As millennials take over the marketplace and consumers grow more cynical about corporate values, incorporating social responsibility and purpose into business models and mission statements is essential to success. Businesses are coming up with increasingly creative ways to improve communities and affect social change.
At the 10th annual Dubai Lynx International Festival of Creativity, which took place at the Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai in early March, there were many examples of how communications, technology, and business can work together to produce meaningful change in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
Lars Erik Grønntun — CEO and Chairman of Hill+Knowlton Strategies Europe, Middle East, and Africa – served on the PR jury and shared his insight on four of the most inspiring campaigns at this year’s festival.
‘The Good Note’ from Lebanon
The Good Note, a winner in this year’s PR category, hails from Lebanon, which is home to about 4.4 million permanent residents and more than 1 million refugees.
As more impoverished children have begun to beg on the nation’s streets, the supermarket chain Bou Khalil created a new type of currency, Alf Kheir, which could only be used to purchase essential supplies that poor children would need – water, food, clothes, and prescription medication. All the proceeds from the sale of Alf Kheir notes – available and exchangeable for an amount equivalent to $1 USD at all Bou Khalil supermarkets and other Good Note partners – were donated to an NGO that helps take care of children who live on the street or work in Lebanon.
‘BillBed’ from Pakistan
Some half a million homeless people sleep on Pakistan’s city streets. Most are local laborers who have no place to rest after a hard day’s work, which only makes the next day that much tougher.
Pakistan’s leading mattress company, MoltyFoam, decided it wanted to provide a good night’s sleep to everyone. So, they built the world’s first BillBeds – billboards that convert into beds at night. The company placed more than 150 BillBeds across the country and created a supporting mini-documentary that was shared widely on social media.
Those looking for proof that doing good can be good for business, take note: Though the campaign was considered a CSR initiative, it also increased purchasing intent by 82 percent.
‘Back Off Radio’ from the UAE
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but in the United Arab Emirates, impatience kills drivers.
Tailgating is the most common cause of road incidents in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). To increase awareness of the issue, the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) developed a device for taxis that used sensors to measure the vehicle’s distance from other cars. The sensors were activated when the taxi reached 60 kph and alerted the driver of the taxi if it came too close to the car ahead. The device also sent a message to the offending driver through an ultra-local radio broadcast that interrupted the program the driver in question was listening to.
The campaign brought a huge amount of media attention to the problem, and the number of tailgating incidents involving taxis has fallen from an average of 264 to 62 per day since the initiative launched in April 2015.
‘Backup Memory’ from Tunisia
As people live longer, Alzheimer’s disease becomes a more pressing issue not only for the individuals affected, but also for families who must care for them. In Tunisia, some 30,000 people suffer from the disease and more than 150,000 people are affected indirectly.
Backup Memory, a digital app campaign developed by Samsung volunteers in Tunisia, uses patients’ smartphones to detect when a familiar person comes within a certain distance, sending the owner memories, photos, or videos related to that person. This kind of non-medical therapy regularly exposes the patient to their past, and recent research suggests that kind of exposure greatly improves their memory.
About 32 percent of patients in local Alzheimer associations have started using the Backup Memory App, with about 28,822 family members connected to the network as well.
These kinds of campaigns have the power to effect real change in local communities – and that’s something every business should want to be known for.