Qibla Cola – Do charitable contributions affect your spending?

qibla_largeQibla Cola is a carbonated cola beverage sold by England-based Qibla Cola Company Ltd. Its Muslim founders, Zahida Parveen and Zafer IqbalIt, created the company with a social purpose in mind by planning to donate 10% of all profits to charity. The company refers to itself as an ethical business and using the word “Qibla” they’ve incorporated an Islamic culture to their brand. On their website (http://www.qibla-cola.com) they state:

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Creating the Ethical Business

Somebody had to do it.

With large multinationals seemingly taking over the world, there seemed to be a perfect little gap in the market for a new brand of soft drinks. So in 2003 Qibla Cola was born.
Talk about message in a bottle – Qibla had one. The real alternative to globalisation came in the form of an ethically aware drinks company who donate 10% of their profits to good causes around the world, and produce drinks that TASTE GOOD!

Qibla Cola brands a good moral character for its company to differentiate themselves from other cola brands which they imply are unethical. Their bottle (shown in the image on the left) markets their aim for social responsibility by displaying a parody of nutritional information.

Personally, I think the intentions behind the product are great. The founders are cousins and have been involved in numerous charitable organizations before starting Qibla Cola Company. When being involved with charitable efforts it’s easy to become frustrated trying to raise funds and it seems this is why Qibla Cola started. I see Qibla Cola being a proactive and sustainable approach to fundraising and I think it’s based on the best of intentions.

Their aim to help social causes is great but is it the right way to brand their products? Do they represent and market the quality of their actual products through their branding? Unfortunately they don’t. This is where I disagree with the approach Qibla Cola has taken. They try to appeal to customers by convincing them that their products are produced ethically and that as a company they are unlike their competitors and are socially responsible. This approach appeals only to those who care and are educated about the activities of other beverage companies. When a customer sees their product the first thing they see aside for the logo is their slogan, “..liberate your taste”. I find that this doesn’t properly advertise their actual product’s quality and for a customer who doesn’t care about social causes or doesn’t believe what they’ve heard about other beverage companies they have no reason to buy the product.

Also, they’re not very transparent as to which charities they donate to. One has to go to their website to find information about the charities and projects they’ve worked with but no where does it list the criteria used to choose such initiatives. I would be much more inclined to buy their product if I knew where the donations were going to by simply reading the product’s label. I’m not suggesting limiting the donations to just one cause but rather better showcasing how they choose the charities and which ones they’ve helped. Perhaps on their products they could have a section that shows how the product has helped and specify one of the initiatives they’ve sponsored.

What concerns me most about Qibla Cola’s branding is their repetitive claim that they are an ethical business without any proper evidence. When I first heard about the product I was very excited to know how they incorporate social responsibility into all aspects of their business. Unfortunately, the only evidence of such is the 10% of profits donated to charity. There is no mention of how their products are produced, are their processes environmentally sound? Where do they buy their raw ingredients and are they fair trade? How do they treat their employees? Are they paid adequately and given safe working conditions? It’s answers to questions like these and more that to me determine a company’s moral character, not just a simple donation of profits.

Qibla Cola has the best of intentions but needs to market their products to better advertise quality and they need to show others aspects of its business that promotes social responsibility before making a claim that they are an ethical business.

What do you think? Does the fact that Qibla Cola donate 10% of their profits influence you to buy their product? Do charitable causes in general affect your spending? What do you think of Qibla Cola’s marketing? We would love to hear your opinion, please comment below!


Sources
http://www.chillyoislamyo.com/qibla-cola/
http://www.qibla-cola.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qibla_Cola/

22 Responses

10.5.2009

Good writing. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed my Google News Reader..

Matt Hanson

[Reply to this Comment]

10.5.2009

If I was a fan of soda & the quality of the drink was close to coke, the charity clause would definitely sway my spending towards it.

[Reply to this Comment]

tareq Reply:

Thanks for the comment Mahir.

I see what you’re saying. If it tastes the same or close to it’s competitor then having the charitable aspect only helps and would sway you towards Qibla cola.

My question is, does it bother you that you may not know where the contribution is going towards? If you just picked up a bottle and didn’t have access to the internet to go on their website. It’s okay if it doesn’t bother you, as I said, some charity is better than no charity. I’m just curious if that affects your outlook on purchasing the product.

[Reply to this Comment]

10.6.2009

The charity aspect only works for me if the quality of the product is of no interest and/or not applicable. For example, I don’t like carbonated drinks but if I were organizing a party/get together, I will most likely get this product over others. However, if I were to buy something lets say a laptop, I would go for the best quality for my buck, charity aspect won’t be the deciding factor.

In other words I will not compromise on quality just because I can be part of a charity campaign.

[Reply to this Comment]

Maria Arshad Reply:

just realized, Mahir is essentially saying the same thing. I second Mahir’s comment.

[Reply to this Comment]

tareq Reply:

Hmm I see what you’re saying. The charitable aspect is always the second, if not lower, priority for you when making a purchase.

What intrigues me is that it’s still a deciding factor in certain cases. Like you said, if you went to buy drinks for a party you would prefer Qibla cola over the other brands. That to me shows a success in marketing for the Qibla brand. Unlike other organizations who have occasional charitable promotional strategies (things like Tim Horton’s 10% of proceeds today will go to Camp Day) Qibla Cola has a permanent commitment to its donations. This strategy could build brand loyalty over time.

Would you be curious or interested as to where the donations are going? And what sort of criteria is used for decided donations? For me, not knowing this before purchase really discourages me from buying the product.

[Reply to this Comment]

Maria Arshad Reply:

Yes definitely, I would be interested in knowing where the money is going. Although, not knowing the details doesn’t necessarily completely discourage me in making this purchase. This is because I know myself to be an impulse buyer, and sometimes a positive feature will allow me to make the decision more quickly. The thought time put into a buy is somewhat propotional to the money I spent.

I am not particularly interested in what sort of criteria is used for decided donations. Essentially, the company can pick where they want to donate and if I agree with their choice, I will be inclined to make the purchase. At the same time, if I seriously dislike the quality I would defnitely not buy the product.

At the same time I will be interested in making the purchase if what they are supporting is indifferent to me and I enjoy the quality of the product.

I will definitely think twice when the charity is what I don’t agree with.

So, using the charity phrase can bring customer loyalty but can harm the customer relationship if the charity is not liked by the customer. In other words, the company will have to work extra hard to satisfy the customer in quality and the choice of their charity.

I am sorry if I am repeating some of what has been said here as I haven’t read it all so far.

10.6.2009

I completely agree with the skepticism of “overtly” charitable organizations wherein they use it as a marketing campaign. It’s understandable on both perspectives why this may have positive and negative effects. Ok, ideally speaking, an organization dedicated to donating 10% to charity = right on!

However, I am very much on the wavelength you mentioned of monitoring what is perceived by the organization to be an ethical/charitable cause. With the idea of perception of the ethical/charitable aspect of the organization, my next concern is the use on the word “Qibla” in the brand name.

In regards to Muslim’s (and perception from non-Muslims), placing the word “Qibla” in your name is I think the more concerning marketing aspect (more so than the “ethical choice”). This places a large responsibility on the organization to now adhere to Islamic business practices, given this is how they are marketing their drink. Placing “Qibla” in the brand name is a very bold move (at least I think) and it places a large corporate social responsibility on the organization to ensure Islamic practices on many levels, in addition to just donating a part of profit to charity. You mentioned some of these aspects in your review, and I think that ensuring ALL these are taken into consideration by the organization are a requirement to make them a)worthy b)understandably marketing with the word Qibla. If it was just any cola company who decided to donate 10% of profits to charity, it would be great, but there are many implications in using the word “Qibla” as a marketing technique that I think they should be aware of. Insha’Allah this company will work to the best of the abilities to achieve and maintain credibility. Great review Tareq, you pretty much covered most of my thoughts on this product :)

[Reply to this Comment]

tareq Reply:

Thanks for your comment Aatif!

I honestly never considered them using the brand ‘Qibla’. As Muslims we must show the best of character, it’s what’s called the invisible dawah. This applies to all facets of our lives including business. That duty to perform halal business is present for anyone but I agree that having the name now puts extra pressure on their organization. Now people know their a Muslim oriented or focused business and will project what they do and how they run their business to others in the religion. This to me can be a hit or miss. As you said, inshAllah they’ll be a great example for others to follow.

I personally don’t like incorporating symbols, slogans and common phrases that are Islamically centered in the brand of products unless they’re necessary. If you open a halal grocery store and call it “Tareq’s Halal Meat” then it’s fine because you’re using the word ‘Halal’ to differentiate yourself and specify the type of meat you sell. But for Qibla Cola, the use of the word ‘Qibla’ isn’t relevant at all to the product.

For you, is it that the brand isn’t relevant to the product or the fact that they used a word that has religious importance to it that bothers you?

You’ve made a great point Aatif, I think it would serve as a good opinion post by itself!

[Reply to this Comment]

Aatif Reply:

The brand can be relevant to the product, as Islam is relevant to all aspects of life. With this is mind, the use of the word doesn’t bother me, as any halal product can be Islamic. However, I place a great religious responsibility on the organization to ensure the name actually IS relevant for the product in that it is developed and distributed following Islamic ideologies of implementation. This is the complete religious idealist side of the review as the word can bring out this kind of skepticism.

[Reply to this Comment]

10.6.2009

I pretty much agree with all the above along with Tareq’s original post.

I’d just buy the drink because it’s a Muslim business that I’d rather support over coke/pepsi. Also it seems to be doing some good with the profits although they don’t give much information.

However, if the drink wasn’t very good then unless they had a more convincing charity argument I probably wouldn’t buy the drink. The charity donation is a selling point, but if the drink was significantly worse than competitors, then no charity argument would sell me.

Aatif’s point about the Islamic branding and the big responsibility that comes with it is also very good and true.

[Reply to this Comment]

tareq Reply:

Thanks for the comment Saneid!

Hmm your view seems to be inline with most people who have commented. You said you would choose to support them since they’re a Muslim business, what if they had a competitor that was also Muslim? I’m asking because I’m curious what the decided factor would be then. Assuming another product existed similar to Qibla cola, was produced by an Islamic corporation, and tasted the same, then what would help you decide? Do you think the fact Qibla cola brands themselves with ‘Qibla’ you would have a stronger connection to it? Would them showcasing or mentioning one of their charitable works matter?

I’m trying to figure out the order of priority for customer when making a purchase that involves Islamically centered or related products in comparison to other non-Islamic or Islamic products.

[Reply to this Comment]

10.6.2009

Nice post. I think there are too many factors to get caught up on in defining a business as ethical or not – and there’s no way to guarantee that any business will adhere to everyone’s definition of what is and isn’t ethical. So you’re right, you’d need more information to make your own judgment on the company.

However, you stated that you didn’t agree with their marketing approach by putting the ‘Nutritional Information’ parody on the side of the can, but then you later point out how they’re not transparent enough – based on the information you read ..on their can? Why Tareq? Why the double standard? Listing their charitable donations on their website is an appropriate place to put them I’d think. But I agree: for a company that’s solely basing itself on its moral fiber, their website does a miserable job of explaining it’s mandate (they have about two poorly written paragraphs stating they ‘only use companies that fulfill a strict policy of workers rights and support’ and that they support ‘good causes’. I’m sure it might have sounded good at the time they wrote it, but I think people would want to actually hear the types of policies they support, and at least a little detail on how they choose their charities.

I like how this was one of their charities: Pakistan Cricket Team. lol.

Overall, I think they have the right idea. I’d buy some now if it were available here, and had a comparable taste to the big boys in the industry.

On an unrelated note: Cobalt. Think about it, and how you were wrong. Also: computers can and will surpass human intelligence, wait for it!

Your friend,

- Tank :)

[Reply to this Comment]

10.7.2009

Perhaps startups who are interested in the social responsibility side of the business can take tips from Ben & Jerry’s. Theirs is the best example I have seen so far of a company that

a) tries to incorporate social responsibility in many ways in their business, i.e. it’s not just fluffy stuff, that most companies now do…ex. almost every company is now jumping on the ‘green’ bandwagon, yet their internal processes are pretty much unchanged. It’s largely a marketing ploy.

b) does a stellar job of marketing the activism side of their business. great example of transparency.

http://www.benjerry.com/activism/

Good stuff Tareq :)

[Reply to this Comment]

10.11.2009

Great comments. Whatever happened to Mecca Cola? It gained a lot of popularity about 6 years ago, and I recall that they also mentioned something like donating 10% of their revenue to Palestine.

Oh, I just googled, and they have a very bad website :( http://mecca-cola.com/

[Reply to this Comment]

10.11.2009

I wonder how transparent they can be with their financial dealings. Companies that are not publicly listed are not required to publish their results and choose not to do so.

The amount they give to charity will (I hope) reflect their financial situation (however good or bad) in that/the previous year.

Maybe that’s a barrier to transparency?

They could improve the website though.

[Reply to this Comment]

10.11.2009

I had a look at their List of Donations, and they really don’t stand up to their claim of being a charitable organization. Their donations mostly consist of in-kind soft drink donations and one or two small contributions to local campaigns.
Inflated Claims > 0%

[Reply to this Comment]

10.11.2009

The slogan, ’10% profit to good causes’ , will definitely spark my interest to pick up Qibla Cola for the first time.

Subsequently, Qibla cola will not be as compelling to me if the product is not competitive in terms of quality, price and taste. The donation to charity would be a driving factor if I knew exactly where my donation was going at the time of purchase. Let’s be honest, each of us have our preferences of charitable causes. And knowing our donation is going to some cause we are more partial to will lead be greater inclination to purchase Qibla Cola. Putting a vague statement such as “10% to good causes” might perhaps have the same affect on someone who cares about certain social causes and someone who doesn’t care about social causes.

A companies ethical goals are in two parts, ethical production goals and ethical social goals. Qibla cola is trying to accomplish both without a solid foundation of either. Qibla cola has done their part of placing their ethical goals as a parody of nutritional information to market their social mission. I agree with other people’s comments about transparency, there isn’t enough.

I looked through Qibla colas website but couldn’t find any info regarding their ethical production goals. Things like are their employees being payed and treated fairly? Is the production least environmentally damaging? Etceteras. This might be in the extreme but even the well-being of the consumer. I find it funny and ironic sugar water, artificial colouring, phosphoric acid is not an example of a healthy product. Carbonated drinks lead to another societal problem in the area of health.

An excerpt taken from Organic consumers association :

“Tooth loss, periodontal disease, and gingivitis can be problems, especially with a high phosphorus intake, particularly from soft drinks. All kinds of bone problems can occur with prolonged calcium deficiency, which causes a decrease in bone mass. Rickets in children, osteomalacia (decreased bone calcium) in adults, and osteoporosis (porous and fragile bones) can
occur when calcium is withdrawn from bones faster than it is deposited.Fractures are more common with osteoporosis the United States are related to this prevalent nutritional deficiency
disease”

I would much rather have companies follow ethical production goals first and then donate to charity. What’s your opinion? What would sway your spending more, ethical production goals or ethical social goals (charitable donations )?

In saying all this, I commend Qibla cola for their noble initiative and Tareq for a great review.

[Reply to this Comment]

Muhammad Abduhu Reply:

You and Tareq both raise an interesting point.

It makes sense that one has to look at the entire production process to verify such a claim.

Wouldn’t that involve a lot of transparency on the part of a company? Also, if such information was available, wouldn’t consumers be overwhelmed (if the decision is to choose a brad of cola?)

I am reminded of companies that claim to be going ‘green’ without instituting anything more than a cosmetic change. However, his also reminds me of auditing organizations that exist to verify such claims.

Maybe companies should go through some sort of audit before consumers can trust their claims. I wonder what you think.

[Reply to this Comment]

Towfiqa Yasmeen Reply:

I totally and wholeheartedly agree with Sajjad.

Firstly, I may pick up a product for the first time if I believe some other greater good may come out of me purchasing the product. However this means that I need to specifically know towards which cause my efforts are going. And “10% to charities” just doesn’t cut it for me.

Having said that, I would however buy a product if I thought it was supporting muslims. I really believe firmly in the muslim ummah supporting each other. There are many other religious groups who do a really good job of supporting and fostering products for and inspired by, the community, for the community. I think muslims can learn a thing or two from these groups and through our buying power and loyalty help muslim business prosper and through it help build a stronger sense of muslim community and foster stronger bonds in the muslim ummah. Which is needed more than ever now.

As for the product itself, it would need to be equal to or greater in quality for me to completely replace my previous choice. If the quality was less I would still be inclined to buy the muslim sponsored version vs. not 50% of the time, given proper availability.

Qibla cola in my opinion is not a socially responsible business (as outlined in most of the comments above. But more they are using a marketing gimmick for sales. If I were them, I would have taken a different approach and marketed as cola for muslims by muslims. That to me has a stronger pull then any charity donations.

Having said all that…. has anyone even tried this stuff? Let me vocalize the question I’m sure we’re all wondering. Yo… is this stuff more like RC cola or more like Coca-cola?

[Reply to this Comment]

10.19.2009

Assalamo Alaykom

To be honest, charitable donations aren’t that high on list. They make a difference if the basic factors about the product make it a worthwhile buy – or at least close. I remember Makkah cola had a bit of an aftertaste.

I mean if it’s just 10% of profits – which is may be 2% of the sale price at most, I can buy the cheaper or better product, and make my own donation.

The bigger factor here is supporting Muslim Business.

This however might change if the charity in question was one I feel emotionally attached to – e.g. to Gaza.

[Reply to this Comment]

AbdelRahman Elsayed Morsey Reply:

My problem with Qibla cola is that carbonated Cola-like drinks are unhealthy, and that’s why I stopped drinking them. The charitable aspect of it may be nullified by the harm it causes to peoples’ health. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbonated_water#Health_effects

If you’re gonna start off clean, you might as well be as clean as possible and also make sure the product itself does not have negative health effects.

[Reply to this Comment]

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