Why it Pays to be a Responsible Marketer in Asia

A growing number of consumers in Asia are seeking out brands that are seen as responsible and standing for a purpose – food & beverage businesses are looking for opportunities to lead the way.

A 2013-2014 survey of 30,000 consumers in 60 countries by market researcher, Nielsen, found that 55 per cent of online consumers were willing to pay more for products and services from companies committed to positive social and environmental impacts, including 64 per cent of consumers in Asia.

Millennials (age 21-34) were more responsive than other age groups, particularly in developing markets, including those in Asia-Pacific. In these areas, Millennials were on average three times more in favour of sustainability actions compared with Generation X (age 35-49), and 12 times more in favour than Baby Boomers (age 50-64).

Amy Fenton, global leader of public development and sustainability for Nielsen said in a press statement, “It’s no longer a question of if consumers care about social impact. Consumers do care and show they do through their actions. Now the focus is on determining how brands can effectively create shared value by marrying the appropriate social cause and consumer segments.”

A study of 10,000 consumers across nine countries released by Cone Communications in May, also found consumers felt personally accountable for social and environmental issues, and 84 per cent would seek out responsible products whenever possible – including 95 per cent of consumers in India, and 94 per cent in China.

A new era for public affairs and marketing teams

Will Gilroy, Director of Communications at World Federation of Advertisers, which works with companies worldwide to help set standards for responsible marketing communications, commented that these changes in consumer behavior, accompanied by tighter regulations, are changing the relationship between marketing, and external relations and public affairs teams internally.

Mr Gilroy said, “Smart companies will start to see the role of external relations and public affairs as equally important in the future for a number of reasons.

“Firstly we are witnessing increasing efforts to regulate a variety of sectors, whether it be food and non-alcoholic beverages for their perceived role in childhood obesity, alcohol manufacturers in light of under-age drinking and alcohol-related harm, or financial services for getting people into debt. Every sector has something to worry about as societal sensitivities shift and change.

“Secondly, while no one understands their consumer like marketers, today’s ultra-connected consumer demands more. Brands need to understand the consumer in society and this is an important nuance. A consumer has a relationship with the products and goods that are provided but also an increasingly strong notion of how a company operates, how it treats its employees, how ethical its business practices are, and what the company stands for,” he said.

A stronger focus on responsible marketing practices

To support responsible marketing in many industries, including the food & beverage industry, there has been strong collaboration between the public and private sectors to protect standards and consumers.

Food Industry Asia (FIA) works on behalf of its Members in the region to endorse and promote self-regulatory codes with regard to food and advertising and marketing to children under 12. Using proven science-based measures, FIA Members take a leadership role in promoting the adoption of best practices, and support the expansion of national ‘pledge’ programmes in the region that focus on the types of products advertised to children and seek commitments to promote healthy lifestyles.

Studies show self-regulatory approaches generated from multi-sector dialogue are effective. A global report by media auditor, Accenture, commissioned by the International Food & Beverage Alliance (IFBA) found a high rate of compliance against its global policy, which is in line with the aims of the 2010 WHO Set of Recommendations on the Marketing of Foods and Non-alcoholic Beverages to Children. The compliance rates in the sixth year of monitoring included 88.5 per cent for television advertising, 99.5 per cent for internet advertising, and 100 per cent for print advertising in child-directed media.

For more information on the work of FIA in promoting responsible marketing and communications in the food & beverage industry in Asia click here.  

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