Corporate Social Responsibility as a Marketing Tool During a Crisis

The creation of social protective nets must not be negated to government in a fully functional societal ecosystem. Neither should responsibility be left to foundations, non profits and community based institutions. Corporates and businesses have a role to play in what has traditionally been termed Corporate Social Responsibility.

Covid-19 with its destructive patterns has brought an unprecedented opportunity for the exhibition of small and grand acts of philanthropic endeavors at the citizen level and the business level. Philanthropic endeavours have always been the bread and butter of charitable organisations, foundations and individuals whose net worth runs in the billions. The business world is now so cutthroat that what demarcates a competitive advantage of one business over another is not so much the product offering any more but other more intrinsic values that consumers and clients can relate with.

Enter the realm of corporate social responsibility as a marketing tool to gain a competitive edge. It is double edged with multiple level benefits. It helps in alleviating terrible situations but improves on the bottom line in the long run. It is the business of charity.

Those companies that do not respond favorably to help citizens in their hour of need will pay dearly post pandemic-customers have an uncanny ability not to forget being taken for granted when it matters – what companies will do or not do during this terrible pandemic will alter goodwill positively or negatively. The millennial client is savvy and no longer wants to buy products for their sake but for the positive value they add to community and society.

Marketers need to understand that the traditional marketing budget does not exist anymore and need to integrate themselves to causes and needs that help the end customer associate with the brand and need to stop complaining that their budgets are tight. Companies that are savvy enough quickly integrated themselves in their countries Corona virus responses gaining first mover advantage while those companies that wait for things to play out might preserve the short term bottom line but will pay dearly in the long run.

Corporate social responsibility does not only come in the form of giving goods and financial donations but can take many forms. This can involve reducing the cost of essential service during the period of the pandemic.

Unfortunately in Zimbabwe this does not seem to be the culture as instead companies have taken this crises to actually increase the prices of services. With the biggest culprits being companies that offer data services. This is not only irresponsible social behavior-it is callous and cold and shows a failure to relate and empathize with those of their kith and kin.

Corporate social responsibility can also take the form of donating a percentage of sales to a cause or need for example towards the welfare of health service personnel or to a pad campaign or any such idea as the marketing gurus can conjure-up.

It can take the form of the heads of the company and departments lending their services and time in helping run fundraising campaigns or being part of task forces. Business suits can join forces with local municipalities and government departments and be part of task forces such as the Victoria Falls Task Force that has included a number of businesses in tourism in helping Victoria Falls be Covid ready.

It can take the form of taking care of employees during the lean period instead of retrenching or firing them. Not saying that all companies can save all jobs in this crises. Unfortunately a lot of businesses in Zimbabwe had employees on short renewable contracts that did not include paying medical aid and other pension schemes – this is a disservice to employees and a failure to be corporately responsible.

It can also take the form of helping with transport for villagers in the hinterland far away from public transport. It can mean changing product lines to focus on the most pressing needs and forgo the production of luxury products. Companies in the supply of basic products have developed strategies of creating affordable brands to serve communities and creating luxury brands of the same product to help shore up the bottom line. This has the advantage of maintaining good rapport with citizens while keeping businesses afloat.

Corporates run by younger tech savvy individuals are likely to respond quicker to societal needs by adapting products and services to suit emerging challenges. Sometimes being responsible might mean making products more available to vulnerable members of society than to other population groups.

Corporates must take advantage of this season to remain visible and relavent through appropriate marketing campaigns that add value to citizens and the bottom line.

Source: Sefelepelo Sebata – www.sfesebata.com