#Brandalism & the CEO/CMO in the socio-digital age #wolfSIGHTS

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What brands really need to watch out for is Consumer Hacktivism, which has virality embedded to it!

Or Socially responsible BRANDALISM (Brand-Vandalism)!!

Look at this for example: http://www.citylab.com/design/2015/11/cop21-paris-climate-billboard-artist-volkswagen-brandalism/417897/?utm_source=atlfb

It’s time for brands to start cleaning-up their inside stories and turn a new leaf before getting copped-out on social media.

On the other hand, there is possibly a huge hacktivism based business model in doing a brand transparency – a BOP (back Of Pack) babelfish.

Subscribe and pay for us to scan your brand basket that you purchase and tell you what is truly good for you and what is it that you are truly consuming…believe me the way brand cynicism is growing in this socio-digital age, this can be a hugely profitable business.

This revolution will not start with eco-impacting categories in India (most consumers in India would have already forgotten the VW debacle – as eco-hurting is not yet a mass story in an India which is afflicted with rabid consumerism.

Indians are so busy with showcasing brands as status badges that anything which does not affect them personally will not be in memory for long and shall not affect purchase decision.

Only when a “Me-Me-Me” India starts turning again to an “Us-Us &We” India, shall transparency be demanded of eco-impacting categories).

This brand transparency audit will affect India in the F&B category, personal care category etc; FIRST & that too in a limited fashion. (Look at the Maggi Story, I personally think Maggi could have actually raised its prices and made a whopper of money when they came back.

The fatalistic nature of India combined with the love for habits makes them accept certain brands back. (Brands like Maggi, which have become a default habit & have enjoyed consumer love for over a generation). But brands, which enjoy weaker consumer love and are newer (Example: Yippee noodles, or Chings etc;) would possibly have shut shop and gone bankrupt by now. I highly doubt whether consumers would have forgiven them so easily or infact brushed aside rumours like they did with Maggi.

So the impact of social hacktivism on brands which are in the health care business, F&B business and personal care business is going to be very high and unforgiving.

Brands which directly & immediately affect the “Me-Me-Me” attitude will get impacted by social hactivism / brandalism first in India. If you look at western social hacktivists, they are extremely persistent and very strategic. Having realized that there is a large chunk of people who might remain unaffected by plain social hacktivism which impacts only the “Us-Us & We” conscious people, they do a post-campaign in which they instigate public-shaming of those who choose to ignore these truths about the brands they consume. This impacts the “Me-Me_Me” attitude and forces these guys also to conform to brand shunning. Indian hacktivists are not laggards in learning from their western counterparts.

Financial category brands again are most susceptible to socially responsible hacktivism.

Any-which ways, we are definitely entering an era of “Brand Transparency”.

The corporate-strategic reaction to this in play: Corporate Brands which have made huge load of money by selling non-transparent product categories, will be deploying those monies into investing in more transparent businesses with urgency.

Once they invest in organic, eco-friendly, healthy etc; – they will create a counter culture against their own past brands/businesses and make money by a charging a premium on the good new businesses.

Diversification is anyways the name of the future game and socially responsible diversification will even help them wash away their old sins in flow of the new good deeds.

So here are a few of my predictions for the future:

(1) Large corporate giants will diversify into businesses, which are completely opposite to their current businesses. Aerated water manufacturers getting into Milk, tobacco companies getting into personal care, F&B and health etc; using the money they earned from their non-transparent businesses as capital for the transparent do-good categories.

(2) Large corporates which suck-up natural resources irresponsibly and with a huge amount of wastage will get into new businesses which have co-created and inter-dependable models at the core. Plants of their erstwhile businesses which either suck-up or pollute ground water will launch new ventures which will be about rain harvested water, responsible usage of water – showcase the process as a brand USP. This story will enable them to demand consumer love and charge a premium.

(3) The natural fears that get fanned by hacktivism against current product categories will be leveraged upon, to build interest towards “transparent” categories. These categories will have the promise of “good from the scratch to the shelf and to you” process goodness. This process & business operational responsibility will also be turned into a USP and a part of an alluring brand story. In the end they will be able to charge a premium for these new product categories too.

While this makes for a great conspiracy theory…

The fantastic part of this transparency movement will be the birth of brands like Kimaya Enterprises ( https://sites.google.com/a/kimaya-enterprises.com/www/fruits ), which have goodness truly embedded at their heart. All these brands need, is a little marketing savviness. Hacktivists /Brand-vandals will soon start not only dissing mega brands, but will also lend their support to these kind of brands. They will leverage the social-discovery era of the web and help turn these into cult brands.

One thing is spectacularly clear, the next master-trend for the world will be consumption of “Transparent/Honest/Socially Responsible Brands” which taps into the consumer-need for “sustainable/eco & socially – conscious consumption”.

Thats why CEO’s & Founders need to make their companies shun mere positioning and get involved in organizational & brand purpose creation. They can no longer afford to ignore the socio-cultural & consumer truths in favour of micro & macro economic truths.

What brands meanwhile are advised to do is to not deploy the 2% mandatory CSR in some distant to their core business areas. But to actually look at their CSR in two major ways:

(1) Core to business CSR: Amul way of CSR – which directly impacts their core business and the way they conduct it. Another masked example: A non-local milk brand in South East Asia which is actually supplying cows and buffaloes to citizens and creating employment for them – while strengthening their own supply source. The byproduct of this is a huge local loyalty. This counters the ill-effects of the swadeshi brands sentiment growing in South East Asia. A great way to leverage the aura of international stature, yet earn local loyalty and apnapan.

Indian brands looking to enter or already operating in Africa, for example, should possibly take a leaf out of this CSR approach; especially, after the recent India-Africa summit.

Sadly Indian companies & brands still think the mandatory goodwill/social responsibility spends should go into mere communication only.

(2) Human/Social CSR: The TATA/Mahindra way, which picks a cause/causes close to their founder personality’s heart and hence personalizes CSR. This is deliberately not advertised, campaigned about or PR’d about. Over a period of time, organically the knowledge of this spreads amongst citizens and though a slow-burner, it has a major long term and long lasting impact.

Though in no way am I suggesting that the TATA/Mahindra CSR initiatives have marketing intent at their core.

A man’s growth to founder / CEO usually gets him in touch with his genuine altruistic side. So they could actually look within themselves, pick a cause they are genuinely passionate about, and deploy their power to make the corporate brand champion this cause.

One example of an immediate implication for financial category: Do not do insipid communication of tips to be safe and savvy with their financial dealings etc;. Dude that’s such a banal way of wasting your money and creating a blind spot.

For example why does the mutual fund category not create a crowd sourced, simplified dictionary of complicated financial terms (complicated terminology as explained by one aam admi to another – with muhavras and colloquial examples – in layman’s terms) and e-publish it. Do an animated – story telling version of it, deploy educators of this to go to colleges (especially post-graduate colleges) and educate them.

Why not form a fund for a charitable cause, get concerned people to invest in it and make sure the fund matures fruitfully and yields good returns (using their knowledge and expertise – vital to brand differentiation) and then deploy it for a social cause. Build a school which teaches rural women exclusively about better financial management or just a school.

This piece of goodwill based infrastructure then automatically becomes the most visible monument to their capabilities and goodwill and is also proof of Mutual funds being a palpable option for profitable investment.

As a vital by product it also creates an aura of goodwill for the entire category. HDFC an apt brand for this, with their infrastructure credentials, long standing trust credentials etc;.

Howl back at this strategic instigation!! Would love to correct, value-add to my thought process.

#wolfSIGHTS

@wolfzhowl