Increasingly, brands and marketers are pivoting to create, communicate, and deliver products and offerings that have value for customers and society at large – and of course, with that  make some money. Many practitioners in the marketing industry that we at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE often speak to, say that good marketing today goes well beyond just making money, but also attempt to make the world a better place to live.

KK Tsang, CEO of marketing services group The Bees Holdings, said that in general, marketers in Hong Kong often strive to strike a balance between making money bringing in revenue, building a reputation, and achieving marketing goals – all while also benefiting the public. 

“The function of marketing is to provide products and services that consumers want or need, make them more accessible to consumers, while selling them at a reasonable price. This is not only about making money, but also benefiting the society,” he said.  

When it comes to social benefit, Tsang believes that companies who promote the values treasured by consumers can gain more attention and advocacy from them. 

His sentiment is echoed by many studies done by marketing firms covering the industry. For example, according to Havas’ Meaningful Brands report 2021, 73{68e14e6e31db224cd7c1bdf2940b476d81e2fb293cb92c01b488fb781d0c8053} of global respondents believed that brands must act now for the good of society and the planet and 64{68e14e6e31db224cd7c1bdf2940b476d81e2fb293cb92c01b488fb781d0c8053} of people – an increase of 10 percentage points since 2019 – have entered their own age of action, preferring to buy from companies with a reputation for purpose as well as profit. More than half (53{68e14e6e31db224cd7c1bdf2940b476d81e2fb293cb92c01b488fb781d0c8053}) of people would go even further, saying they were willing to pay more for a brand that takes a stand. 

“In other words, companies which benefit society more can make more money,” Tsang explained. 

Seconding the statement is Eiswein Wong, co-founder of Start PR, who said that giving back to society is now vital for a business in terms of reputation and revenue. However, some industries or marketing plans still fail to be for the benefit of the public.

Recently, MARKETING-INTERACTIVE came across an ad which urged consumers to purchase a new smartphone that costs approximately HK$6,000. For consumers who aren’t able to purchase the phone due to cost related reasons, the company then guided them to seek aid from a licensed financial institute who could aid them. Another example MARKETING-INTERACTIVE came across was in the form of a TVC which aired between football matches. The ad by the licensed money lender encouraged borrowing money from their services, to repay their minimum payments on credit card debts. 

While not all such tactical ads are seen to be unhealthy, unfortunately, such promotions can sometimes blur the line between good for the company and good for the community. “I do think some firms can jeopardise society if they promote consumerism and persuade consumers to borrow money to buy luxury items that they can’t afford,” explained Tsang. However, he was quick to add that not all financial institutions should be clumped as one. 

For example, Promise, a wholly-owned overseas subsidiary of SMBC Consumer Finance, one of the leading consumer finance institutions offering services similar to money lenders, was known for organising sports events in Hong Kong to encourage children to play more sports and promote physical fitness as well as teamwork amongst them.

Examples of good marketing

Looking ahead, when we asked how the marketers from the financial industries can create a better world, both Wong and Tsang agreed that brands and marketers can pay more attention to what society needs. Filling the gaps present in society’s needs can  help them build a good reputation for the corporations and be corporate citizens of the society.

Although such moves might not bring any immediate revenue, it will go a long way in building brand awareness and benefit of the society.

“The marketing industry should not just focus on sales. They need to think about what they can provide, what they can build between the brand and values or social movements. If consumers like the brand, sales will follow,” Tsang added. 

One example of a brand that is changing society through good, said Tsang is Standard Chartered Hong Kong which hosts its annual marathon. “When we think of a marathon in Hong Kong, The Standard Characters Hong Kong marathon pops up in our minds immediately. It’s very successful in building the association. At the same time, it’s a social movement that encourages people to run more and exercise more to improve their physical condition,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Wong said online broker Futu Securities also previously organised a campaign where it donated free masks to an NGO to serve patients suffering from chronic illnesses at the early stage of COVID-19. The initiative enabled Futu securities to acquire new customers, while benefiting society at the same time without aggressively marketing the brand. 

“I think it was a win-win situation for Futu Securities. Donating free masks attracts media attention and creates buzz online, and the company’s potential customers will notice their campaign from the media and PR coverage and trust them enough to finally become their new customers, increasing the conversion rate of marketing spend,” Wong explained. 

Doing good

That being said, we see many brands in Hong Kong now stepping up to benefit society as a whole. For example, beverage company Bonaqua recently launched its first locally produced and label-less bottle to deliver higher recycling efficiency by eliminating one packaging material.

Bonaqua also announced its plans to work with Baguio Waste Management and Recycling, and Hong Kong Observation Wheel and AIA Vitality Park operator, to ensure the proper recycling of all beverage containers consumed in the Hong Kong Observation Wheel & AIA Vitality Park. 

Also, Coca-Cola’s philanthropic arm The Coca-Cola Foundation collaborated with NGO The World Green Organisation, Hong Kong’s first food-grade ready plastics recycling facility New Life Plastics to launch a plastic recycling programme in Hong Kong.

The “Recycle Together – Clean PET Bottle Reward Programme” conducted a poll to engage with the public, and ask them to vote for their favourite recycling districts in Hong Kong.

After the vote, the programme hosted about 100 recycling events across eight districts, namely Kwai Tsing, Kwun Tong, New Territories North, Sai Kung, Sha Tin, Tsuen Wan, Tuen Mun and Yau Tsim Mong, with the support of the programme’s venue partner People’s Place. To go with the initiative, Coca-Cola introduced a recycling station which will be touring for every recycling event.

Food delivery service Deliveroo also partnered up with The Loops, a local startup to bring corporate recycling programmes to its Deliveroo for Business and restaurant partners. Kicking off the initiative in June 2021, Deliveroo encouraged its corporate clients and restaurant partners to take part in the new scheme to have a long-lasting recycling programme.

Through the initiative, Deliveroo said it wanted to create a greener and more sustainable work environment, as well as raise awareness towards recycling within the Hong Kong community.  

Recognising the rise in plastic waste due to the rise of eCommerce as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Deliveroo said it was eager to offer solutions and make an impact on reducing the amount of waste connected to the F&B industry.

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