Can brands join the clean-up act?

The recent launch of the ‘Swachh Bharat’ initiative by the Prime Minister seems to have gone down well with the nation. Not surprising, since ours is a country that could definitely do with some reminders on cleanliness.

We all grew up hearing and memorising Mahatma Gandhi’s quote about cleanliness being next to godliness, but somehow, for the vast majority of our countrymen and women, convenience has always been the bigger priority. So we spit and throw garbage wherever it’s convenient to. Our men (much more than women) piss by the roadside, instead of holding on till we find a toilet. And we always have the excuse that others are doing it too.

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So, yes, cleaning up our streets, and surroundings, is definitely a good thing to be taken up. As a first step.

I say that because physically cleaning our surroundings will not cure much until we adopt cleanliness as a mental attitude. The phrase ‘to come clean’ is what I’d like to see happening in our society. So much goes on hidden, unseen, unknown or is deliberately made mysterious or obfuscated – in society, in bureaucracy, and even in our traditions and rituals.

And things that never see the light, never get cleaned.

Coming specifically to the question of brands, it’s obvious that brands and those who lead them can find some part of the world around them to clean up. And then share the before/ after pics with their followers on social media. The stronger brands may also inspire their followers to lead clean up initiatives in their neighbourhoods.

But what if brands walked the talk a little more imaginatively? What if they could ‘clean-up’ their own virtual surroundings – the media that they ‘live’ in?

I’m imagining brands cleaning up their plethora of variants that no one is interested in. I’m hoping to see brands being more transparent and sharing how their manufacturing and quality control happens. I’m thinking brands cleaning up their websites and making information easier for consumers to access.

Wouldn’t it be great if brands cleaned up communication and packaging design to make their ingredients and benefits clearer? Could they rethink the use of plastic packaging that ends blown about by the wind, and eventually in the stomachs of cows? And if they didn’t know where to start, what if they simply made an effort and asked everyone for ideas?

I think the SwachhBharat initiative is a great opportunity for brands to step forward and make a clean start towards a new kind of marketing – one that respects and honours the consumer with transparency, with the knowledge that this is a brand with nothing to hide.

What’s there to hide anyway if you’re making it with pride? Let’s draw the curtains of marketing aside, open the windows and allow in some fresh air of public scrutiny and opinion into our creations and the methods we follow. Being open to criticism is what will give us fodder for improvement.

In my opinion, in this age of information empowerment, the more we share of our own worlds with our consumers, the more the acceptance we will find in their worlds.

All lasting relationships are built on that principle, no?

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