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Kindness with a Motive?

Luxury brands are slowly using their power and global influence for a good cause. Is there a hidden intention behind it or is it a genuine effort to turn the world into a better place?

Luxury brands are slowly using their power and global influence for a good cause. Is there a hidden intention behind it or is it a genuine effort to turn the world into a better place?

Take a quick look around you and you will realise that there are an abundance of problems that the world is facing. A deeper insight will make you want to sit back and wonder what you could do to help or contribute. But let’s face facts. Making a difference in the world, however small or big, requires determination, dedication, power and initiative. Big companies, that have power and influence, are now realising this and taking a shot at repaying the world and humanity.

Take the example of Gucci launching a new version of the best selling sukey bag to benefit UNICEF’s ‘Schools for Africa’ initiative, which aims to provide children with quality education. It even launched a limited edition bracelet to benefit the Japan disaster. Hidesign openly pioneers ‘The Art of Reuse’ to commemorate World Environment Day and stresses on the importance of eco friendliness.

Montblanc had also announced their new charity partnership with the Princess Grace Foundation-USA, a non-profit organization dedicated to identifying and assisting emerging talents in theatre, dance and film by awarding grants in the form of scholarships, apprenticeships and fellowships through the Princess Grace Awards program. Belvedere, the super premium vodka, partnered with (RED) and launched a special edition bottle to raise proceeds for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria .These are just few examples of world famous brands indulging in a variety of philanthropic activities, but the question remains, why?

The answer
President and CEO of the Tod’s Group, Mr Diego Della Valle, took some time out and explained the ‘Why’ from his point of view. “Sometimes, when a company invest in projects such as the one that ties Tod’s to the restoration of the Colosseum, there are those who think that these initiatives have commercial operations background, with some advantage.” In the case of Tod’s, the impulse to invest money in this project has come simply from a feeling of belonging and respect. Tod’s is one of the largest Italian luxury leather goods company in the world that has become an ambassador for ‘Made in Italy’ values, traditions and quality. “We believe this added value makes our products special and our customers so loyal. We believe, therefore, that it is our duty to respect and, whenever possible, to protect the ‘Made in Italy’ philosophy, since it allows us to create something beautiful and timeless. Indeed, our hope is that this gesture may only be the beginning of a journey shared by all those who believe in ‘Made in Italy’, and are inspired by this culture, skills and vision, because this patrimony may continue to be motivation and wealth for future generations,” he shared.

The Inside Story

According to Mrs Sangeeta Assomull, CEO, Marigold Group, “Luxury brands often participate in philanthropic activities, because most of their clients are patrons of well-known charity institutions. The Marigold Group is privileged to be invited to participate in any of such ventures, as we see the need to give back to the society in the best way we can and make a difference.”  She furthered that this undoubtedly results in a positive shift in sales when the brand participates in any charity initiative, as it brings a huge amount of brand awareness. Along with that comes a natural positive portrayal of the brand in the eyes of the public.

Brands can engage in philanthropic activities for many different reasons. According to Mr Narendra Kumar, an ace Indian fashion designer, “Primarily brands want to build a positive association in the minds of their target consumers and other key stakeholders. It’s often related to building customer loyalty, thus allowing for general business growth. Risk and reputation management is essential for large corporations that have to show that they are giving back to the society – especially if the industry involved faces public scrutiny.” He added that another benefit for the company is that it can encourage employee engagement by getting the employees to actively participate and become aware of the cause, which in turn motivates and raises their sense of identity with the organisation.

Philanthropic activity, whether taken on individually or as part of the corporate social responsibility policy of a company, is not done with the intention of direct economic gain. Mr Kumar explained that when a brand builds a positive image about the company while engaging in a meaningful association with a social issue, there is an indirect gain that generally comes from the customers who choose to purchase that particular brand over the competition. “But it can only happen if your target customer and your CSR policy is aligned. If your customer base is apathetic towards the issue that you are supporting, your efforts will bear no economic benefits,” he cautioned.

Putting thoughts into action
After speaking to both these dedicated people, it was interesting to observe the various kinds of philanthropic activities that they participated in. Mr Kumar’s most recent effort has been their participation in the Children are Treasure charity ball in April 2011. “We were approached by Treasure, a Geneva based charity focused on raising awareness and promoting literacy and schooling for all children in India, indiscriminate of their background. We felt that our company ethos is strongly aligned to Treasure’s core mission. The work that Treasure undertakes is wonderful in the way their approach is tangible and the results can be realistically achieved. Our efforts this time included a donation of gowns and sale proceeds. We look forward to many more such associations. Currently we are working on forming our own CSR policy and aligning ourselves with a cause on an ongoing basis,” he shared.

Mrs Assomull also proudly shared her slice of goodness. They hosted a unique charitable event in association with Chhaya Momaya, at Taj Mahal and Palace Hotel, Mumbai in 2010. Part of the proceeds and the entry tickets of this initiative were contributed to The Happy Home and School for the Blind – where children with visual and multiple impairment begin to understand their environment and accordingly adjust to it..

All these initiatives definitely speak a lot about the brand and it is satiating to see influence put to such good use. Each one of these activities done by the brands speak so much more than can be instantly deciphered. It shows the dedication, and more importantly, the initiative that these brands and people are taking towards making a difference in the world. One can only hope that others will take a leaf out of their book and follow suit to make the world a better place for future generations to come!