There is no gain saying the fact that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is critical to the growth of any organization that crave to stand tall amidst competitors. Obviously, top marketing professionals emphasize the importance of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in consumer’s decision making process as central to the success of any brand. Reason being that, in a way, CSR initiative has a way of appealing to consumer’s emotion.
Investigation by Spokesperson’s Digest indicates that the issue of corporate social responsibility is currently receiving more attention. Also, many brands have started to make this subject a frontline issue in their businesses. Record also shows that customers are becoming more demanding in terms of products’ quality, and eco-friendly products.
Consequently, more brands today are beginning to realize the importance of CSR and its impact on societal well-being. Apart from the overall governance of the supply chain processes of every organization, ratings are being developed to measure performances of most firms in the areas of their CSR efforts besides their financial performance. This rating would then be used to measure each firm’s progress in the business world. Many studies have been conducted linking CSR to consumer loyalty. It found that the higher the CSR rating the stronger the bond would be between these two.
For instance, in Nigeria, the SERAs award is another medium used to rate how CSR affect corporate image. The annual award is used to evaluate how brands in Nigeria indulge themselves into Corporate Social Responsibility and also how sustainable the projects are. By this singular act of award, brand handlers always make sure that they go extra mile in terms of CSR knowing that the avenue can create more visibility for their brands.
Meanwhile, it is believe in some quarters that, CSR is a veritable tool to the success of business organizations whereas others are of the opinion that most companies in Nigeria engage in CSR simply because of tax rebate. This is because experts believed that Nigerian system gives reasonable consideration to companies that put so much in CSR when it comes to Tax issue.
Analysts are of the opinion that, the idea of CSR to some extend has long been overtaken by what they called ‘social marketing’. However, the impact of the said subject matter cannot be relegated to the bench in today’s competitive business world where brands are jostling for supremacy. For these analysts, corporate social responsibility is not supposed to be sales driven like what is obtainable today by some organizations.
In all these, it is also on record that, there are brands all over the world that are making statement majorly because of CSR initiative. More recently, companies, see their reputation as having to possess more layers by drawing customer respect for the company through catalytic CSR.
To this end, Professor, Kash Rangan of Harvard observed; “it is no longer sufficient to compete on quality, price or product innovation alone,” to which Dr. Joseph Plummer of the Advertising Research Foundation added: “the brand is what you buy. The corporate reputation is what you believe in and trust.” Therefore growth and development should be left for the government alone but a collective effort of all and sundry.
Speaking to Spokesperson’s Digest on this issue, the PR Manager of Nigerian Breweries, Mr. Edem Vinda said; “Companies that have made CSR a central part of their businesses are reaping the benefits in the form of company sustainability, reducing liabilities, and insurance costs, as well as improved brand image.” Continuing, he maintained that, apart from societal well-being, the higher the practice of CSR the stronger is the consumer loyalty towards a particular brand.”
According to him, by investing in CSR, a brand could achieve a positive outcome in terms of its financial performance. CSR can provide the additional competitive edge to a particular brand. However, the linearity of this relationship warrants more testing and empirical research.
On the use of CSR to measure company’s success, he said; “in the past, financial performance was the major criterion to evaluate a brand value. Higher ranks were given to companies that provide greater margins financially. Maximization of shareholders’ wealth was the focal point of profit-driven organizations. Thus the emphasis on CSR in the past was not evident. In recent times, however, the perceptions about CSR have changed significantly, the success of a company is now also being measured by its contribution to society through CSR, individualistic and unscrupulous behavior in business can be prevented”.
As for the Public relations Manager of Indomie Instant Noodle at Dufill Food, Tope Asiwaju said; “CSR is primarily to make the society in which you do business a better place. For him, it takes an enabling environment to practice good business.”
He said CSR efforts do impact consumer loyalty in a given company. The initiatives have significant value in helping to attract indirect marketing value for brands. The percentage of consumers who are more likely to recommend a brand that supports a good cause over the one that does not is high, he added.
On how CSR affect brand equity and bottom line of a business, he posited that brand equity refers to the perception consumers have about a company above and beyond those that are narrowly reflected via product quality and company performance. Also, he stressed that the only thing that help when company build very good brand collateral is when handlers of brand ensure that they are placed in the good books of patrons. This for him will continue to appeal to their emotion thereby making them remain loyal to the brand.
For him, if a company wants to enjoy a chunk of market share in any competitive business environment, there is need for such company to focus on building and maintaining customer loyalty and CSR has become a useful tool in this regard.
In another development, a brand and marketing analyst, Samuel Ajayi disclosed to Spokesperson’s Digest that CSR is the positive outcome a company provides while it manages its normal business trade. CSR is said to provide a long term commitment to social contribution be it towards the society or for the development of a particular company’s workers. In doing so, a company can organize its business ethically in order to directly contribute to the betterment of the society generally.
According to him, any company that takes CSR serious will enjoy good brand collateral. This is because, he continued, the world has become a global village and people are following the trend every now and again. The only way a brand can appeal to people’s emotion is when patron of a brand observed that brand owners put people at a very strategic position of their business.
Spokesperson’s Digest also gathered that, when blended together, CSR and branding strategies can add value to companies in the eyes of both customers and employees.