South African consumers, like other westernised nations, are all too familiar with products and brands that seem to be affiliated with certain 'causes'. Don't get me wrong; I am not against philanthropy or charity, but after being exposed to Slovenian philosopher Slajov Zizek's commentary on this issue called "first as tragedy, then as farce", I felt deeply disturbed by this global marketing trend. [video]
The satisfaction of moral impulses through consumerism.
He explains that 'charity' is now a basic constituent of our economy, and notes that "this cheap, charitable optimism" is embarrassingly naive - corporate charitable acts do not solve pressing social issues; they merely prolong them. This gives rise to newer and more indirect forms of apartheid, as people make empty token gestures that seem to help temporarily but inevitably feed social inequality.
Charity is admirable, but it is also misdirected, because charitable giving doesn't address the root causes associated with social problem
If buying organic puts you to sleep at night, that is great! Just don't presume you are restoring to health the world.
Western-style consumers tend to purchase commodities that seem to make the world a better place
TOMS One for One Movement: a US shoe manufacturer that donates cheap cloth shoes to third-world countries for every pair of regular shoes it sells. This example reminds me of the 'teach a man to fish' parable. They need a true social investment, not a hand out.
KFC "Add Hope": for an extra R2 to your R40, you can help starving children. Massive multinational corporations such as KFC are part of reason social inequalities, both social and environmental, exist at all!
Pacified sufficiently in a ideological sense
The fact that you are content to pay more for what you are rightfully entitled to anyway proves that you can be pacified sufficiently in a ideological sense.
I pay my R2 to "add hope", precisely so I can keep these social issues at a distance. But real solutions to social problems ought to be orchestrated by parties that don't stand to benefit from them.
Matt Rose, avid trend watcher passionate about SA's people, is a senior strategic planner with Promise Brand Specialists (JHB) , specializing in market research, shopper marketing, behavioral psychology. He brings a grounded, often controversial approach to uncovering consumer insights. Honours include 2010 Loeries finalist (Digital) and 2011 Cannes Lions shortlisting (Digital). Email , follow him on @mlwrose Twitter, connect LinkedIn.
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CHARITY : the practice of benevolent giving and caringATOMS Shoes is a company started by a man with an epiphany. Blake Mycoskie, third place winner of The Amazing Race II in 2002, returned to Argentina in early 2006, where he was struck by the number of children who could not afford shoes. That's when he decided to redesign alpargatas, the traditional shoe worn by locals. He also decided that for ever pair sold, he would give a pair to a child in need.TOMS includes lines for men, women, and children (adorably named "Tiny TOMS"), and they have recently debuted Vegan TOMS, made of recycled plastic bottles and hemp. Don't look for those on the website, though, they are sold exclusively through Whole Foods stores. TOMS also sells a few other items besides shoes, including a couple of t-shirts, hats, and a FEED Project Bag. The same goes for the shirts and hats as the shoes: one pair of shoes will be given to a child in need for every purchase. The FEED Bag, however, is a little different:The FEED bag is designed to raise awareness and funds for hungry children and to help them get into school and out of hunger. Each FEED bag sold will provide a school year of meals for one child in need and give them the hope of an education and a regular meal. Whether you tote your FEED bag to school, work, play, or shop, remember that your bag helped to FEED and educate one child for one school year. B"Starbucks Coffee Company"Social Responsibility (evaluated by third-party verifiers): Measures in place that concern safe, fair and humane working conditions. These include protecting the rights of workers and providing adequate living conditions. Compliance with the indicators for minimum-wage requirements and addressing child labor/forced labor and discrimination is mandatory. Environmental Leadership (evaluated by third-party verifiers): Measures in place to manage waste, protect water quality, conserve water and energy, preserve biodiversity and reduce agrochemical use. C"Add Hope"By adding just R2 to your meal, your generosity has allowed us to feed every child at SOS Children's Villages 3 healthy meals a day with a sponsorship of R3.2 million and further donations to a variety of other feeding initiatives throughout South Africa. In 2007, KFC decided to put hope on it's menu and made a long term commitment to fight hunger in South Africa by focusing on the most vulnerable members of our communities - our children. Add Hope is an independent, trusted organisation. KFC donates all the resources and marketing, so that every cent we raise goes towards feeding hungry children in South Africa."KFC Mini Cricket"For more than two decades mini cricket has been giving primary school children, from all walks of life, the opportunity to experience the game of cricket, learning basic skills from batting to bowling and fielding in an entertaining environment. KFC Mini Cricket is more than just about the game; it’s an opportunity to teach children valuable life lessons and social skills such as teamwork and discipline, while promoting a balanced and active lifestyle. It creates memorable family moments with many parents and teachers assisting in the coaching and running of the programme, providing an entertaining day out for the whole family to enjoy.Matt.. the above extracts are from the webpages of the companies you mentioned, they seem to be doing a lot of good. What puzzels me is this "real solutions to social problems ought to be orchestrated by parties that don't stand to benefit from them." ? Matt being a problem solver by default you get to benefit. Ever been kind where it was really needed and got back a "thank you"..Helped a mate with some serious issue and got "I appreciate buddy".? "The rule is what you sow you shall reap"
Hi there, thanks for the comment. I do realise I am playing a bit of an extreme devils advocate in this case. I just wanted to draw attention to the issue that brands these days many brands seem to "build in" ideologies purely as a way to gain marketshare. Sure I have received thank you's from people for doing something good. But if I did it purely for that thank you, it seems somehow less noble. Big business gets bigger by appealing to the guilty consciences of consumers. Seems bleak. But no doubt its an subject for debate. Should brands be the guardians and caregivers of society? Is that the future?
Hi Matt,This is an interesting article, thank you.In my opinion, this is a capitalist country and there shouldn't be restrictions on trade. On the other hand however, it is also a country with a high unemployment rate. If one looks at the current case at the competition commission regarding Walmart opening in South Africa one must consider that Walmart will be major competition to the likes of Mass Stores (Game, etc). Will this result in job creation or loss? One might be tempted to say that it will result in job creation, however Walmart implements many "automated systems" which essentially eliminate the need for certain jobs. This is not necessarily good for a country like South Africa. Should we do away with petrol attendants and fill up our own tanks? This might be good for the big fuel companies because costs of sale might be lower, but it certainly isn't good for the thousands of families which are fed by those breadwinners. So in essence, if these large corporates are here, which they are they may as well be doing something to contribute to the communities they are serving. With regard to fair trade, yes, big corporates do impact the "little guy", but, at the same time the little guy dreams of being a big corporate, so where do you draw the line? The "little guy" should focus on a niche market, yes Starbucks is huge, but in my opinion their coffee isn't great, I prefer to sit in a little coffee shop and have a good espresso. The big corporates can not provide that good ol' fashioned personal service which many people crave. Toms is giving away shoes to children who do not have shoes? You've got a problem with that? Yes, they should be teaching the children to make shoes, but at least they are giving back in some small way. Some companies simply do not give back at all.Which is better?