Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR has over the past few years, become more than a section in Indian Company’s Act. Technically speaking, the section mandates corporates with a networth of more than five hundred crores to spend 2 percent of their annual profit on CSR activites. However, in the era of cut throat competition, smart corporate have realized CSR too, can be used to gain competitive advantage.
Having been involved in many CSR activities during the span of my career, I have been witnessing this increasing focus on taking CSR beyond just charities. So, when BlogAdda offered us the ACEF 2015 event, I was all eager to get my dose on CSR.
Asian Forum & Awards For Excellence in Branding, Marketing and CSR, or ACEF is an annual event to recognize the best in CSR. Running in its 5th year now, the event has industry stalwarts share insights on the avenues that can be explored and success stories. This year, the theme of ACEF was “Integrating Brand Marketing with CSR”.
As I landed up early at the ITC Maratha Central on 12th morning, I realized I was one of the few early birds. However, soon delegates started pouring in, from students to corporate from varied industries and a wake up tea session followed. Allan Rodrigues, VP Hansa PR was at his wittiest best as he opened the event. All eyes were on me as Allan suddenly gave me 2 minutes of fame by highlighting my live tweeting skills!
A morning session usually has people struggling to wake up and get their attentive selfs, however, the opening session from Sanjeev Kotnala, founder and Head Catalyst – The Unconsult Way had the audience listening in rapt attention. His session, “Where marketers need to grow” emphasized the role CSR has in building goodwill for the brand. The focus for any corporate is taking the biggest pie of market share. However, if companies use CSR to build brands, and involve internal stakeholders as well, CSR can be the path from Perception – Preference – Premium.
Saurabh Uboweja, Founder, CEO & Director, Brand Strategy – Brands of Desire took us through the session “Creating Strong Brands versus using CSR to create Strong Brands”. Creating feel good factor for internal and external customers about CSR and link it with branding should be the mantra for smart companies, for consumers trust brands that do more CSR than those who don’t. He also spoke about the relevance of CSR to be taken as an integral part of value system and culture. Taking the audience through many success stories, the session concluded on activist positioning as the next focus.
As growling stomachs were in no mood to compromise anything for lunch, Sangeeta Robinson’s session began on CSR: It’s correlation and impact on the Brand. An expert orator, Sangeeta knew how to keep the crowd hooked, so she kept the session alive by quoting case studies from her career span. CSR is going beyond the business and good CSR can help build relations with community, create shared value and also generate future business. The impact of her session – people who were looking at their watches waiting for lunch as her session began were by the end of the session, compromising their lunch time to take tips from the expert.
Another session squeezed before lunch time, faced the threat of low audience participation. However, the session by Vikas Singh, AVP – Brand Marketing, Dainik Bhaskar Group saw the highest response from the audience. The session, titled “Building a Strong Brand in Cluttered and Commoditized Print Media Space” was full of interesting clippings from successful ad campaigns. The highlight of the session was the #livenonegative campaign by Dainik Bhaskar that focussed on highlighting the positive aspects of news rather than just getting mileage on dragging the negativities.
Amitha Amarsinghe, Head of Neo@Ogilvy Sri Lanka spoke about Customer Engagement through Social Media in Emerging markets. Taking us through many successful campaigns from his agency, Amitha threw light on how Social media had helped brands create the hype and get the competitive advantage.
Next on the agenda was a panel discussion on “Integrating Brand Marketing with CSr & PR”. Jessie Paul, CEO Paul Writer moderated the event. The panel of experts, Betsy Vincent, VP – General Carbon, Nilesh Jagad, Sr. VP – Indian Centre for CSR, Hasrath Munasinghe, DGM marketing- Commercial bank of Ceylon PLC Sri Lanka, Vaishali Sharma, Sr VP MarComm Sony MAX, Umesh Jhawar, VP Strategy, Arihant Superstructures Ltd, Sangeeta Thakral, Head of Marketing & Communications – Charities Aid Foundation shared their views.
And lastly came the event everyone had been waiting for – the ACEF awards! Mr. Nirav Sanghvi of BlogAdda won the Best partner Marketing Award.
CSR is being increasingly seen as a tool to give a cutting edge to brands. While one may see it as a mere gimmick by corporate to glorify their small mandatory contributions, a lot remains unexplored by which companies can achieve the important Cs – Customer’s preference, Conscious contribution to society, Creating immense brand value.
This post is written for BlogAdda and ACEF.