“Yes, We Can!”
Most companies undertake CSR (corporate social responsibility) programs as having to fulfill a corporate duty i.e. giving back to society. Often development of such a program is the onus of the corporate marketing team and is tied back to ensuring the brand is seen in good light.
On the practical side investments allocated to CSR programs used to be at the minimalistic. But times have changed and whilst corporate philanthropy maybe on the wane (or is it making a comeback due to the clamour for “transparency’?) There are, undoubtedly, strong advantages in aligning an organisations’ profitability objective with community development.
The question, that arises, is would such community development objectives become a primary driver in developing the business strategy for an organisation?
The example that comes to mind is that of Body Shop. A clearly defined set of values aimed at improving the community both, economically and in terms of quality of life, has given this brand a loyal customer base globally. A consumer group that relates to the corporate cause and commitment of the brand and is willing to aid that mission through their support (of the brand) in terms of preference, recommendation and product usage.
So is there learning in this for businesses that want to operate in the global Muslim segment?
Today, aside from the Islamic Finance and Halal (food) sectors, the need for mainstream brands (of other product categories) is enormous. Even within Islamic Finance–the retail sector–leaves a lot to be desired in terms of consumer marketing. But there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel as we are seeing slowly the evolving travel & tourism, healthcare/pharma and fashion products coming about.
The population numbers and purchasing power of the Muslim community justify a business case in having brand offerings for this vast segment. Coupled with that when you add the ever increasing numbers of the community of South East Asia and the growing youth segment (of this global community), with the increasing demand for lifestyle products , it’s amazing as to why such brand offerings (to this segment) has not yet come about. (There are some, but by and large their presence is, primarily, well known only in their specific geographical markets only.)
Is it an issue of approaching this segment based on classical (“Stakeholders’ profit maximisation”) business formulae or is it lack of understanding of the differing needs of this segment?
Whichever be the case, approaching this segment, strategically, based on a “community development” objective can provide a very strong platform for having a sustainable business strategy.
- A business strategy that would be competitive, sustainable and with very clear benefits all round thus ensuring long term engagement (amongst all stakeholders).
- Developing a commercial enterprise whose objective is to uplift a section of the Muslim community economically would resonate very strongly with the global Muslim community.
In essence, it would provide a cause for the Muslim consumer to ‘contribute’ his/her bit (for the community) as well as enable them to relate to the brand and thus have engagement and involvement.
- CSR provides “reputation insurance” when products fail (sustainablefutures.info)