Alok Mehta left the following comment on my 'youth brand universe' post
HLL is all over the town and its FM channels with its "Mumbai dhoyega, Mumbai jeetega" campaign, where users have to sms the no. of stains / spots they could remove using HLL's detregent and the "score" is added to a fund that can go upto Rs. 5 lacs to be used to help Mumbai's needy children.
No doubt HLL will be more than compensated for its 5 lacs - from the paybacks received from mobile service provider, leave alone the actual product sales. The cost of promotion on FM itself wil be more than 5 lacs. I'm sure a corporate the size of HLL can afford to give away 5 lacs to needy [ corporate social responsibility - thats another discussion topic altogether] without a sms campaign etc.
Prashant Jain, who works at Unilever replied:
As a person who has been closely associated with the campaign and as a fellow blogger, I would like to clarify some misconceptions that you seem to carry about the Surf Excel 10/10 donation drive. .. Firstly, HLL is not receiving any paybacks from mobile service providers. The SMSs sent by the consumers are charged at the circle rate and at no special rate. As far as revenues from product sales are concerned, this campaign is a very small part of a very large promotion exercise (the Surf Excel 10/10 campaign). HLL could have chosen to spend the money on this campaign instead of going out of its way to invest resources in this campaign.
This campaign is being run in 5 metros in partnership with some very well known NGOs who are doing exemplary work in the field of child education (Udayan in Kolkata, Pratham in Mumbai, Parikrma in Bangalore, Prayas in Delhi and Udavum Karangal in Chennai). This takes the donation amount to 25 laks (not a small amount by any standard)
You are right in saying that the cost of running the campaign is much more than 5 lakhs, but you seem to have construed wrongly the spirit of the campaign. It is not about the donation of the said amount. In its own small way, the campaign aims to sensitize these urban conglomerates towards the plight of the millions of underserved children. Radio and SMS were used as means to achieve the said end.
For your kind information, HLL does undertake huge CSR initiatives. Please visit www.hll.com to know more about the same. Do write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org for any other queries regarding the campaign.
I feel compelled to comment on the subject. Not because I am an HLL shareholder, or the fact that the company has been and continues to be one of my clients. This post is trigerred by my own 'Surf Excel' experience which went something like this:
A couple of weeks ago my daughter and I were headed towards the local mall to pick up some groceries. At the signal, a child of about the same age as her pressed her nose against the window of our car.
"Mummy, give me 5 rupees.. to give her," said Nivedita.
"No..." I replied. "You can buy her some biscuits and give them on the way back."
Half an hour later, she actually remembered to buy those biscuits. What's more, when we passed the detergent counter she asked to buy Surf Excel . Why? Because we can send an sms and help some poor children. "I have see the ad..."
It struck me then that the Surf Excel campaign was indeed similar to say, the NDTV campaign to get a retrial for Jessica Lal. A chance for us, as individuals to feel we have made a difference to a problem that is so much larger than ourselves, it leaves us helpless.
This act of buying Surf Excel perhaps made Nivedita feel like she had done something for that little girl she saw on the road. I, older and cynical, did not really share that sentiment. But I bought Surf anyways. We're Tide loyalists, actually. No particular reason - just.
Will we buy Surf again? I cannot say. Did we send the sms? No - the pack is still lying unopened. Did we give the girl at the signal the biscuits? Sadly - she had disappeared.
Whatever folks like Alok and I may feel, efforts like this one will be increasingly adopted by companies. After all, those of us who have are gnawed by guilt about the have-nots from time to time. So in addition to Corporate Social Responsibility, which companies like HLL in any case undertake (less visibly) there will be a case for 'Consumer Social Responsibility'.Where you and me can can earn some pain-free 'I have done my tiny little bit for society' points.
In different ways, and with varying degrees of success, HLL has been trying to take a more 'social' stance through its advertising. The Lifebuoy ad, for example, depicts young boys and girls taking on the responsibility of cleaning up their neighbourhood. Again, it starts with the idea that "Kabhi kabhi sirf ek insaan,..." a single individual can make a difference.
Given that these brands are embedded in the Indian psyche, drumming in functional benefits is of hardly any use now. One has to fight it out on pricing, distribution and yes, retaining positive emotional appeal. HLL has thus taken the slightly bold route of retiring the footballer covered in mud and the tandurusti ki raksha karta hai jingle.
At my home, however, we now use Dettol.
What research says
A Stanford study recently found that despite surveys showing an eager customer base, people aren't putting their money where their mouths are and actually buying ethically produced goods.
One surprising discovery they made was that information on ethical issues and the availability of socially responsible products did not make a difference in consumer choice. Consumers made explicitly aware of a product's benefits to society or the environment were just as likely to choose the cheaper, more harmful brand as a control group given no information about the products...
The Stanford team found that people willing to pay more in the name of ethics do exist, but they're not who you think they might be. There is no group designated by nationality, age, gender, income, or education level that consistently buys ethical products more than any other. The authors write, "[c]ontrary to what some might believe, CnSR [consumer social responsibility] is not just the purview of wealthy, highly educated females in liberal Western democracies. Rather, it is something embedded in the psyche of individuals."
So I guess campaigns like Surf will satisfy some individuals urge to be ethical even as they leave others cold and unmoved. Which is the case with just about any kind of campaign, isn't it?