In ancient times, members of royalty could earn a favorable reputation by tossing a few loaves of bread to the amassed peasants. The Kings of today’s world – corporations – still do this, only they call it “social responsibility”.
Billion dollar corporations – the same ones who aggressively fight stricter environmental policies or enjoy gigantic tax breaks or move thousands of jobs to impoverished places where they can exploit quasi-slavery – will occasionally give back a mere pittance from their massive earnings, all in the name of charity and good-will.
Fauxlanthropy certainly isn’t novel, but in the past few years it has donned a new mask. Marketing Gurus eager to try innovative branding campaigns via social media have come up with a plan: rather than pick the benefactors themselves, they leave it up to us – the public – to select our own favorites via crowdsourcing. This leaves us feeling engaged and involved in the process, while improving the company’s public image.
For example, in 2010 Pepsi started their Refresh Communities project, which is “giving away millions to fund great ideas”. You’d think most informed citizens would see this as a transparent gesture, even without knowing that the $20 Million they gave away came directly from the money they normally spend on Superbowl ads. But, seeing as the program will be continued through 2011, something must be working for them.
The people at PepsiCo are not alone in their attempts to harness the social revolution. Google had a 10^100 project to give away $10 Million to publicly selected candidates, and Chase Bank gave away $5 Million in a similar contest on Facebook.
How many more companies will hop on this bandwagon remains to be seen. If the “You Pick It” approach gets done too often the novelty risks running out, and corporate decision makers are unlikely to continue if the bang per marketing dollar no longer compares with more traditional advertising. Wouldn’t that be a shame?
Now, please don’t get me wrong here. Great things are likely to arise from these actions and the world is probably better for it. Plus, more power to all of the groups and individuals who won the contests.
What is bothersome is how few and far between these gestures are. And when they do happen, the company is sure to slap their brand all over it. On top of this, when these “generosities” are doled out, the recipients are ultimately approved by the corporation itself.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could force corporations to give back more, all the time?
Well, we can!
These business entities get away with as much as they do because we let them. Human beings are not powerless pawns in the world economy. We have unlimited means at our disposal, if only we use them.
For starters, our dollars speak volumes. Deal only with businesses that do the most to heal the world.
More importantly, we need to empower the world’s people in order to counterbalance the immense force held by these multinational conglomerates. This may seem insurmountable, but the shift has already begun to happen.
Millions of people from around the world who’ve grown discontent towards the corporatist system are waking up to see they are not alone. It is just a matter of time until these disgruntled masses organize into highly coordinated communities.
Then, when this force gets mobilized to action, corporations will face the reality that humans are not simply consumers, and profits will no longer be the only priority for our world.