerations are put in on design, the end result usually do not cost more, and it could save costs in the long run as well.
There are simple ways to transform your business and do CSR at the same time, here are 7 key principles of social responsibility:
- Ethical behavior
- Respect for stakeholder interests
- Respect for the rule of law
- Respect for international norms of behavior
- Respect for human rights
Incorporating them into business processes, designs and have extra thoughts does not hurt and cost more money. Being ethical can in fact save costs in the long run by avoiding lawsuits.
Having a CSR program is simply putting some of these social responsibility on top of every decision you make, taking the extra mile of doing the right thing. With proper communications and strategy, business who practice this can be a strong force of good.
Businesses can affect the community and businesses are in fact a part of the community. We have seen the effects of businesses focusing on profits and many are starting to realize the consequences of our actions in the community. Many customers today are also critical about how companies behave and CSR may soon become a requirement.
Are you considering what impact your company has on society?
Helping others may give you purpose and you may find meaning from it. It is a fundamental part of humanity. But do you think it is possible to over do things? Does “over-helping” exist?
Of course it does!
Everyone deserves dignity, and certainly, helping while imposing your values on others — because you help them — can impair autonomous decision making, and harm the whole community. When you help others out of pity, it also affects their self-worth, and this can be seen in how some people on long aid can be stuck in a negative spiral with low self-esteem.
Treating other people with dignity means treating them the way we’d like to be treated ourselves. I have observed many corporate giving and charities – interested in only the giving and ignoring the impact caused by the giving. I would say that their thoughts and resources may be needed, but the approach needs to have a major overhaul.
Working in many post disaster areas, I’ve seen how International aid can destroy local economies and Eco-systems. The massive amounts of free food imported and donated creates a situation where local farmers cannot sell their crops. Earthquakes do not damage farms, at least, not as much as the foreign food aid.
A log of times, some government run welfare organization or large charities will label marginalized people as “helpless”, “needy” and “underprivileged”. However, these labels are also often used to encapsulate entire communities like the disability community.
Being viewed as pitiful, helpless and financially dependent, stereotyped as welfare recipients or associated with tales of tragedy is humiliating. This is also not a positive or accurate portrayal of the vast majority of people with disabilities. Such views also create a divide and can create a negative perception towards the disabled community which will create biases and prejudice.
Our views on refugees from various advertisements paint a bleak picture of the future of refugees. Refugees are also viewed negatively and create low self-esteem among them. This portrayal is not helpful as it creates depression with the “refugees” label among the refugees. Not all refugees are equal. Many refugees from Eastern Europe and more recently, Syria, have resources and skills. Thinking of them as needy, helpless people does not help their situation at all.
Our biases shapes our solutions
When you think of Refugees as “helpless” or “needy”, you do not expect much from them and simply find ways to give them things which you think they need. Most of the time, the focus is more in the giving and helping, and little on engagement on finding out what they need most.
I’ve worked with Syrian Refugees, Survivors of Natural Disasters and various other internally displaced people, and I must clarify one thing — these are not helpless or needy people at all. In post disaster areas, these people are survivors, who despite the conditions, are still thriving. There may be some resources that they are lacking at the moment, but they certainly do not need most of the things given to them.
In Haiti, there are so many things given to the 2010 earthquake survivors. I’ve seen stacks of Yoga mats given to each family — so much that they can use it as a bed. Do not think that your donations do not do harm – on the contrary, disaster areas with damaged waste management logistics will face a bigger issue when aid is dumped on them. They may need water, but dumping bottled water into rural communities will create a plastic waste problem that can easily turn into a dengue or malaria problem.
A lot of Syrian refugees are actually skilled. Many of them have degrees and speak multiple languages, certainly no the helpless and needy refugees depicted in many ads. But when we think of them as helpless and needy, we do not give them what then need — jobs and opportunities to contribute to society.
In helping, we need to preserve dignity. Corporation may think they are doing good by giving food to the box collectors or people living in one room flats, but with poor coordination and execution, many of the recipients do not actually need the food and it ends up wasting food.
Doing Charity and having good intentions is desirable, but without engagement, poor communications can result in misunderstanding and the beneficiary losing their dignity and self worth. This is worse when the donor does it out of pity, and expects some kind of gratitude from the engagement.
Poor people are not stupid. They lack money, connections and resources. Many people may have fallen through the cracks and landed in a bad situation, but they certainly do not need your pity.
The problem with some CSR programs or charities trying to continuously provide aid and support is that you can give food, money and shelter, but you can never provide dignity that way. Fighting depression and a whole list of other problems, a simple action of giving food does not solve their problems and can worsen depression.
Understanding Dignity is important when it comes of a sustainable CSR program with the community and we look at ways to empower communities to solve their problems, but just provide aid to plug the holes. Successful programs need to get the communities out of the situation, rather than add more people into the programs with the situations worsening.
Remember: Treating other people with dignity means treating them the way we’d like to be treated ourselves. As dignity is one of the most important things to the human spirit.
Better Brand Experience During COVID-19 for Retail
After working with a few clients and experiencing the panic buys first hand, here are some tips that we want to share that we feel that other countries that may be experiencing this can learn.
It is important to take note that there is going to be Panic Buys during the COVID-19 Crisis globally. Shops that sell essentials should consider the welfare for the more vulnerable customers.
During a rush and panic buy, the situation can create risks of spreading the virus or injuries to vulnerable customers. In view of this situation, Supermarkets, Pharmacies and other stores which may sell essentials that are in high demand, should:
- Ensure enough quantity.
The supply chain may be disrupted, so having more stock for products in demand is important.
- Restrict sales.
For products like toilet paper, hand sanitizers and other food items, restrict sales to customers to prevent a few customers from buying everything. Empty shelves will only fuel the fear.
- Have Senior Friendly Sales Day.
Keep some stock and restock for a “Senior Sales Day” to allow seniors to go shop at a less frantic environment.
- Restrict the number of shoppers.
If your shop has limited space and limited payment counters, limit the number of people in the store. People will either wait in long queues within the store, increase the risks of spreading the virus or let them wait in line to enter the store. Those who are not buying essentials can see the queue and come back later, instead of waiting in line at the checkout counter.
- Post signs of items that are stocked out at the entrance.
If you know people are buying an item that is sold out, put BIG signs and display items sold out at the entrance. Customers do not need to enter and waste their time.
Little actions do add up to improve the better brand experience and reducing the amount of shoppers in the store, having less queues at the checkout counters, can also reduce the risks of spreading the virus to the staff.
Every little bit helps.
Let’s cooperate and end this pandemic soon!
COVID-19 – Time for business transformation
During COVID-19, we have seen air pollution get reduced, water ways clean up and fishes returning to many areas like Venice.
Suddenly, we see big companies like financial institutions, property developers who were making record profits from their activity will quickly see the impact of business, unable to sustain from the high rents and finance fees. There is a big impact on operations as lockdown continues and bureaucracy in the bigger companies and too much regulations can prevent fast actions to be taken, resulting in situations where they can see the problem, but cannot react fast enough even with planned solutions.
These big companies have (Business Continuity Plan) BCP, but some failed as the untested BCP did not meet the current challenges, and the layers of bureaucracy did not allow the company to move quick enough.
There is no doubt that a lot of these business activities generate a lot of pollution, and all the talks about the UNSDGs did not yield as much actions as what COVID-19 did to reduce pollution.
The fact is, we can stop climate change, but our current business model may be the problem.
The current way businesses pick innovation is by how much more profits it will generate, focusing on short-term gains and impact.
The ideas that look at long-term growth are often ignored and placed with low priority, and the resources allocated to sustainable projects are often very limited.
Many businesses know that the resources shouldn’t be consumed faster than they can be regenerated, and with busy business operations, they do not have the time and resources to come up with solutions.
With businesses slowing down due to COVID-19, perhaps it is time to relook at innovation programs. This can be done through incubation programmes, accelerator programmes and hackathons, or have their venture arm of the company invest in innovative solutions. With the technology today, all the programs mentioned can be done virtually as well, and it is a good time to do so with much less business distraction for the company to evolve stronger after COVID-19.
What do you need before you begin?
Before you can start on innovation, teams need to make sure that they build trust. Instead of doing anything on their own, the idea of partnership and collaboration is to allow multiple parties to come together and solve a problem. More parties allow different angles to attack the problem, but the basis of any collaboration is trust.
Innovation needs the buy-ins from the top and bottom. This means means people on top of the organisation need to understand, articulate and commit in equipping their team with the resources they need. The ones at the bottom need to believe that solution makes a difference.
Innovation cannot happen in an environment with too much rules and regulations. With the right framework in place, having a competent team you can trust, are committed and allowing more freedom to test ideas and solutions, all you need to do is to provide ample resource to allow them to continue.
No better time than now
In view of the current situation, many companies can see that they may have additional resource due to lack of sales, and can start sustainable innovation within their companies. With the spare capacity, this would be a time for employees to upgrade, or better, train on other skills. In return, these new skills can be applied on existing products and services, finding a more sustainable solution and plotting a sustainable roadmap for the future.
For example, a manufacturing facility may find that they have less orders and can focus on repairs and upgrades. This may include solar panels and rainwater harvesting. Or it could also include designs and modifications to workflow which may require the moving and relocation of large machines which can affect the whole facility. Sitting down with the staff to understand the problems faced during the periods with high capacity and enhancing the workflow can create a more efficient company once the situation gets better.
Instead of worrying that there will be no business and companies may incur losses, I would encourage companies to use their resource to work on community projects. There is a lot to be done and if the market is bad, competing and chasing the remaining clients may sometimes end up wasting more resources.
Remember, the economy may be bad, they may be a lockdown, but life still goes on, and some industries are benefiting from the situation. There is still business and some purchase power, but companies and people are more prudent with their spending.
There will be a lot of problems to be solved, and your company may hold some of the resource to solve it. If you do not wish to take on the challenge and spend more resources you do not have to solve these community problems, collaborate and partner with your vendors and other customers. Crowdsource the solution.
At the end of the day, solving community problems with other companies can allow you to build empathy and access other resources. These new connections can help your business in future endeavours.
Running Business during COVID-19
It is official, the virus has gone global and businesses are badly affected as supply chains and labor are impacted. The new epicenters are outside China, and what seemed to be an isolated problem is now a global problem as the world is much more connected than before.
The COVID-19 crisis has been evolved over the weeks and from out engagement with our clients and research data from consultants and experts, here are some tips that we picked up that we think are good advice for companies.
- Monitor situation daily
The situation changes everyday. Events unfold daily and the government react and change guidelines according to the situation. New strategies on containment may change policies. New emerging technologies are getting updated and the way we do business is changing.
Be updated with the latest news and think critically on how it will impact your business and operations. Have a meeting with team leaders every 72 hours to update the situation and adjust business plans accordingly. There may be weak signals overlooked and be prepared for the worst.
2. Take all the information with a pinch of salt
Experts are pressured to come up with solutions without fully understanding the situation. Political biases may put pressure on the messaging as well. Expert opinions differ even on critical issues like putting on masks and optimal containment or economic policies. We are still learning and it is good to be informed from multiple sources and make decisions based on empirical data you are receiving.
3. Adopt an agile framework
Review plans frequently and constantly test different scenarios. Processes may need constant review and changes. Test various new technologies and get feedback. It is important that you monitor the team and understand the impact of the changes. If you are using video conferencing or other new technologies, ensure ample training and try to get a response from everyone on how it impacts their work. There must be other business process changes to make many of these technologies work, and the solution needs to come from good feedback and information.
Beware of too much bureaucracy. In crisis, urgent and sensitive issues may need quick decisions. An overly generalized or conservative perspective and a slow, cumbersome process may do a lot of harm in this period. A small trusted team needs to be empowered to make some quick critical decision and too much management of the communications can be damaging in a time when you need quick actions and resolutions.
4. Develop resilience principles in developing policies
Six characteristics in crisis responses.
Due to supply chain fluctuation, companies need to need to look beyond normal sources for solutions, manufacturing and logistics can easily be impacted in a pandemic.
Have many ways of doing something new. The problem may be from different dimensions and solving a logistics problem as a financial problem may not yield results.
Integrated systems can be efficient, but when one thing breaks, everything is down. In crisis mode, organisational units or supply sources that can be combined in different ways — offers greater resiliency
Things evolve and situations change. Systems built on peak efficiency may face difficulties as situations change. There are no right answers and getting feedback and making decisions based on results may be most effective strategy in the short term.
With the constant change in strategies, policies and situation, business continuity plans need to be reviewed as situations change. Worse case scenarios and contingency plans need to be updated with developing situation.
The whole business eco-system and communities are under great stress. When supply chain fails, there will be trickle down effect which may not seem apparent at first. Solutions that solve for an individual company at the expense of or neglecting the interests of others will create mistrust and damage the business in the longer term. Conversely, support to customers, partners, health care, and social systems in a time of adversity can potentially create lasting goodwill and trust.
It is easy to forget about others in crisis, but this is also where your values shine.
5) Reflect on the changes ahead.
The crisis is usually not just a one off situation. We should expect more crisis to occur and be ready. With the experience from this crisis, what new policies can be developed and reflect on the lessons learned.
When the crisis is over, we may wake up to a whole new world, and there will be new changes to the way we do business. The Internet will play a big role and will we have more webinars, video conferencing instead of business trips? Will there be a shift to online shopping and education?
Only time will tell.
CSR Design Images
Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR is not fit for purpose, and we need something better to hold corporations to account for their social and environmental impact. Business is business — If there is a conflict between maximizing shareholder value and an environmental or social impact, the bottom line will win out in this model.
CSR framed in terms of restricting harm a business can do or to “white-wash” its business activity, have little to do with having any good impact they can bring. With the case in many unethical companies, they are donating money to some causes or funding some initiative with a tiny fraction of the profits make is going to make the world a better place as their CSR.
On social media, the customers do play a significant role in sharing the good and the bad. Many corporations that may have been in the spotlight for doing something wrong will have a lot of negative buzzes created. The publicity may cause a possible boycott of the products, or these customers pressure their politicians to do something, which may hurt the bottom line of the corporation. And no amount of CSR can change the opinions of the public.
A common question asked is, “Is there a better way in which we might assess and improve business’s impact on society and the environment?” The public is getting more informed from some of the negative expose of large companies due to the Internet. It is not enough to have a CSR program and believe that it will change the impression of the public; corporations need to think beyond CSR and engage with stakeholders beyond shareholders.
On Social Media, the question asked is, “How can we used New Media to get closer to customers?” People like to do business with the people they want. However, in many organizations, their primary focus is on operations, margins, and efficiencies over customer experience. It is hard for a customer to empathize when the organization is more focused on a spreadsheet. It is impossible to change if you can’t see what it is they value.
Humanizing the brand and being customer-centric starts with breaking down internal silos. It is having a culture of listening and communicating with customers as well as using feedback to improve relationships and experiences. It’s about empowering the employees to enhance and contribute to a new era of customer engagement and collaborations. They have to care, not because they are human, but because it is part of the corporate culture.
Innovation and collaboration is an outside-in and an inside-out process. Engaging with customers forces a groundswell that inspires top-down transformation from the bottom-up. It is time to invest in relationships that yield insight and impact. Businesses must earn affinity, loyalty, and advocacy through ongoing relevance.
There are much learning and adaptation, and a corporate culture that recognizes the connected customer and having a management infrastructure necessary to adapt is critical.
Putting 2 and 2 together, transforming CSR with customer advocacy can bring the social to the next level. In an era of Capitalism, many people feel the need to address the income gap problem between the haves and have nots. Striving to have high stock price does not mean a company cannot also have high social capital. Philanthropic Capitalism — the merger of philanthropy and Capitalism may set the stage for a new era of socially responsible businesses.
There are many opportunities wealth provide, and many questions on the responsibility of wealth. With more companies increasingly interested in humanistic Capitalism, a consumer can find opportunities to work together to make the world a better place through everyday commerce.
Many companies are mismanaging CSR opportunities. Because the initiatives need to yield more returns in the form of sales or merely branding, often millions of dollars are spent on CSR Programs and millions more marketing the campaign. The companies are also not transparent and not taking on the core problem or even the issues they cause while doing business, and CSR is often seen as “white-washing” the companies.
Meanwhile, social projects, socially driven by staff and customers, can be supported by the company, and this gives a different dimension to social engagement. Otherwise, companies can also use their influence to promote and create social awareness. The RED program for Starbucks is a great example where customers paying with the RED rewards card also contributes to Global fund to help people living with HIV / AIDS in Africa.
Philanthropic Capitalism nurtures empathy into a competitive advantage. It allows the corporation, the staff, and customers to do good while doing business together, and with social media, amplify their efforts for a more significant cause.
It is natural for Social Media to converge socially. It is the future direction for social evolution.
Think of your brand purpose during COVID-19
CSR Design Images
Many companies are still focused on sales and want to implement processes to continue business as normal. Some companies that can continue to run during this period are still focused on profits.
Instead of creating public anger by communications or actions that seemed to be taking advantage of the situation and later, do some CSR projects or donate money to repair reputation, businesses should do one thing during this critical period which should be thinking about how to use their marketing for public good.
Big brand do have a big impact on society. In Singapore, SMRT decreased the frequency of their train services citing a reduced ridership during this period. And after much social media backlash and public anger, they decided to increase the number of trains again.
During this period, there are a lot of things which will be very sensitive as people are suffering economic impact, stress and are fearful of the situation. Any miscommunication will draw much anger and the reputation damage may be hard to rebuild. For SMRT, the reduction in the number of trains to safe costs creates a situation where trains are more crowded, and passengers are unable to follow social distancing, which causes a problem of public safety and this can be seen as prioritising profits over safety, this WILL tarnish the brand for a long time.
With more people working from home and cooped up indoors, they may have less entertainment, and will turn to social media, and such negative posts will spread far and wide.
Instead of promoting a new product and service or finding ways to cut costs or maximise profits, companies should look at how they can help people through this crisis. Brands should reflect and develop their brand purpose.
Many car companies like GM and Tesla are manufacturing ventilators, and companies like LVMH, known for luxury goods is partnering other luxury brands and making hand sanitisers for French hospitals. The facilities that produce fragrances and cosmetics for Christian Dior, Guerlain, and Givenchy had already begun to create the gel, bottle it, and make deliveries.
When done right, brands can play a part in supporting their communities during this period and not just for superficial tokenism or a marketing ploy. This is not just for social responsibility, but this is just a reason why your brand should exist and what is its purpose in society.
The primary audience of any brand purpose should be employees not consumers because purpose impacts the values and beliefs of a brand, which in turns impacts the desired behaviours of those who work for the brand.
This is not about saving the world. It does not need to be on the news or all over various media channels. Your brand purpose is to guide your actions, and not for ads.
This is an uncertain time where many companies and people have a lot of anxieties and problems to be addressed. It is a time of crisis and this is the time where strong brands will shine and be identified — not for the CSR projects that they do and gain media attention, but for their contributions to society during this time. We are all in this together, and we should contribute what we can to see each other through this difficult time.
Visibility Design is a design and marketing company with offices in Singapore and Myanmar. We work on creative solutions and if you have a brand question or social project which you want support, feel free to contact us. We would love to help you in brainstorming solutions and do what we can to see each other through this period.