social responsibility is usually associated with education, medicine, community initiatives, and even religion. Now, some companies are showing that social responsibility can take on a more interactive avatar.
The logic is straightforward: It's easier to establish a two-way communication with customers online than has ever been possible in the 'Issued in Public Interest' messages we see often on television and in print. This tack has been effectively used online by international brands such as Shell, Mercedes, Philips and MTV.
Now, two Indian brands - HSBC Bank and Tata Tea - have set up websites with the purpose of starting a dialogue on socially relevant issues.
When Jaago India briefed its agency, Lowe, about creating a website on similar lines, the agency (Tata Tea is a client, too) suggested a pairing up. And the match worked out perfectly. One of the founders of the non-profit organisation is Sheetal Talwar, also co-founder and CEO of WSG Films. "Tata Tea is a brand that evokes trust, so the partnership has worked out well. You can only do so many films a year, but on the site, we have created viral films that can be passed along to generate awareness," he says. Talwar says that the site aims to be the "social issues equivalent of YouTube".
The Jaago India site features a new topic each month with original videos. It encourages people to share their stories and one Tata Tea Jaago India citizen will be chosen monthly from among them. Dash says the site has already received 40,000 hits since its launch on October 2. The videos have been viewed over 2,000 times and 400 people have registered.
Tata Tea will promote the site on its TVCs and collaterals and it is also working on a mobile campaign. "We will be putting a banner on mobile sites and will also do text message advertisers for prepaid subscribers." The company is launching an online campaign as well in early November.
The site has original videos highlighting problems related to water, climate, energy and road traffic. There is a comments section in these categories where people can share their thoughts. "Having taken cognisance of people's differences, HSBC has a gamut of banking solutions that acknowledge these differences and respond to them. The activity and the site are an effort to engage with the consumer by inviting their solutions to global and local climate change issues," says Lakshmi Goyal, head of brand, media and market research, HSBC India.
Lakshmi adds that the website is a part of the on-ground activity encompassing kiosks that have been set up in key malls around India, wherein solutions are invited from people on diverse issues, a majority of which pertain to the environment. These video recordings are then uploaded on the site. Visitors can leave their comments on the different issues.
Though such examples are few and far between, they prove that the Internet is an effective medium for promoting social causes. According to CVS Sharma, senior vice-president and director, Arc Worldwide, "The Internet is a fantastic medium for social campaigns. It helps in building cause-related awareness in a way which cannot happen in typical advertising."
Sharma is especially upbeat about viral campaigns. Arc Worldwide created a viral video for an NGO, Prerana, on female foeticide. He says that video was circulated around the globe within the first 15 days.
For brands looking to connect with an active generation on social and environmental issues, there can be no better platform - as some brands with vision have shown. These campaigns could be the precursor to an evolution of corporate social responsibility on the Internet.