Brands plug in as a force for change
All of us can make a difference
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.