Goodwill: Good Thinking

Last time, I discussed real-life branding — the role staff play as branding channels themselves and the importance of considering how your company can identify new, smart, and cost-effective branding opportunities to creating your brand’s clear point of difference. Here’s a story exemplifying the value of real-life branding.

Three years ago, in the Turkish city of Antalya, a luxury resort was being built. It so happened Turkey’s biggest economic crisis in history struck, making it difficult for such an enterprise to kick off.

As the hotel was prepared for a grand opening, a Russian submarine, the Kursk, sank in the Barents Sea. The entire crew perished. Eager to help in the wake of the tragedy, the hotel company’s CEO contacted the Russian Embassy and arranged vacations for the families of the lost submariners. A TV station heard of the gesture and produced a story.

Today, the hotel is thriving. It turned out to be a phenomenal investment because Russian holiday-makers flock there. Touched by the response to the Kursk disaster, Russians remained loyal to the company and are the largest proportion of the hotel’s guests. They’ve helped turn the it into one of Turkey’s most successful resorts.

The right move at the right time can result in financial growth and help a worthy cause. How can you make the most of your role as a responsible corporate citizen?

Appoint a small think-tank made up of people who know your customers and your products well. Ask for their ideas about changing the “outside world’s” perception of your brand. Prioritize these.

Next, define some loose rules to guide cause-related branding ideas. How frequently should you should engage in charitable causes? Guidelines should include success scenarios: What benefits do you expect your brand to accrue as a by-product of helping a good cause? What type of PR do you want? How can you leverage relatively cheap tools, such as the Internet or even cell phones, to pursue your chosen causes?

Involve the whole company in the principles of civic awareness and corporate responsibility. Keep everyone interested in current affairs and encourage all to keep a company-related eye on local and world events.

Involve your company in a case every month — one which makes sense and, in the process, will shed a favorable light on your company. Run a PR program around the role you play to ensure the outside world and your staff are aware of the involvement.

The Internet is an ideal channel for sharing stories of your cause-related activities with the world. Your site is the interface that can communicate your involvements expediently. It invites the world community to learn of your innovations and gives journalists the chance to download photos, statistical data, and quotes. Such campaigns (that’s what they can become) can turn into almost viral activities if the stories are solid and inspiring. Within hours, news can travel across the globe via email.

The result could be as brilliant as the one British Airways employees came up with that’s now universal: relieve passengers of heavy foreign coins by passing them on, via the airline, to UNICEF. The “Change for Good” program is a stunningly simple, practical idea that contributes to the children’s fund and enables airlines to play a responsible civic role. Today, several airlines supply coin collection envelopes for various aid organizations. They donate millions every year at virtually no cost.

They create goodwill and impress passengers with a responsible brand image — the result of a well-run, structured internal company brainstorm. Something to think about, isn’t it?

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