IT’S not every day that brands find a readymade platform to promote their do-gooder image and make the grade in consumers’ eyes. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan initiated by the Narendra Modi led Central government has offered corporate India one, as the initiative effortlessly straddles purpose and profit, involving leading brands in the cleanliness cause and turning them into evangelists. Companies such as RB (earlier known as Reckitt Benckiser), Hindustan Unilever, Dabur, Parle, Eureka Forbes, Radisson Blu and Snapdeal have taken their place as torchbearers and are tailoring their communication campaigns and corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives around the big theme.
RB which has brands such as Dettol and Harpic recently launched a five-year ambitious partnership with media platforms NDTV and Facebook called Dettol—Banega Swachh India. The health and hygiene company said that it will invest R100 crore towards the cleanliness initiative across the next five years. A Dettol Banega Swachh India bus was flagged off in October last year and within the first phase of the campaign spanning a couple of months, the bus covered around 400 villages across the states of Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Over the next five years, the bus aims at reaching out to 2000 villages in India. The bus creates awareness around hygiene through interactive videos, flyers, posters, hand washing sessions and street plays. Actor Amitabh Bachchan has also been roped in for the communication programme.
Nitish Kapoor, managing director at RB India says, “Dettol—Banega Swachh India has been launched with the prime objective of raising awareness and encouraging people to adopt good hygiene and sanitation practices across the country. “It is an extension of our long standing efforts to educate mothers and children about hygiene. It is important to drive behaviour change towards adopting healthy hygiene practices with the help of insightful communication. We will be working with Prasoon Joshi at McCann World Group to develop communication which directly aims at driving this behavioural change.” RB also organised a 12-hour Cleanthon segment on NDTV, which witnessed prominent figures from the entertainment and other industries, and the government come together on screen to acknowledge the need for improving the hygiene and sanitation scorecard of the country for economic development. Within a span of 12 hours, the campaign managed to raise over R281 crore, says Kapoor.
Santosh Desai, chief executive and managing director of Future Brands, says that there have been ambitious social campaigns taken on by governments in the past such as the family planning campaign in the 70’s. But what makes the Swachh Bharat drive unique, is the personal commitment and weight that Modi brings to the cause. “The theme offers a lot of scope for brands linked to the health and hygiene segment. There can be a lot of CSR activity in this area. For others not linked to the segment, it is a messy subject and a tough one to broach. There is nothing glamorous about the cleanliness drive. Many brands may take a conscious call to keep a distance.”
Doing good does seem to be the new slogan. But hidden in this lofty aim to contribute to building a healthier and cleaner nation is the chance to up brand equity. Recent studies show that companies engaging in socially responsible behaviour tend to show long-term financial gains and increases in value. Brand consultant Harish Bijoor says that companies benefit both from tangible and intangible benefits. In the long run, it leads to greater brand value and market share. “An association with a just cause brings about social blessings. People engage with your brand a lot more, if you are considered a good corporate citizen. Most consumers don’t directly link up with a social cause. Hence they are comforted by the knowledge that the companies that they buy from, stand for a good cause.”
Identifying with a socially responsible cause also gives a brand an opportunity to push its sales, especially when its product portfolio fits the bill to a tee. An HUL spokesperson said that more than 90% households use HUL products. “This gives us both an opportunity and responsibility to make a meaningful difference.” said the spokesperson, adding, “Our expertise in behaviour change programmes in the area of hand washing and sanitation and our experience in developing and delivering innovative partnership models position us uniquely to assist the government in realising the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan vision.”
The spokesperson said that the company intends to create self-sustaining delivery models and innovative solutions that generate public health benefits and also aid business growth. HUL says that a case in point is its Drinking water—Pureit programme. This innovation makes safe water affordable for millions, by providing 1 litre of water at a running cost of just 28 paise. “We have been working with existing micro-finance institutions (MFIs) to build more access for water purifiers for people at the bottom of the pyramid,” said the spokesperson.
Another case in point is The Domex Toilet Academy (DTA) programme, which is a market-based, entrepreneurial model where toilets are made accessible and affordable and awareness is created about the importance of using toilets. This is executed in partnership with social enterprise eKutir Rural Management Service and the programme trains people who want to start their own sanitation business to sell and maintain new toilets. The programme recognises that merely building toilets is not enough and making people use the toilet is of critical importance.
This is perhaps what fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) company Dabur India set out to do when it aligned its toilet cleaner brand Sanifresh with an activity across public toilets managed by non-government organisation Sulabh International. A team of volunteers is stationed at Sulabh toilets nationwide and they disseminate the message of a clean and germ free toilet and its importance in warding off diseases. Dabur has worked with Sulabh across all public areas such as metro stations, railway stations and bus stops. It has undertaken cleanliness drives across government schools in the national capital region (NCR). Under this, special sanitation and cleanliness awareness camps were organised to educate kids about the tenets of cleanliness in their everyday lives.
K K Chutani, chief marketing officer, Dabur India, says that the company has also launched a new initiative under which R1 will be collected from every pack of Sanifresh sold and the money will be utilised to build toilets for women in rural India. The company has already constructed 25 such household toilets in rural Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh. This initiative would cover both rural households and rural schools. “Lack of hygienic sanitation facilities in schools has been a major cause of embarrassment for the girl students, particularly in rural India. As a consequence, they leave school on average at an earlier age than their male contemporaries. Sanifresh is committed to improve the hygienic sanitation facilities for girls at schools as a responsible corporate citizen of the country,” he says.
Brands that are not directly involved with cleaning and sanitation products too have hitched their bandwagon to the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan programme. Parle Products has rolled out three television commercials in recent days as part of its “litter free” drive. The commercials feature a character called “The Dustbin Man” who points out the double standards of the characters involved, and urges them to “show garbage its place”.
One commercial features a corporate environment and a “boss” who wants his employees to perform their tasks, without any excuses. But when it comes to his civic duty towards keeping society clean, the same “boss” does not adhere to his own principles. This is where the mascot enters and acts as the conscience keeper.
Pravin Kulkarnii, general manager—marketing at Parle Products says the brand is trying to bring about a social change. “Parle Products is a brand that generates disposable biscuit, candy and chips wrappers and in many cases, consumers toss them on the streets and other public places, without a second thought. Littering sends out a negative message to those of the next generation that it is acceptable social behaviour to throw out your trash anywhere, regardless of the environment.” Parle says that it is associating with a lot of youth based events and festivals, in metropolitan cities in order to align college students with the cause. By the end of 2015, Parle hopes to reach out to over 15 lakh students and scale up the partnership to over 10,000 schools. It also associated the campaign with Indian religious festivals and spread the “Litter free” message at Raas Garba during Navratri and Jagadhatri Puja in West Bengal.
Grey Group India has also rolled out a new film for the Swachh Bharat Mission, which talks about every citizen taking onus, for keeping his or her surroundings clean. In the film, famous landmarks such as Chandni Chowk automatically become Chandni KA Chowk, Azad KA Maidan, Marina KA beach and so on and so forth. The ad puts out the message that ‘if you own it, you will look after it”, said, “If each of us take the responsibility of keeping even just ‘our area’ or ‘apna ilaka’ clean, the dream of a Swachh Bharat can come true, sooner than we imagine. Through this film we have tried to inculcate a ‘pride of ownership’ amongst the citizens of India,” said Malvika Mehra, national creative director and executive vice president, Grey Group.
Watch brand Fastrack from Titan too released a campaign called Dump them, Move On that condemns littering. The campaign was a fun take on how sometimes the people who litter should be thrown out themselves.
Brand Eureka Forbes kicked off a campaign in Mangalore where its sales personnel undertook cleaning efforts to sanitize railway platforms, police stations, offices, waiting rooms etc. It plans to initiate more of such sanitation drives nationwide across public spaces. Hotel chain Radisson Blu in Ahmedabad has set up teams for cleaning up areas in the city, which includes Parimal Garden, Law Garden, Panchwati Cross Road, etc. E-tailer Snapdeal has run a promotion on its site called “Cleanliness starts at home” which gets consumers to buy cleaning liquids, vacuum cleaners, mops, etc. Sab TV channel, part of the Multi Screen Media Group, decided to roll out an aggressive campaign through integrated content across all its shows in support of a clean and green India.
Nabankur Gupta, founder and chief executive, Nobby Brand Architects & Strategic Brand Consultants says that the concept is great, but is not being as widely used by brands as it should be. Brands need to think in terms of tangible deliverables on ground. What we are seeing in terms of brand activity is just the tip of the iceberg, he says. “A lot more brand work could happen around the cleanliness drive. But the effort needs to be on-ground and with realistic targets. Most brands have a self-centered approach to advertising. There is an opportunity beyond sloganeering here and it must be seized.”
Marketers acknowledge that associating with such initiatives do help in creating a socially responsible image of the brand. Rajesh Jain, managing director and chief executive officer at Lacoste India says that all brands would like to align with a relevant social cause, if it aligns with their overall brand DNA. It instills belief in the brand for consumers, in the long term. “It adds to the feel good factor of the brand. In many of the cases, the benefits are intangible and are reaped over time.” he says. For instance, Lacoste became the first international brand to support the Save Your Logo campaign initiated by the Global Environment Facility. This project allows companies or institutions to participate in the preservation of biodiversity on the planet with a commitment to safeguard and defend the animal that represents their logo.
Lacoste commits to protect certain species of crocodiles, alligators, caimans or gharials currently endangered.
Piyush Pandey, executive chairman and creative director for Ogilvy & Mather, India and South Asia said the effort by a lot of the corporate groups was commendable and they should be given due credit for it. Many of the ad agency’s clients were also examining how they could stitch their advertising plans around the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. “A lot of brands have been completely selfless in their approach. The brand has preferred to take a back seat and it’s been a conscious decision. A case in point is Parle Products. They are not even talking about the product in the commercials. How often do you see something like that?”