Brands plug in as a force for change

All of us can make a dif­fer­ence

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - MEDIA& MARKETING - STAFF REPORTER

SO MANY of us ap­plaud our­selves for be­ing “con­nected”. As in­di­vid­u­als, and as busi­nesses. We have LinkedIn, Face­book, Twit­ter, on­line fo­rums, e-mail, Google. We have note­books, tablets and smart­phones, data, wi-fi, air­time, and fi­bre-op­tic ca­bles. We couldn’t be more con­nected, we tell our­selves.

In re­al­ity we couldn’t be more dis­con­nected.

With such ready ac­cess to such a wealth of in­for­ma­tion, at our fin­ger­tips, we don’t have to move from the couch, the bed, or the ex­ec­u­tive chair to achieve much. We don’t need to do much more than lift a fin­ger to ac­cess in­for­ma­tion, to com­mu­ni­cate, to live, to share.

We can com­mu­ni­cate with peo­ple worlds away with­out talk­ing to them. And so we can keep them all worlds away. And all the sto­ries and ex­pe­ri­ences that would come with them.

We’re so highly con­nected that we’re ac­tu­ally dis­con­nected.

And while we’re hap­haz­ardly bounc­ing around like so many dis­con­nected dots, how do we think we’re ever go­ing to build loy­alty in con­sumers, build rel­e­vance within so­ci­ety? How do we think we’re ever go­ing to make any kind of mean­ing­ful dif­fer­ence? Or even re­alise how much it all mat­ters?

But there are some of you in cor­po­rate South Africa who do con­nect. And we ap­plaud you. As cus­tomers, we ap­plaud you. We ap­plaud you when your or­gan­i­sa­tion steps out of the vir­tual world, when the peo­ple in your or­gan­i­sa­tion step out of the build­ing and mo­bilise as one to take on a cause.

We love it when we see that you show con­cern about the ef­fect your or­gan­i­sa­tion has on so­ci­ety, when you’re not blindly chas­ing profits.

We es­pe­cially love it when your brand be­comes syn­ony­mous with your cause – like TOMS, where ev­ery prod­uct pur­chased helps a per­son in need (they’re even known as the “one for one com­pany” and have given more than 40 mil­lion pairs of shoes to chil­dren), or KFC, whose Add Hope pro­gramme feeds more than 113 000 chil­dren ev­ery day.

When you con­nect with the world around us, we feel more con­nected to you.

As stake­hold­ers, part­ners, and in­vestors, we ap­plaud you.

We ap­plaud you when your or­gan­i­sa­tion shows the hu­man side of busi­ness. Be­cause who doesn’t want to be seen as the good guy?

As you en­fold your gi­ant wings around those most vul­ner­a­ble, you’re show­ing us that you’re not just in­cred­i­bly present, but that you’re lis­ten­ing, too, care­fully. That you’re not just about the “now”, but that you’re about the fu­ture, too. A pros­per­ous, in­clu­sive, healthy and sus­tain­able fu­ture.

It shows us you’re ac­count­able. You don’t even need to say the words. We can see through your ac­tions that you’re build­ing a legacy. And we’ll back you up all the way. As em­ploy­ees, we ap­plaud you. We ap­plaud you when your or­gan­i­sa­tion hon­ours that part of us that re­ally only comes to life when we’re fo­cus­ing out­side our­selves, when we’re given the chance to ex­press our hu­man­ity, to do some­thing good for some­one else, to live a tan­gi­ble ex­pe­ri­ence that will burn so deeply in our hearts that we’ll never for­get it.

We love it when you give us a real chance to show us we re­ally can make a dif­fer­ence.

We are the hands, hearts, and minds of your or­gan­i­sa­tion, and when you give us true pur­pose, we give you true power. As NGOs, we ap­plaud you. We ap­plaud you when your big com­pa­nies glow with your true po­ten­tial on days like Man­dela Day. And when, a year af­ter Man­dela Day, we can walk into a crèche that was once a cold, dark, dingy and dan­ger­ous cor­ru­gated- iron shack and which is now a warm, bright, safe and stim­u­lat­ing place where we can feed chil­dren nu­tri­tious meals ev­ery day, where those chil­dren are happy, healthy, smil­ing, laugh­ing, vi­brant.

We love it when your brands re­write their sto­ries. And we love it even more when you con­tinue to re­write their sto­ries. When you re­alise that our work is start­ing to re­verse the cy­cle of poverty, that ad­dress­ing the sim­ple needs of starv­ing preschool chil­dren has a sig­nif­i­cant ed­u­ca­tional im­pact.

We love it when you come back ev­ery Man­dela Day, just like this year, and help us to con­tinue our work in trans­form­ing more early learn­ing cen­tres, more lives, more fu­tures.

But more than any­thing, we love it when you re­alise that what amounts to 0.02 per­cent of your wak­ing hours in a year is not enough. When you re­alise that starv­ing chil­dren need to eat ev­ery day. When you lend us your gi­ant hands for more than just 67 min­utes a year.

When you re­alise that ev­ery day should be a Man­dela Day. We ap­plaud you. Cor­po­rate South Africa, you are a force for change.

Nel­son Man­dela

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