How to Brand Your Benevolence
By: Emilio Macasaet III
 
“We attended your seminar on Key Account Management. It was very insightful and fun. The value-creation strategy tools you discussed were practical as hammer and nail. In fact, we actually implemented support programs for our major account’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) project as you exactly suggested. This collaboration is showing unprecedented gains in sales and account relationship. From this experience, we realized we can also develop our own CSR programs as a marketing effort to enhance our company’s reputation. You shared in passing in our class the CSR programs of Mekeni Food Corporation, the billion-peso food processing company which started as a backyard venture of former public school teachers Felix and Meding Garcia. Can you discuss some more of this in your column?” - Brent
 
 
Studies show that customers prefer products of benevolent companies and even perceive their products as performing better. But you must be actually benevolent rather than merely self-interested for marketing gains. Since you asked about Mekeni Food Corporation’s CSR, I’m devoting this space to excerpts of my interview with MFC’s Corporate Communications Officer, Rheah B. Garcia.
 
 
Q: What is your CSR program?
A:We have a few. One of them which we regularly support is what we call "Galing ng Batang Mekeni" Award. Every year we give recognition and award to students who are children of Mekeni employees who have been given academic awards (up to top 5 for grade school & high school and dean’s list to summa cum laude for college level) by their own respective schools. Since Tatay Felix and Imang Meding were both educators this program sits very close to their hearts. 
 
Q: What is your strategy to communicate your CSR?
A: We connect and draw upon the influence of world-class Filipinos as Brand Ambassadors, which we call Branded Benevolence. This is also aligned with Mekeni's vision to become a world-class Filipino meat processor. 
 
We carefully select our Brand Ambassadors and put importance on their background and advocacies.  We easily connect with personalities who, despite their humble beginnings and life's difficulties were able to survive and become "champions" in their respective field and inspire many.  
 
Q: What are the indicators that you are succeeding in your CSR?
A:  I believe there are many success indicators which we may consider. The program sustainability, impact and reach are just few of the vital measures. Our "Galing Ng Batang Mekeni" for instance, which was initially initiated as one of our "employee engagement programs" has benefited some 250 students.  Our employees including their families look forward to the special recognition program which does not only recognize the school achievements of the children of our employees but also expose them to the work environment of their parents. Every year, this program has become a significant "family activity" which is consistent to one of our core values as a family-oriented organization.  
 
Between 2011 and 2014,the program scope was expanded to cover other public schools and had benefited many top students from various schools in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, North Luzon and South Luzon. The company identified ten schools per area, per year to provide support during Brigada Eskwela and capped with a special recognition to their top students for all grade levels.
 
Last June 18th, we had the privilege of having a world-class technopreneur "personal encounter" with the "Galing Ng Batang Mekeni" awardees. Engineer Dado Banatao and his wife Maria came for a visit and spent the afternoon at the plant with the Mekeni family and the kids. We got to hear the person responsible for two of the foundation technologies in every PC today deliver a message about family, hardwork and how anything is possible if you put your heart and mind into it. For me, personally, that is precious. Dado Banatao is my Uncle, my Dad's older brother. I know their story of hardship in their early years and the seemingly impossible obstacles they had to overcome in order to succeed in life, and now, to give back and help others succeed. I am part of that story, that legacy. When I married into the Garcia family, I became witness to this family's resilience in beating the odds; their strong drive to raise this company from a backyard business to a world-class meat processing plant and their love for their community. I am now part of that story too. And never has the meeting of my two worlds been more pronounced than that moment – hearing Uncle Dado sharing an inspirational talk here in Mekeni to these kids, who were obviously awed with his convictions and purpose in life.
 
Q: What can you advise those who utilize Brand Ambassadors to promote their CSR programs?
A:Work with Brand Ambassadors who have the same advocacies as you. Uncle Dado sits as the chairman of Philippine Development Foundation (PhilDev) which seeks to help students in their education by giving them scholarships. He and Auntie Babes (Maria) have also put up the Salvador & Rosita Banatao Foundation that helps kids in the northern province of Iguig with strong Science and Math abilities. They have helped hundreds of kids already get into Science High Schools and universities for those entering the Science, engineering and technology fields. Now, they have added Batangas State for college scholarships too. And it's not just here in the Philippines that they are actively helping kids in their education. They also have university scholarships in the USA. So you see, they understand and value the commitment to such programs just like Mekeni. We should try to connect with Brand Ambassadors who do not only inspire us to go further but also lead and work with us to achieve our defined CSR goals and objectives.
 
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Emilio “Bong” Macasaet III is a Partner and the Chief Distribution Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc., the only advocacy-based training and consultancy firm focused on marketing, sales, strategy and innovation.For feedback, write to mentors@mansmith.net or visit www.mansmith.net for more information.