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Companies can develop future markets and talent through CSR

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear, goes the old saying. It was the empire builders of old who realized that keeping a standing army to protect their civilizations and make new conquests required a robust sustainability concept.

Providing enough resources to feed and arm battalions after the citizens had been catered for demanded trade and industry to increase their tempo in all aspects, and it was thus in the interest of the emperor to support them. A break in the flow of materials needed to sustain the army would lead to a weakened force and, heaven forbid, to mutiny.

As a company begins to dominate its sector, not only does it have to fend off the supporters of anti trust legislation, but they also begin to regard market share as secondary to deepening product use within its realm. In marketing we call that idea promoting the sector, rather than just promoting the brand, in order to get wider acceptance for the particular product group.

If we go a little further, one aspect of sustainability as we know it today comes to the fore as companies begin to support the auxiliary industries that supply their raw materials and the development of future customers for their product. Is it therefore no surprise that the media industry in the developed world is the biggest supporter of the advancement of arts and sports talent? No prizes for guessing that it is because this talent will soon be gracing their broadcasts, attracting sizable audiences and earning them fat bonuses.

Irrespective of the internet, TV still has the opportunity to grow as a media channel, as seen in the US. Whereas the Americans have to work on the subtle nuances to drive the upward trend because the medium is universal, the job is easier in Kenya as only 50 percent of homes have at least 1 TV set.

It would thus be in the media owners interest to support the expansion of power supply, be it on-grid or off-grid, because we have seen a direct correlation between ownership of TV sets and household access to electricity.

During the Steadman Research years, the managing director George Waititu launched the Research Clubs of Kenya in secondary schools across the country as a CSR project that aimed to inculcate the principles of research amongst the next generation of business executives.

That was over 9 years ago and those initial members of the research clubs are already joining the ranks of interns and newbies in client companies, and some of whom undoubtably will rise to the top. At that point their appreciation of research will both help them to drive growth and profitability within their own companies, but also support the advancement of the research industry in return.

The talent pool of research executives is limited in Africa and through these clubs the field is greatly enhanced by the steady supply of personnel who have had their 10,000 hours of practice — which is quite valuable according Malcom Gladwell in his book Outliers.

In the words of Cameron Sinclair, “When sustainability is viewed as being a matter of survival for your business, I believe you can create massive change.”

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