A candid and personal examination of the Philippine comics scene from a social, cultural, economic and business point of view.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Comics can't just entertain anymore

In a news article appearing in the March 28, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer entitled: "Consumers now buy goods based on what makers stand for" by Tina Arceo-Dumlao, it was reported that there is a growing trend internationally and locally, of a new consumer buying behavior.

It appears that more and more people not only demand the highest standards of quality for their money, but that they want companies selling products or services to stand for something as well. That is, a cause or charity other than profit. In short, these new consumers reward companies and business enterprises that have a social or civic conscience.

The scant locally produced comics available in the market today should take note. Having a corporate social mission appears to be a significant factor in affecting not only buying behavior and loyalty of customers but that it motivates as well employees to go the extra mile for their socially responsible company to attain its objectives. What a company or entrepreneur stands for socially is moreover, something that cannot be easily copied by competitors.

If this development in consumer behavior continues, the kind of comics being produced today for purely commercial considerations with an uncommon preoccupation to packaging and content development geared mostly towards adolescent-based power fantasy melodramas, are in trouble (that is, if they aren't already).

Having a real and honest civic cause to affect a customer's buying behavior also makes sense. With the prevalence of intellectual piracy, various competing media and economic hardship all around, having a worthy cause that the buying public can identify with is a new reason for highly discriminating "globalized" buyers to support a product.

A seminar on the subject was conducted by June Mannion, President of the Robin Hood Foundation, who visited the country last March, 2005. She cites a 2004 ACNielsen consumer behavior study confirming the development in New Zealand, United Kingdom, America and in other countries of "corporate social opportunities".

Significant quotes from the article are worth reflection: "Customers today not just ask a company what it does differently from the others, but what it is doing to make a difference. xxx Filipinos are slowly starting to exhibit the same buying characteristics representing an opportunity for local firms to wear their causes on their sleeve, to set them apart from the competition. xxx For a cause to work, it has to be something that the company believes in, and supported financially and emotionally by employees from the top executive to the lowest ranking employee."

The article further cites the example of the New Zealand insurance company, Fidelity Life, that won support from the public because of its novel campaign to support leukemia patients. It also cites as example, the partnership between NIKE and the Lance Armstrong Foundation wherein yellow "Live Strong" wrist bands were sold to promote health consciousness. The wrist bands looked good, didn't sell much but it generated immense goodwill for NIKE from patrons who felt proud of supportinga good cause.

Mannion however, cautions companies and entrepreneurs of feigning or faking their social causes in that buyers today could immediately see through the false fronts being erected. For the cause to work, Mannion adds, it has to be something that the company truly and honestly believes in, and supported financially and emotionally by employees from the top executive to the lowest ranking employee. Everybody should help in the cause. This new development satisfies every person's desire to do something good and makes practical business sense.

In order to gain new audiences and sought after respect for the now art-controlled medium, should the scant few locally produced pinoy komix, traditionally drunk with commercial, entertainment-based and sometimes "globalized" content, follow suit? Only time will tell.


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