8 Filters to Evaluate Cause-Driven Brand Initiatives

22 Feb,2017


By Sanjeev Kotnala


I woke up recently to a tweet that introduced me to the latest ad in the ‘Jaago Re’ series. I loved it. Here was a brand that has found relevant cause and could rejuvenate it frequently. On the same day, I read the probing blog by Lakshmipathy Bhat, ‘Cause – driven advertising: does it help in brand building?’ At the same time, there was another blog by Deepali Nair, with an alternate point of view at ‘Advertising that creates new paradigms’.

However, let’s look at what is happening and why is suddenly a there a spurt of cause-related communication for brands.

Advertising is a tool that the brands use to create a positive preference and alignment in the consumer mind. It is expected to reflect in sales impact and market shares.

Earlier, a brand used gets into this track of thinking when it is forced to take the stance or wanted to influence certain powers to be or has already moved up the ladder of directly related logical/ regional/functional differentiation. Then it did not matter what was the format used how it was expressed.

Today, a mega-trend has been identified. In the era of information parity and heightened social activism, brands have identified that the consumer still remains gullible to this weapon armed with long format digital amplification… the cause-based advertising.

They strongly believe that the so-called over-researched, and the least understood millennial consumer is inclined towards brands that stand for the cause/ movement or activism.

Hence when Bhat gets irritated with the Mirinda ‘release the pressure’ TVC, one understands. As a part of this article, you can view many such cause-driven communications of the brands like Miranda, CaratLane, P&G, Anouk , NIKE, Dainik Bhaskar, Times Of India, Tata Tea and Dove, and make your own reading of the subject.

All such communications have a commercial role. They have above all a role for creating brand preference. Few of them have even moved beyond the simple task of brand salience and preference to becoming a real movement where the brands are just a support.

In the process, the brands have overlooked and failed to take care of Eight filters. Scanning your brand proposition, cause or initiative through these can help you rightly leverage and create the brand impact you want.




A case in point is Tata Tea – Alarm Bajne Se Pehle Jaago Re! You give it credit and listen in rapt attention.


This communication by Tata Tea pass all the eight filters listed below.

RELEVANCE. Is it relevant to the primary target audience and the wider segment? Is it something that bothers them? Do they think about it? Is that latent or it is subtle? Will a small push overtake the inertia holding it back?

BRAND LINKAGE. What is the level of association that brand can have to create with the cause? How is the cause relevant to the brand functionality and emotional linkages with the audience it is trying to influence?

UNIQUENESS. Is it something that is widely accepted as a category cause? Is t something that is obvious and anyway expected? Can the brand can take it up and own it?

DEEP ASSOCIATION. Is it going to be just a lip-service? Are you getting deep and working across formats and across its tentacles? Have other media been integrated to amplify the proposition? Are you really willing to start a mission? Are you supporting it at the ground level?

LONG TERM. Is this a cause that you have taken for this sales season? Will you come for the three to six months and then start to search for a cause that can give you the new high? Do you see this remaining relevant and strong pillar for the brand for years to come? How long does the brand plans to remain married and committed to the cause?

REPEATED REJUVENATION. And here is why I believe that the Tata Tea thought of Jagatey Raho simply outscores all. Anouk does not commit to anything specific, and the audience knows about it. They are transparently willing to take up multiple causes and move on.

BUDGET AVAILABILITY. Are there enough funds allotted to the programme to reach its ultimate goal?

MANAGEMENT ALIGNMENT. Is the management completely in sync with the cause? Can it be a reflection of the philosophy rather than remaining at the level of brand initiative?

Once again, while the cause-related advertising and communication seem tempting for a brand to take on, it will be critical to evaluate against RELEVANCE, LINKAGE, UNIQUENESS, ASSOCIATION, TIME, REJUVENATION, BUDGET And MANAGEMENT ALIGNMENT.



The Mirinda ad lacks the synergy or association.



CaratLane communication that walks the tight rope and talks of spreading love and care beyond romance at Valentine, one challenges the thought.



Look at the P&G ad for its sanitary napkin brand that won the Cannes Glass Lion. It remained a communication that was appreciated but to general public, it never got amplified to a level of a real fight against the taboo. Though it may be doing a lot in the area and taking the thought forward, but when the audience which has been exposed to this insightful communication is not kept in the loop with the development, they are bound to see it as tactical.



Or Anouk which takes up various subjects for its communication. I am not sure, how the consumer sees it. And if it makes sense?





There is the powerful thought ZID KARO DUNIYA BADLO by Dainik Bhaskar that has seen different avatar at various points of time. It is something that fits the brand and the category, and the brand can maximise the leverage. Unfortunately, it is tactical and lacks consistency.



Sports brand Nike music video raised its voice and went silent. I am not sure, if it is a utilized or missed opportunity for the brand. The consumer does not appreciate opportunist leveraging of a cause.



And on the other side, a powerful ‘Teach India‘ ad is going from strength to strength. It is a movement in itself but somewhere the amplification within the readers is missing at present. Maybe it is a way in which the brand wants to operate in.



The Dove campaigns for Real Beauty challenges the trend.


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