The Ethical Gap: Getting Caught in between the Corporate and the Brand

November 22, 2007

Key Excerpt: The ever increasing gap between corporate ethics and brand practice is increasingly involving societies in moral, cultural and economic crunch. With no distinct corporate reputation, raising advertising budgets, promoting blind consumerism, fabricating profit-centered values are all only to cover the family feud between the brand and the corporate.

Looking around one observes a large variety of brand identities. Where they are important in providing the commercial differentiation in competition they have another obligation to fulfill; uphold family values! Of this I speak from both the organizational and social perspectives. Any brand in any of the commercial messages where penetrates consumer for differentiation and preference also injects a set of its ethics into the psyche. This translates into liking of a brand to respecting its company. We can relate this with the personal liking for a tobacco brand like Marlboro but not having the moral attributes for a public defense. Or relate to PEPSI commercials that represent our cricket stars like Shoaib as party animals and women pleasers. This negative perception directly travels to the corporate reputation. Relate the standard query, “which company’s brand is this?!” with this scenario. Here starts the feud!

This ethical gap is increasingly becoming the focus of most of the corporate reputation debates. Is it a product brand that determines the corporate reputation or is it the other way round? In the state it is right now, most of the corporations in Pakistan including popular MNCs and big national companies have no unique and even stable corporate identity in actual practice. The blind profit-run has where damaged the company reputation even greater are the marks on our social fabric. The induced “foreign look and feel” has only left our society in a self-identity crisis. Such strength and influence has the corporate ethics practices on social economies. The effect of these amplified in societies in the USA and the Indians. “Search for roots” is the social grievance in the former and “Whom do I belong to” is the manifestation in the later. We are still undecided even what to think of?

A lot of public relations representatives that I meet suffer in this “gap crunch”. With top management only accessible at crisis moments and routinely subjected to brand marketing’s “lavish ignorance to corporate ethics”; these PR custodians are only left with minimizing damages and avoiding media calls. The brand profits blind-folded management has increasingly become easy with the approach of “need based priorities” where the top priority is the ridiculously high profit margins. This holds especially true for the Tobacco, Telecom, Satellite Broadcast, Mobile phones and Carbonated Drinks industries in Pakistan. Most of the brands in these categories have jumped on the band wagon to catch the younger market with perceptions of phenomenal sex, success and spotlight.

Even the line adopted by these industry competitors are without class and creativity. Telecom service providers have a very run of the mill girl-boy friendship story line (Telenor), Tobacco tries to cough life into a manly image (Marlboro), Satellite entertainment channels pose to lead liberty of mindless expression (AAG), mobile handset companies flash phone against the naked skin of the fairer sex (LG KG series phones) and carbonated drinks pop the bubbles on some failed celebrity’s unpopular life (PEPSI with Shoaib)World's Most Ethical Companies 2007

An interesting list of “World’s Most Ethical Companies 2007” is shared here. This research is done by ETHISPHERE Magazine that isWorld's Most Ethical Companies 2007 an influential publication of the CR and brand ethics field. The list indicates companies in respective industrial categories placed in order of their rank top-bottom. The country of origin for each company is also indicated with each.

The list reveals that many of the international MNCs operating in Pakistan especially in Food and Beverage (Nestle, Cadbury, Coke) , Consumer Electronics (LG), Computers (Intel), Oil & Gas (Caltex, British Petroleum) and Software (Microsoft) industries have not even made to the final ranking list. Does this reflect on our soft and designed for tax collection policies, our industry’s weak moral values or us consumers own moral standards. This remains to be seen.

Concluding I would say that it is high time for corporations to decide on their reputation focus inline with their business deliverables. A core system of corporate ethics and brand practice integration has to be incorporated as part of the management group that lays down the interpretations of the ethical standards into brand practices. This integral component right now does not exist either in a matrix or dedicated format. Societies on the other hand have to decide if they are going to derive the brands or be remote controlled into a fantasy land that has no practical meaning whatsoever!


truphone and Fring: Call FREE from YOUR Mobile Phone NOW

June 22, 2007

Disclosure: As a matter of record this post was originally published at Green & White by the same author at integrate.

Yes be shocked, be awed and hurray! Now you can make free calls (negligible rates apply for some landline and overseas calls) to any number truphone Logoin the world, anytime from you sweet little handy cell phone.

How does it work?

Most of us have been using PC 2 PC VOIP (voice Fring Logocommunication) services like , Skype®, MSN® Messenger, Google Talk™ , Twitter etc. These applications convert the voice input through our PC mike into data packets, transfers these packets over, say Google Talk, VOIP server to the receiver PC which then converts these data packets back to voice that is audible through headphone or regular speakers.

Fring and Truphone do just the same; they have simply developed software application for mobile devices/cell phones called “Thin Clients” (yes coz they are thin, no need to open a tech-dictionary here).

Fring Network

For Details check How does Fring Work and How does Truphone Work.

What do you need to Fring/Truphone your phone?

  1. Your cell phone must be a 3G device, with most updated firmware; easily downloadable from the manufacturers website. Example; List of Nokia 3G Devices. All company cell phone list.
  2. Your phone must have internet access (through Wi-Fi, GPRS, EDGE, 3G Internet Data Plan)
  3. You need to download Truphone or download Fring client on the cell.
  4. Start talking without a stop

What does it cost?

– Mobile phone software clients are freely downloadable from Fring and Truphone.

– 100% Free: Mobile 2 Mobile/Mobile 2 PC – Since data packets are exchanged over the internet through Fring/Truphone servers between the talking devices.

– Negligible Cost (From 95-98% lesser than what you pay now): Mobile 2 Landline/Mobile 2 International Numbers – Since the route in such cases includes some travel over charged networks (depends from country to country; may be free where local calls are free)

Check the tariffs for Fring and tariff for Truphone.

How does this change the way we live?

Truly Diminishes Boundaries: Talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime for any length of time.

Gives a Human Touch: Text can not deliver the same warmth and trigger feelings that a human voice does.

Boosts Commercial/Social Possibilities: Network teams will have a whole new meaning for keeping in touch. Global travelers will call as in the same city. Call centre agents shall service their customers from their homes. Trading and stock markets will become ever more faster. Son will call his parents daily from his dorm. Daughters shall cook while their mothers guide them on the recipe over the phone.

Pushes Telcos to a more Value added Competition: So much for the stupefying and user disturbing price wars and consistent phone calls by sales people. Telcos shall have a run for some real products both in terms of design friendliness and value for the user.

The Challenges for Telcos: Best interest of the subscribers or profits!

Internationally truphone is already bering the brunt with T-Mobile not permitting its subscribers to call any truphone number. This means that you can make a call from a truphone number to a T-Mobile number but not vice versa. See a demo here.T-mobile can not call truphone

The conventional Telcos are already fretting over this technological advance. Lets take the Pakistani scenario. Telcos are already targeting customers (new/switches) on the basis of consistently lowering price plans. Especially the new comers like Telenor, Warid and now ChinaMobile shall have serious reservations over permitting such VOIP transfers over their network. So do not be surprised if your calls are restricted already or in near future as the subscriber awareness increases.

Or the Telco service Cos. shall realize and explore the potential towards offering the “hi-end handset customers” the real experience. This shall be a true test of the product design and profit plan capabilities of the Pakistani telco companies. Djuice for one, should benefit from this new technology 🙂Djuice Logo

Even better times for Handset Manufacturers

We should see some interesting campaigns from popular hand set manufacturers capitalising their products compatability with the Mobile VOIP service. Nokia for one is already collaborating with truphone through cross promotion and offering Nokia Pro Members free truphone benefits.

Atlast Value for the User (or a call for Consumer Awakening)

The customers in Pakistan by pattern mostly benefit more from competitive or compulsive (regulatory or technological) reasons for the commercial businesses, in this case the telcos. Its high time that the mobile users show their resolve to benefit from these amazing possibilities and lodge personal and collective protests to the telco service providers in case any hidrances are created in benefiting from this facility.

Your Life in a Mobile Phone – UBL Orion – Part-1

June 9, 2007

Disclosure: As a matter of record this post was originally published at Green & White by the same author at integrate. 

UBL Orion: Mobile WalletOrion Wallet LogoOrion Wallet Logo

UBL has a few days back launched its new product “Orion”, a payment solution via your gsm service cellular phone. The concept of this new service product is enabling your cell phone to make payments against selected/authorized products and services that you avail. You can see the demo here.Orion Mobile Wallet

How does Orion function?

The user level functional description is that a GSM subcriber needs to open an Orion Account with UBL. Just deposit amount (refundable/withdrawable) in the Orion virtual account and start spending by way of paying bills, purchasing/loading cellular service prepaid balance, share/gift money to other Orion account holders etc. Regular call charges/tarriffs apply on Orion transactions. The Orion service charges are separately payable to UBL.

Examples of usage are payment of utility bills via a SMS command from your cell phone, recharging your cellular connection via an SMS purchase request or gifting Rs.1,000/- to your younger brother on his birthday.

Or payment of your restaurant dinner bill through your cell to a virtual merchant account, purchase of an air-ticket, ordering Starbucks latte and paying while on way to office with the latte ready at the takeaway counter, buying and sending movie tickets to kids via cell phone, dialing a bail for your son…

Dilemma of Pakistani Software Industry: The Business Model+Human Resources -1

June 9, 2007

 Well about the locally incorporated companies, I have mostly observed, closely and factually, that rewards and retention have no clearly defined or SERIOUSLY practiced policies. The reasons range from preferential treatment for favorites to project limited vision (dukaan wali approach). I would however categorize these outcomes against the following core reasons:

1. Business Model: Weaknesses in system design, targeted business (mostly follow the crowd).

2. Product Design: Weak or no product differentiation, weak understanding of client/industry needs.

3. Road Map: Literally no road map for the business and products for growth in a competitive reference.

4. R&D: Absence of R&D from almost all setups.

5. Marketing & Demos: Never heard of demos from most of the local companies. They have presumed that they have the right product for everyone and anyone.

The outcomes are that a few favorite or dependable employees are loaded (burnt, depreciated) with most of the workload or project mgmt. This creates a big gap between the ladder from junior to middle mgmt positions. What ends up happening is that when a middle manager leaves for a better job due to similar reasons elsewhere :-).

The owners get someone take a leap from the lower end of the void to the vacant middle mgmt position with a fat increment. This effects professional commitment of the team, hurts their morale, distorts and unrealistically increases pay raise expectations, disturbs financial mgmt., challenges continuity in both the momentum and quality of products.

The need is to have strong regulatory and business model support and back stopping from the association of the industry and the regulatory govt. bodies to help prevent such corps from turning into corpse! The industry needs to share and learn a lot. This is a mis-fortune with most of the Pakistani economy; we just do not share and learn and avoid making the same old thrashed tested and tried repeat result yielding exercises that are called mistakes blunder and crashes.

CNG Retailers – Modern Mass Robbers

May 15, 2007

Stop at any of the 99.9% CNG filling stations of PSO, Shell, Caltex, Attock Oil in Pakistan and you will get robbed of your hard earned money…well voluntarily though! Yes thats what you do to yourself when you do not get the worth of CNG that you actually pay for. Here is how.

Majority of the CNG dispensing machines installed at the CNG stations through out Pakistan do not have automatic meters to give the motorists “exact fill for their bill” (could actually be the name of an awareness campaign). Every time a motorist drives into a CNG filling stations they end up paying atleast 50 paisas/cents more than the dispensed amount of gas. The station attendants manually stop the dispenser and despite doing it for years and years it is amazing that they have not mastered the art of stopping the dispenser at the exact reading (or atleast very close).

In monetary terms this means accumulation of un-accounted earnings amounting to millions for hi-frequency stations, evey month! Where are the regulatory bodies, civic societies and the consumer sense?!

The solution is simple and so is the reason behind this malpractice. All that needs to be done is to install these manual CNG machines with modular meters that would do the job. The reason for not doing is our “ignorance” (for the illiterate) and withering “self-disrespect” (for the learned?!) that we accept being robbed every day of our lives. Its so funny since we have set a monetray limit for being robbed i.e. in cents.

Category Intro – MarketPlace

April 30, 2007

News and Views from the place where difference creating action takes place! Covers Public, Private and NGO sectors.