Helping out during business as usual

Another weekend away (I appear to have no fixed abode) and we got talking about social marketing.

A friend of mine works for the organisation that is trying to bring our national smoking rates down. One of the services she provides is scouring magazines and offering the publications advice on how many positive smoking references they have and how to cut them back. Many magazines are unaware of the messages they are pushing in their editorial – messages that aren’t relevant to the story but that are promoting one of the ONLY products in this world, that if used properly greatly increases your chances of getting sick or dying.

Many people she talks to are worried that cutting out pro-smoking messages will adversely influence the editorial integrity of their mag, others are shocked to find the sheer number of messages in any one publication and are happy to get rid of them.

I like things like that. Business as usual, but joining a cause while you do it. It reminds me of the website I came across recently that is trying to get “Coca Cola to use their distribution channels (which are amazing in developing countries) to distribute rehydration salts to the people that need them desperately. Maybe by dedicating one compartment in every 10 crates as ‘the life saving’ compartment?”

A brilliant idea. Instead of creating NEW distribution networks, why not back onto those set up by companies who are making a fortune out of people who are in desperate need of other products as well? Good for Coke’s image (which is not all that positive, given the prominent rumors of their exploitation of these countries), good for the people, and it only requires a very slight change to business as usual.

I wonder if concepts like these will become more prevalent in business over the next few years – Real, sustainable help, that doesn’t require a lot of effort.