Brands can do some social good while promoting products

A bank that gives power to the people, a soap that makes a country healthy, Tea that gets people to vote. Are brands all of a sudden sprouting? It certainly seems that way.
Nedbank of South Africa attached solar panels to a hoarding. The electricity generated was used to power the kitchen of a poor township school. The hoarding carried the simple question, ‘Can a bank really give power to the people?’ Nedbank chose to answer the question with noble action rather than empty words.
Closer to home, Lifebuoy launched its ‘Healthy Hoga Hindustan’ campaign. It got 500 families with children in a building to replace their regular soap with Lifebuoy. The improvement in hygiene led to an improvement in the children’s school attendance. Lifebuoy expressed their dedication to the ideal of making India healthier, one building at a time.
Tata Tea did its bit for democracy by launching ‘jaagore’. This website helped people register themselves as voters.
Is it a sign that companies are becoming better citizens? That a desire has sprung up in their breasts to aspire to loftier ideals? Or is it perhaps a little like the ‘social work’ that many students do these days because it gives their resumes a boost?
Whatever the reason, it seems that consumers are more inclined to buy a brand that, over and above satisfying some direct primal need, gives them a bonus burst of good feeling about supporting a social cause.
Quite in contrast to the trend of brands with a do good streak is the phenomenon of ‘porn creep’. As the term might suggest, it is about pornography as a theme creeping into the advertising of mainstream brands.
While there seems little likelihood of this trend catching up in India in the near future, it is fascinating to register that it is happening at all, anywhere in the world.
A brand as high profile as Budweiser has created an ad in the US which seems to be at the forefront of this drift. In the ad one sees a young man at a convenience store picking up some beer and asking for a porn magazine to keep it company. The elderly Chinese lady behind the counter is hard of hearing and speaks loudly to compensate. As a result, she ends up repeating the name of the magazine ‘Tongue in Cheeks’ rather loudly. Just then, by an impossible coincidence, the buyer’s prom date from high school shows up at the store. Much to the young man’s embarrassment, the shop lady continues to talk loudly about the magazine and the fact that there is a free sex toy on offer. The situation gets more and more uncomfortable for the young man and reaches its peak with the store being held up by a masked gunman and, as a consequence, the image of him buying a porn mag being beamed on television news.
While this ad was not run on TV even in the US, it did run online with many of the explicit references beeped out and has become something of a Net phenomenon generating vociferous debate.
We need not go up to NedBank South Africa. Near home there is a company illuminating its ad hoardings for its clients by solar panels there by saving precious electricity in the electricity starved Mumbai city in India. In a similar way many corporate companies advertising their prominent brands are managing small greenery, gardens or green landscaping at Road junctions, dividers and traffic islands. Other companies are maintaining water fountains for general public to drink water by the road side. To name some of the companies are Larsen & Toubro, Britannia, Reliance Industries etc.