Building A Purpose-Driven Brand:Q&A With MBC’s Mariam Farag
BB: In the past ten years, promoting sustainability has evolved to being one of the fundamental key pillars of any brand’s communication process. How can brands effectively create shared value through matching social cause with consumer sentiment?
MF:In the Middle East, we’ve seen a great shift over the past ten years from charity-based initiatives, to social impact and employee engagement projects, to a new term to the region called ‘shared value’. The latter means that a brand incorporates a social impact strategy into its DNA that is both sustainable and impact-driven. It’s no longer the responsibility of one person or one department, automatically, everyone plays a role in driving the strategy, achieving the outcomes and ensuring impact. Over the years, corporations learned that it is both smart and makes business sense to start matching their social cause with consumer sentiment or what we often call, ’cause-related marketing’. This means making the human connection between the consumer and the brand. This does not mean lie or play on someone’s emotion, on the contrary, it simply means humanizing the brand. Why does this matter to the brands success? Because consumers are becoming more attentive and rooted. They are looking for the responsible brands, the ones that care about world issues and contribute back to the community. The role of the private sector is vital in shaping the vision of the future for our communities while we face the biggest world issues.
BB: In order to cut through the noise, brands have to get more sophisticated in their methodology and create impact. How can brands move from being socially responsible to being socially impactful?
MF: Currently, we are facing the biggest refugee crisis this world has ever seen. Youth unemployment has risen in the past decade, making it very hard for this generation to have faith in their future and look forward to a better world. Extremism and radicalism has started taking over young minds; as a result we are embarking on a lost generation. World hunger, extreme poverty, lack of access to health care & education, unequal pay, global warming and so many important topics are taking center stage and affecting our world as we know it. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals tackle 17 of the most important causes in our world and we all have a role to play in achieving one or all of them!
If corporations, whether big or small, do not start acting now on all of these challenges, focusing on solutions with impact, the repercussions will be horrific in the next ten years. The private sector cannot ignore their vital role of creating social impact on ground. The Public sector needs to facilitate the administrative processes and regulations to give access to civil society and nonprofit organizations to take the lead on grass root youth–led projects that eventually will lead to peace-building, socioeconomic development and global warming; leaders need to start giving youth a voice. However, without sustainability, one cannot create impact or tangible results. The latter takes between one to five years to start seeing the ROI on the human level. The community is no longer welcoming one off projects without a clear strategic vision, objectives and sustainable targets. The consumer needs to trust the brand and we need to prove our intentions back to the community. Brands can no longer sustain their businesses based solely on a profit making. Shared value a with sustainable approach means employee satisfaction leading to retention, low overturn & employee engagement, customer loyalty & trust, leading to profit making and unique market positioning.
BB: In 2013 MBC group took a pioneering strategic decision to launch a fully-fledged CSR arm, MBC Hope. Why was this decision taken?
MF: Our slogan is “we see hope everywhere” and no doubt, with the challenges the region has been facing post 2011, leadership believed it was not enough to see, but it is our obligation to start creating & spreading hope on ground in the region.
BB: Can you shed some light on its objectives and main pillars?
MF: Our mission is Arab youth empowerment and development with a focus on four pillars: 1) Education and child protection, 2) Entrepreneurship and startups, 3) Capacity building and work readiness 4) Humanitarian Issues
BB: With the rise of the millennial consumers who have grown up with a heightened awareness, they are more inclined to support brands that promote sustainability. How is MBC Hope reaching out to them?
MF: We’re always true to our strategy and mission. Our focus is youth development, job creation, work readiness and education. We’re constantly looking for new ways to engage with the community, communicate and reach out to the youth throughout diverse platforms whether at university or school talks, youth-focused events, orphanages and/or refugee camps. In addition, we understand that it is important we give the youth a voice to express their needs, communicate their frustrations, share their challenges but most importantly learn from each other. We are constantly searching for stories. Storytelling is a great way of giving the youth a voice to share their resilient and successful stories to inspire others that nothing is impossible and that there is still hope!
BB: Promoting sustainability can be a strong point of differentiation for brands. How is MBC actively sharing its sustainability efforts with the world?
MF: It is very simple. We start with sustainable impact on ground that is later on amplified on our screens and our multiple digital platforms. In addition, the team and I are constantly on the road, where we conduct field visits to monitor our projects, communicate with our partners and stakeholders, listen to the community and engage with the youth. I always say we cannot do what we do behind a desk, as we have a different approach to being a community partner. We are not your classic donor – it is so much more to us, based on partnership-based approach focusing on both sustainable impact and growth. Our ROI is changing people’s lives and we cannot ensure this result except by being there on ground.
BB: What do brands that promote their sustainability efforts stand to gain?
MF: Trust of their clients, reputation, credibility, loyalty and retention of their employees. Most importantly, be part of changing our world as we know it. Be part of a sustainable development movement where profits are no longer the only object of a brand. If we’re not able to be part of the solution, we will be forced to being part of the problem. The more instability, poverty and lack of socioeconomic development, the less consumers spend. It just makes good business sense – a win-win situation.
Do good – feel good.
About Mariam Farad
Mariam Farag is leading the CSR program at MBC Group, which is responsible for driving its corporate responsibility vision and strategy in the region & globally. Founded & launched in 2013, MBC Group’s CSR arm, MBC Al Amal, is an ongoing interactive initiative that is the collective umbrella for the multitude of campaigns, initiatives, and contributions whether created, launched, supported or adopted by MBC Group.
MBC Al Amal’s core focus is on the empowerment and development of Arab youth, for our future and theirs. Our strategy is also about developing and implementing initiatives to show our ongoing commitment to education, capacity building and work readiness, supporting entrepreneurship, and humanitarian causes.
Farag brings to MBC Group over 18 years of experience working in the fields of social development, humanitarian relief, communication, corporate & social change in the MENA region & globally with UNDP, UNHCR, education and governmental sectors.
- Regional Board Member of “INJAZ Al-Arab”, part of the “Junior Achievement” Worldwide Network (since June 2012).
- Member of the “UAE Advisory Board of Education for Employment (EFE)”
- Active member of the Media & Communication Global Steering Committee of Education for Employment (EFE)
- Member of the SOS Villages Global Strategic Advisory Network
- Active advocate in the entrepreneurial, youth development & women empowerment field focusing on building strategic partnerships between the private & public sector to mainstream initiatives, spreading CSR awareness and maximizing impact in the region & globally.
Farag received her B.A in Political Science specialized in International Relations from The American University in Cairo (AUC) and completed her M.A in International Relations and Political Theory from University of Westminster in London, UK.
www.mbc.net/alamal Twitter: MimiFarag
About MBC Al Amal
Launched in 2013, MBC Group’s CSR arm, MBC Al Amal, is an ongoing interactive initiative that is the collective umbrella for the multitude of campaigns, initiatives, and contributions whether created, launched, supported or adopted by MBC Group. MBC Al Amal’s core focus is on the empowerment and development of Arab youth, for our future and theirs. Our strategy is also about developing and implementing initiatives to show our ongoing commitment to Education and Child Protection, Capacity Building and Work-Readiness, Startups and Social Entrepreneurship, and Humanitarian Causes. More information about our projects and initiatives can be found through our website and social media platforms: YouTube (/MBCHope), Facebook (/MBCHope), Instagram (@MBCHopeInsta), and Twitter (@MBCHope).
About MBC Group
MBC Group (Middle East Broadcasting Center) is the largest and leading private multimedia company in the Middle East North Africa region. For the past 26 years, MBC GROUP was able to enrich people’s lives through information, interaction and entertainment. In 2002, nearly a decade after the launch of MBC1 in London, back in 1991, and as the 1st private free-to-air Arab satellite TV channel, MBC GROUP relocated its headquarters to Dubai Media City, United Arab Emirates, where it remains.
Today, MBC GROUP includes 20 leading TV channels: MBC1 (general family entertainment); MBC2 and MBC MAX (24-hour western movies); MBC3 (children’s edutainment with a mix of both local productions and western acquisitions); MBC4 (entertainment for young families with a female-focus); MBC ACTION (an indigenous adrenaline-packed channel targeting young males with local and homegrown productions); MBC VARIETY (Western films and general entertainment with uninterrupted broadcasting); AL ARABIYA NEWS CHANNEL (the 24-hour Arabic language news channel); AL HADATH (an extension of AL ARABIYA News Channel with a specific focus on real events in the Arab world and beyond); WANASAH (24-hour Arabic music channel); MBC DRAMA (24/7 Arabic drama); MBC MASR (general family entertainment geared towards the Egyptian family); MBC MASR 2 (providing the Egyptian audience with superior quality entertainment); MBC+ DRAMA (paid channel); MBC BOLLYWOOD (delivering the freshest in Bollywood content geared towards the region via an Arabized interface); and a network of 4 Sports channels, MBC PRO SPORTS (delivering the “Saudi Football Premier League” to audiences in the Kingdom); and MBC USA (the channel is present on “Dish Network” in the US, and targets Arab audiences aboard; the channel is dedicated to offer and broadcast a wide range of content from the prominent MBC channels including movies, series and global formats).
In July 2011, seven channels within MBC GROUP began to broadcast in HD across the MENA Region. In 2013, others joined the collection of HD channels and continue to do so.
MBC GROUP also includes two leading FM radio stations: MBC FM (Gulf music) and PANORAMA FM (contemporary Arabic hit music); as well as O3 PRODUCTIONS, a premium content drama production company. Furthermore, MBC GROUP includes online platforms: www.mbc.net, www.alarabiya.net, SHAHID www.shahid.net (the #1 Premium Arabic VOD service in the World), WIZZO (the Biggest Gaming community in MENA), www.actionha.net, andwww.mbcprosports.net among other digital ventures.