In a first by a consumer goods company in India, Nestlé will tweak the brand taglines of three of its top products - Maggi, Nescafé and KitKat - as it seeks to espouse a cause.
While corporate social responsibility (CSR) is now mandated by law as two per cent of profits have to be devoted to it according to the Companies Act, 2013, companies do not touch their brand properties when doing so. Instead, it is common among companies to earmark a portion of sales for a cause. Procter & Gamble's Shiksha programme, for instance, endeavours to do this by urging consumers to buy its products.
Some others such as Hindustan Unilever (HUL) have fused the brand and cause together in its bid to project what Unilever Global Chief Executive Officer Paul Polman has repeatedly said: "Brands with a purpose". So, handwashing and Lifebuoy, for instance, go together. So does Brooke Bond Red Label and brotherhood. The latter association had culminated in the transgender band called '6 Pack Band', which won the Glass Grand Prix at the Cannes Advertising Festival this year.
In Nestlé's case, however, popular taglines such as "2 minutes", which appears below the Maggi brand name on a pack will now be "2 minutes for education". Similarly, KitKat's "Take a Break. Have a KitKat" will be "Take No Break for Education". While Nescafé's "It All Starts with a Nescafé" will be "It All Starts with Education".
The company will run this initiative for two months during the festive period and is expected to push this aggressively in its efforts to improve sales for the cause.
Brand experts say companies will increasingly begin thinking out-of-the-box when it comes to CSR.
"There is an element of seriousness to CSR now, partly because it is mandatory, and second, companies have evolved when it comes to brand communication. Having a social purpose is now considered critical to a brand's DNA," says Harish Bijoor, CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults.
Tata Tea's "Jaago Re" or Havell's "Hawa Badlegi" are other examples of how brands are now aligning to a cause at a more serious level. Jaago Re, for instance, asks people to vote, pushing specifically for categories, such as women and youth, to cast their ballot during elections. Havell's, on the other hand, has been consistently pushing for a change in mindset through its commercials, at times even landing in a controversy. An ad about the issue of reservation in education by Havell's earlier this year was panned for touching a sensitive chord.
Brands are slowly but steadily understanding the merits of cause marketing.