Wanted: A global group hug

Last Updated: Sun, Jan 13, 2013 19:41 hrs

Do yourself a good turn: do others a good turn. Used to be, that was sage advice for souls seeking solace from wise monks who might or might not have sold their Ferraris. Today, it’s good marketing strategy, good business strategy. Everywhere, a new breed of business writers and CEOs is churning out authors espousing the virtues of doing business for good.

Some, like Standard Chartered Bank, may have stumbled onto their positioning and slogan of “Here. For Good.” after being cornered by circumstance. Or take PepsiCo globally, who has gone through the rigors of renaming their products from soft drinks to carbonated beverages, to sparkling beverages and other euphemisms that are attempting to draw attention away from the empty calories that the “fizz” contributed to their “soda.” Today, after publicly and with much publicity having diverted millions of advertising dollars into their feel-and-do good “Pepsi Refresh Project” in 2010, its global product strategy is seeing itself realign its businesses around (gasp!) healthy refreshment and snacks-summed up in its business vision as Performance with Purpose.

But look beyond the big picture, the big businesses and brands, and you'll see that everywhere businesses are turning a soul-searching spotlight onto themselves in order to behave, almost as if their KRA was to get into Santa’s good books by Christmas every year. You’ll see it in Walmart’s suspension of its own legal team (including its CFO) in India over bribery investigations. You’ll see it in more cosmetics brands trying to reincarnate themselves as some avatar of Anita Roddick and her iconic Body Shop. You’ll see it in more structured community outreach programs (Shh! Don’t call it CSR. It’s not an activity. It's a way of life.)

You’ll see it in a myriad of truly authentic acts and gestures around the world. And as a natural consequence, you’ll see the decline of merely symbolic noble deeds. Like Oprah’s annual holiday giveaway (this year, with the rumoured accompanying gaffe of tweeting from her iPad about the awesomeness of the Microsoft Surface tablets she gave away). Like the ceremonial pardoning of two Thanksgiving turkeys by the American President (while millions of others are devoured).

What’s behind this? It’s a billion cries for help being heard around the world daily. The cues and clues abound all over the social web. The “Haves,” it seems, are actually the “Have-nots” in many ways, money and creature comforts notwithstanding. You'll see it in the plaintive pictures ridiculously captioned as “Me and my gi-normous cappuccino!” Or the public plea of “I terribly and desperately need a vacation!!” Love, attention and time are in the shortest supply since the Industrial Revolution ushered in the era of “Oh, we have more machines to do things faster? Let’s create more things to do all the time.”

It’s why we’re okay with becoming “friends” with strangers we wouldn’t ordinarily touch with a barge pole. It’s why, despite already having so much to do with so many people, we’re deliriously happy to get back in touch with long-lost schoolmates, in the hopes of turning the clock back and slowing it down. It’s why the most cynical of people turn mushy, rediscovering their softer sides on social media.

What we’re hearing is a collective cry: “There’s enough that’s already not right with the world-from climate change to corruption, from Big Business to Bulls & Bears Gone Wild, from deepening socio-economic divides to digital divides. And then the omnipresent Scarcity Shortage in a world of bewildering choice. What we need is a giant group hug. All the time.”

Is your brand part of it?

(The author is National Planning Head, Dentsu Marcom)

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