In our last blog, we talked about the brilliant distribution strategy of Tanduay®, the world’s highest-selling rum brand which hails from the Philippines.
In this blog, we feature another liquor brand, but this time, we will tackle the brilliant ‘brand personality strategy‘ of a premium liquor brand called Amarula® from South Africa.
As mentioned in a previous blog, ‘brand personality‘ is a critical element of ‘brand identity’, the third major phase in building a brand.
It will be recalled that in our blog on LEGO®: A Prolific Product Strategy Built Brick by Brick, we talked about the ideal sequence in developing the overall brand architecture which involves four critical phases. For easy reference, I’m sharing the four phases again here:
- Phase 1: Find and choose an open hole to occupy in the market
- Phase 2: Define Brand Strategy (brand positioning + unique selling proposition + supporting evidence)
- Phase 3: Develop Brand Identity (brand name + visual hammer or logo + brand personality)
- Phase 4: Develop Brand Marketing or the 6 P’s of the Marketing Mix
In relation to ‘branding personality‘ in Phase 3, we will cover in this blog how Corporate Social Responsibility, or ‘CSR‘ initiatives help build the personality of the brand, thereby strengthening its brand identity in the minds of its target consumers.
“I believe social responsibility begins with a strong, competitive company. Only a healthy enterprise can improve and enrich the lives of people and their communities.”Jack Welch, Chairman and CEO of General Electric, 1981-2001
In a previous blog, we featured coffee shop global leader Starbucks®, itself a known advocate in creating corporate social responsibility programs in many aspects of its business. One great example of this is their C.A.F.E program which has benefited millions of coffee farmers around the world. Aside from the goodwill that the brand has generated with these communities, this CSR program has also proven to provide win-win solutions for both the communities and the brand.
Before we discuss Amarula®, let’s understand what is ‘CSR’ and why this is a win-win for both business and the communities.
Corporate Social Responsibility can refer to any positive efforts toward the environment, social causes and their communities. More and more, companies are institutionalizing CSR programs that involve most, if not all, parts of their business and have dedicated teams and resources for such.
CSR comes in many forms and according to the Harvard Business School, these programs usually fall under any of these four main categories:
- Environmental Responsibility – refers to the belief that organizations should behave in as environmentally friendly a way as possible. A great example of this is outdoor clothing and gear brand Patagonia® which launched the Blue Heart of Europe awareness campaign launched in 2018 that focuses on conservation efforts in the Balkans.
- Ethical Responsibility – is concerned with ensuring an organization is operating in a fair and ethical manner. A perfect example of this is the Workers Well Being Initiative launched by Levi’s Strauss® in 2011.
- Philanthropic Responsibility – refers to a business’s aim to actively make the world and society a better place. A famous example of this is TOMS®‘ One for One campaign launched in 2015, which has now given over 60 million shoes to children around the world.
- Economic Responsibility – is the practice of a firm backing all of its financial decisions in its commitment to do good in the areas listed above. A notable example of this is The Fledgling Initiative of Twitter® wherein the company launched Fledgling Wine. The company produced and sold its wine, donating all proceeds from sales supporting the non-profit organization.
There are several advantages for a brand to focus on a specific CSR initiative, especially if this is aligned with its brand strategy.
According to Charlotte Business Journal, there are three major benefits of CSR, including:
- Engaged Employees – The way an organization treats the community suggests good things to its employees about how it perceives and respects them. Employees that feel respected by their employer feel more comfortable bringing their most authentic self to work which, studies show, leads to increased engagement.
- Loyal Customers – In a Nielson survey, 66 percent of participants said they pay more for products and services from socially responsible companies. When examining the population of participants willing to pay more, 56 percent said “a brand being known for its social value” was a top purchase driver.
- Positive Public Attention – Active CSR positions your organization as a leader in the community, and a positive role model for others to follow suit. Besides, when companies stand out for the good work they’re doing in the community, the media gains interest.
In addition, according to finance website thebalance.com: a report by Babson College reviewed hundreds of CSR program studies. The reviewers found that the programs can have a strong impact on a company’s market value and brand and lower risk. The report’s findings found that CSR programs have the power to:
- Increase market value by up to 6%
- Reduce systemic risk by up to 4%
- Reduce the cost of debt by 40% or more
- Reduce staff turnover rate by up to 50%
In the case of Amarula®, their recent CSR initiative falls under ‘Environmental Responsibility‘ with specific focus on saving the endangered African Elephant from extinction largely due to habitat loss and poaching for the illegal ivory trade.
It is estimated that an elephant is killed every fifteen minutes, mainly for its tusks which end up in the ivory trade. With approximately 400,000 elephants left in Africa, it is projected that by the year 2030 (or a mere 9 years from today) elephants will become extinct. Quite unthinkable and shocking, but unfortunately a great possibility if left unabated.
This reality is what compelled Amarula® to launch their CSR initiative to help save these majestic creatures.
The brand works through initiatives like the Amarula Trust that was created in 2002 to raise funds as a non-profit organisation, to conserve and protect Africa’s natural wildlife. In 2016, the Amarula Trust formed a partnership with Kenyan-based and global conservation organization Wildlife Direct, with the shared vision to drive conservation through education in the community. The brand works very closely with their CEO Dr. Paula Kahumbu.
“We aim to safeguard the African elephant so that we can keep meeting them under the Marula trees, year after year. Sustainable environmental and educational projects are key to the preservation of our precious heritage.“Amarula Trust
To raise awareness worldwide in 2017, Amarula launched limited edition bottles without the iconic African Elephant to put an end to the ivory trade. They also introduced the hashtag #DontLetThemDisappear
They also launched the campaign dubbed ‘Name Them Save Them’ with Wildlife Direct CEO Dr. Paula Kahumbu herself featured prominently in the campaign (play video below).
With this campaign, it raised the brand personality profile of Amarula® to that of a passionate conservationist and highly responsible and authoritative global citizen. These are very good brand personality traits for one that is positioned in the premium category.
In that same year, Amarula® was recognized as Brand of the Year at the prestigious 2017 World Branding Awards, further boosting the profile of the brand’s personality. The awards were held at a ceremony at Kensington Palace, London on October 11. Amarula® was honoured alongside other companies who have advanced the community through worthy initiatives for both industry and consumer. Amarula® was the only brand in the Alcoholic Spirits Cream Liqueur category from South Africa to be selected for the 2017 Awards. The brand joins the ranks of other South African winners including DStv, MTN, Nando’s, and Standard Bank, and iconic global brands like Apple, Coca-Cola, Louis Vuitton and Mercedes-Benz.
“As much as we would love to claim this award as our own, the honour must be shared with Africa and the iconic elephants that are intimately connected to the brand through our African roots and the wild marula fruit. We don’t plant the marula trees, they grow wild where they choose, and the fruit is handpicked by local communities, to create the smooth taste of Amarula. Through these African roots, we proudly celebrate the vibrant pulse of this exotic continent, its wildlife and its people, to inspire the world,” said Amarula Global Marketing Manager Maijaliina Hansen.
Aside from this global recognition in 2017, according to The Spirits Business, “In the six months to 31 December 2017, (the South Africa-based) Distell Group – which owns Amarula® cream liqueur, Bunnahabhain® single malt Scotch whisky, and Richelieu® brandy – saw (revenues rise by 9.3% to US$1.3billion and) operating profit increase by 6.5% year-on-year.”
Introduced in 1983, Amarula® has now grown into become a world leader and is now enjoyed by millions of consumers in more than 100 countries on all continents.
This brilliant brand teaches us that by deploying a CSR program that is authentic and in-line with its brand positioning and personality, the brand stands to increase its equity, profile and overall business health. Through its CSR program, it is able to engage with its consumers in a very positive way which leaves them with a stronger association with the brand which ultimately leads to loyalty and long-term patronage.
There are clear and significant benefits for any brand to embark on its own CSR programs which can only redound to its relevance, longevity and overall competitiveness.
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