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Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

Really people, there are no tigers in Africa. And we don’t have lions walking in the streets of our towns in South Africa. And it doesn’t always rain in England. And Germans do have a sense of humor. And the baseball World Series really do include the best teams in the world. Okay, maybe the last three pushed it a bit too far. But I am really getting sick and tired of ad people getting it so very wrong when they try to paint a global picture. Or when they try to grab the ‘mysterious Africa’ in their ads. I don’t mind them trying to put an African face to it. Hey, I was born in Africa and appreciate it when people use the images of Africa to inspire others. But, really people, just get the basic facts right when you do include Africa or when you try to include an African story into your ad.

One ad that was so bad that I blocked the company name from my mind was up in Back Bay Station in Boston for a few months. (I know it was a financial company.) It tried to tell the story that they can turn the tables on conventional thinking and conventional actions. And one specific ad had a Kenyan Masai (or Maasai) warrior run across the Serengeti. Being chased by a tiger. The ad is trying to tell us that the sometimes the tables are turned, and that they can help you turn the financial tables. BUT the Masai is well known for hunting LIONS for their entry into manhood. LIONS people. NOT tigers. THERE ARE NO TIGERS IN AFRICA. Can someone hunt down the ad guy who had this moment of ‘brilliance’ please. And then feed him to the tigers. Wherever they might be – try Asia as a start…

Sometimes it is simple mistakes. Unknowingly trying to capture a bit of Africa into your product. And that is especially true when the product comes from Africa. Nothing wrong with that. Except when you associate the wrong part of Africa into the product. For example, Teavana recently opened a store close to where I work. (Or I just walked past them almost every day for the last year and never noticed them.) I really like the shop. Good and healthy teas from everywhere around the world. Problem – they have a rooibos tea from Africa. Well, to be more specific, all rooibos tea come from a small area about 100 kilometers from Cape Town. Right at the bottom of Africa. I know this because I come from that area and my brother-in-law still farms with the stuff. The logo that Teavana use is an elephant. You know, elephants are all over Africa. Hum, not really. No elephant at all in that area. None, nada, zilch, zero. Never had any elephant. Never will. But it doesn’t stop there. The bloody elephant they use is not an African elephant. It is an Indian elephant. The smaller ears gave it away, you see. Teavana’s slogan is ‘Opening the Doors to Health, Wisdom, & Happiness’. I am not happy and therefore not healthy. No wisdom to be found in their messy logo for their rooibos. And I’ll close the door with that.

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Okay, I doubt hell is actually eco-friendly. I think their climate has already changed dramatically. Apparently it’s hot in there. Maybe even more than just simple plain old global warming? Anyway…

This “eco-friendly” stuff really gets to me. Every single day we are bombarded by someone telling us to be more eco-friendly in our lives and in the choices we make. But can we really be eco-friendly?

Maybe the problem starts with what we define as eco-friendly. Do we mean something that is good for the environment or something that is just less bad than the alternative? Too often we are told something is eco-friendly when it is really only eco-friendlier than the alternative. For instance, anything made out of plastic will have an impact on the environment – even the biodegradable stuff. In fact, almost everything uses resources and will have a negative impact on the environment. So it can’t really be eco-friendly. Right? Or can it?

You drive a hybrid – is that eco-friendly? Not in a million years would you suck on the exhaust pipe – it still has some bad stuff blowing out that old metal pipe. Give me a C… Give me an O… And another O… What do you get? Anyway, it is just better than the alternative Hummer.

You’ve changed your light bulbs – does that make you a tree hugger? Hum, it still uses electricity that will most likely not be from a renewable source. And don’t forget the bad stuff insight that “green” light… Ever heard of mercury?

You eat organic foods – makes you feel green doesn’t it? Hope you planted that yourself because they don’t get to the shop or your house via wind power you know. No matter how many beans you eat…

But it doesn’t mean that these things won’t be more positive for old mister bunny rabbit down in the woods. Or something better for the kids playing in the park. It’s just that we will have an impact on the environment – whether we want to or not. We won’t be able to go back to the “good old days” when everything was green and lions roamed the streets (hopefully Will Smith was only acting). And I don’t think we want to either. People want their stuff – tv, fridge, dishwasher, computer etc. I know I want a bigger telly one day. Angelina looks so much better on a bigger screen. Anyway… And even if they don’t want this level of technology – remember, even books don’t come with a zero impact. Trees being chopped down and all that ink…

It’s more about achieving some sort of balance. Nature has always healed itself. Trees provide us with oxygen, oceans clean oil spills, chickens have eggs (and eggs have chickens). We will run out of some things – oil and coal to name a few. But that’s okay, we’ll find new ways to travel and heat up. We always have and, hopefully, always will.

While being eco-friendlier won’t make a tree hug us, it will allow for the tree to continue to grow. And it’s the little things that can make a difference. Cut your emissions by turning the lights off when you don’t really need it. Save water by taking more showers than baths. (Remember the “Share A Shower” campaign? Maybe we should start that again…) Save on electricity and water by not filling the kettle to the top when you really only need a cup of water for your coffee – or tea if you’re from England. Find your own little thing to adapt or change – and don’t give up living at the same time. It won’t change the world overnight, but it will all add up if we all become a little eco-friendlier.

Being eco-friendlier will give the environment the time it needs to heal itself. The problem right now is that we are getting to a stage where the time needed by nature for healing can’t keep up with the pace of our (and nature’s own) impact. Be a little friendlier and give nature a bit more time. Even if you don’t like nature, remember it serves as a central place for human life. We won’t make it if we didn’t have the trees, the animals, the water. No shelter, no food, no beer. Think about that last one… Can you really live without that?

But don’t be all starry eyed about nature either. Remember, nature isn’t human-friendly. If a branch falls it doesn’t check if you moved the car. If a forest burns it doesn’t check if your house is in the way. If a volcano explodes it doesn’t check if the villagers moved out in time. If a lion hunts it doesn’t check if you can run faster. It does what it does. It is what it is. We shouldn’t park under the tree. We shouldn’t build in fire prone areas. We shouldn’t stay so close to the volcano. We shouldn’t live so close to the lion. But we do because we all share this world – and sometimes we are just plain stupid or have no alternative. And anyway, we rule the world and they don’t. Live with it.

But if you insist on being eco-friendly – some advice… Go bury yourself out in the woods. You will have minimum impact, except for the disturbed soil and life cycle of the shovel. But you will be eco-friendly – pushing up daisies. I’ll be eco-friendlier and water the plants. With a watering can. It’s eco-friendlier than a hose.

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You want to hug a dolphin? Or maybe plant a tree? What about buying a goat for a village in Ethiopia? Or a desk and chair for a school in Banda Aceh? No. Mm-mm, difficult one. Wait, I have just the thing for you – how about supporting the Foundation for the protection of Swedish underwear models?

And you think I am joking about that last one. It might be tongue in cheek, but this cause has over 400,000 signed up members globally. Okay, it is a Facebook cause – but one of the most supported causes. They even managed to raise some money for their nonprofit – after specifically asking for NO money. Yes, this is a nonprofit and their aim is the “promotion of international understanding”. No, I really am NOT joking.

The point I am trying to make is that we now have a cause for every taste and need. And then some. Once you find your cause – which organization within this cause do you want to support? And so on, and so on. The list just gets longer and longer.

This shouldn’t be a problem. People can now match their passions with the right organization. And there are enough charities out there to still have a slight different individual flavor that makes you so much more different from the plebs who support Oxfam (joking people…). Oh no, you support Project Africa – because it is so much more than a goal, it is a mission. A cause that goes with your evening dress and another that goes well as a car refresher hanging from the rear-view mirror.

And it makes life so much easier if you run a company. All you have to do is pick your cause and adopt the charity or nonprofit that is still available. You feel strongly about education for kids? Make your pick – we still have EduKiddiCare and KEDUCare available. (Man, how many times can someone focus on education before we run out of charities or ideas?)

But the growth in charities and causes can have a bad impact as well – apart from the bad jokes (sorry). Firstly, it waters down the important stuff and diverts attention. Instead of tackling the real big issues facing the world – Climate Change, Abuse, Poverty & Hunger, War, Disasters and Health (the Big 5 plus Climate Change) – we tackle every issue that comes to mind. Can we really justify saving the dolphin, battling bottled water, fighting immigration, protesting GM crops and anti/pro-abortion marches (the Little 5) while people are dying of hunger, disease, abuse, disasters or war? Of course all these other issues are important, but more important than people dying right now in this world we all share? I don’t know – your call.

Even more important than the long list of options and diverting attention – the diversion of funds. Two dynamics stand out. Firstly, aid only increases marginally each year – and even then it goes to certain causes that are important, but not really charity for the needy. For instance, where do you think 80% of US federal ‘aid’ go? A handful of countries that are not really on the most needy list – Israel, Pakistan and Egypt. And oh, it includes military aid… And it gets worse because the money is now spread across and even wider range of causes and organizations. Each year another nonprofits comes along that wants a piece of the pie – and reduces the share of the next one.

But the single biggest problem I have with the proliferation of charities? They divert money away from Africa and other places of need. Instead of the funding going directly to the charity in the country suffering, it goes via other charities and donor bodies first. And everyone takes their cut. The money for empowering women farmers in Zambia doesn’t go to Women for Change. Oh, they might get a small amount. But the money first goes to DFID or USAID or GTZ – or whatever government agency. And then it goes to Oxfam GB or US or Germany. And then it goes to Oxfam Southern Africa. And then it goes to Oxfam Zambia. And the leftovers go to Women for Change.

Businesses always try and streamline their value chain. We should do the same with funding. No more than 2 steps before it gets to the actual people that need it and should benefit from it. Cut out the middlemen. Hey, they make money for campaiging in any case by collecting from door to door and in the streets. It doesn’t mean the end of Oxfam or Care or Save The Children and mates. Just the beginning of the nonprofits who can really bring immediate change to the people who need it most. It will force every charity to focus on achieving real change and doing the bit they are best at. And more of the program money will go to the charities who are closest to the real issues on the ground – they are part of the people who suffer in their community. We just need to streamline the charity supply chain a bit.

Of course there is another reason for my little rant. Is it about caring about something or doing something? The caring bit is about you. But the doing bit is about those who need the help. It’s a slight but important difference. You can pick a charity or a cause the way you pick a dress or shoes – something to fit in with your needs and different tastes. But please don’t forget that this isn’t about you. It’s about those who really need you to be part of them and part of the solution. I worry that the causes are so diverse that we start forgetting who and what this is all about. It’s not a clothing outfit to fit with your personality. It’s about people. And what they need.

Mm-mm, maybe I just found the cause that fits my charity. The AA BARF charity needs your support. Really… The Angry African Beer And Rugby Fund never really got the funding or supporters it deserved in any case. And the money will go directly to the cause it supports. I promise…

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Fairtrade has the perfect brand name – it tells people that this brand is about being fair and implies that anything else is unfair. And Fairtrade is a great certification system. Yes, I know, they don’t like to be called a certification system. But they are. And an excellent one. Maybe even the best global certification system dealing with poverty. I can’t think of a single other certification system that tries to deal with poverty more effectively than Fairtrade. And they have, by far, the most recognizeable logo amongst ethical certification systems.

But, unfortunately, that doesn’t mean much in a world of such low standards. Bloody hell, everyone raves about ISO 14001 and all that ‘guarantees’ is that you do have an environmental management system. Mmm, not what your environmental impact is or whether it is good or bad. I like Fairtrade and always buy their brands when I can (affordability and availability rules apply), but I think they can do so much better.

I have 5 issues. Five issues they should focus on to truly make Fairtrade fair. Just 5 little things that really annoy me beyond what is good for me.

Firstly, Fairtrade focuses almost exclusively on small farmers who are organized in cooperatives and associations. Unfortunately, this excludes small framers who are not organized in this way. Most small farmers are not organized in this way – at least not where I come from – Africa. And the problem is that the poorest of the poor farmers are not organized in cooperatives. So, Fairtrade actually doesn’t work with the poorest of the poor – more like the “middle class” of the poor. To really affect change for the poorest of the poor, Fairtrade does not have a choice but to include ALL farmers in their system. Including those not organized in cooperatives. I know that it makes it more expensive, but it also makes it more fair.

Secondly, Fairtrade really needs to jack up on their environmental criteria. They have always had a half hearted attempt at sustainability. But what it came down to was poverty – but not a systematic way of addressing this. Only paying the price and not looking into making it better for the farmer in a sustainable way. Fairtrade needs to strengthen on the environmental side of sustainability – but also strengthen the labor rights aspect. This will ensure that Fairtrade is truly fair for everyone involved – farmer, environment, worker, Oxfam and consumer. I know that they have strengtened these areas, but there are huge gaps that still needs to be filled. They do work with the farmers to make them more sustainable, but they lag behind say a Rainforest Alliance when it comes to this.

Thirdly, Fairtrade should be a bit more clear about what the farmer actually gets paid and stop false advertising. They don’t need to do this as they are already better than almost all other systems. No need to lie or hide the truth – it will only come back to bite you. Really, the farmer does NOT get $1.25 per pound of coffee. Not even close. It varies from cooperative to cooperative – and what the cooperative decides the farmer should get. In some cases the farmer will receive as little as 70 cents/pound. The rest is distributed to other parts of the cooperative. Nothing wrong with that. But don’t try to spin it to make it sound as if the farmer receives $1.25/pound. They don’t – and never have.

Fourthly, if you really want more companies to take up Fairtrade then say so, be consistent and ensure your business model can handle it. Not everyone within Fairtrade agrees that large businesses should become part of Fairtrade. But don’t tell them your system is the best if you don’t want them to join. A classic example was when Oxfam asked Nestle (and others) to start buying Fairtrade. And when Nestle agreed? Well, certain Fairtrade bodies refused to sell to Nestle. Lesson? Be careful what you ask for, you might get it.

Finally, stop charging farmers such a ridiculous amount of money to qualify for certification. In many cases the yearly fee is way more than what the average income in the poorest of the poor countries – and well over $1 a day. The financial commitment that cooperatives must make to become Fairtrade suppliers is ridiculous. Not everyone believes that suppliers should carry the burden of compliance or certification – neither Starbucks or Nestle charges their suppliers – and they shouldn’t, and neither should you. And Oxfam and others generally ask for the company to pay in any case for any certification – just ask Nike or Levi’s – so way is Fairtrade different? All Fairtrade suppliers pay to become certified. The financial commitment by producers to be certified can vary from over $5,000.00 dollars for initial certification – and that does not guarantee certification, only assessment. Annual fees are over $500, and then another few cents per pound certified as well. I wonder how much the farmer actually gets in the end of the day? I know they benefit from Fairtrade, but they could benefit more if they didn’t have to pay Fairtrade for certification.

Another extra one thrown in. Remember that it is only the commodity that is certified Fairtrade. The coffee bean. Not the making, grinding, roasting, container, wages in manufacturing or anything else that is certified. Only the raw material – the coffee bean. Same with cotton. Not the manufacturing – only the cotton. One can make a general assumption that buyers of the Fairtrade commodity will also be good employers and manufacturers, but these parts are not certified – only implied and assumed.

Okay, I have one more problem. Not every country has a Fairtrade organization. Even when a Fairtrade organization is present, a purveyor of Fairtrade goods will have to negotiate with each Fairtrade organization in each country to be able to sell in that specific country alone. There are 19 national Fairtrade organizations – covering mostly Europe and North America. If someone wants to sell in each country – they have to negotiate with 19 different organizations to enable them to sell in each of those countries. And no guarentee that they will allow you to sell in each country – just ask Nestle. Yes for the UK, no for Italy. Furthermore, what if you want to sell in every part of the world – and in most cases there isn’t any Fairtrade presence at all. This makes it extremely problematic to sell a Fairtrade certified product in countries where there are no Fairtrade offices to negotiate with. Supporting Fairtrade would be much easier if there was a single co-ordinating body through which each buyer, or any other large multinational for that matter, could drive all its Fairtrade needs. Hum, something like a cooperative…

But the aim was not to slam Fairtrade. I worked with them and in support of them for many years. It is not a perfect system. And I don’t expect it to be perfect. But imagine if we get it to push on a bit and work at 80% of potential – not 50% of potential. Now that would be closer to being fair to all those who need it most – the farmer in Africa and elsewhere. Come on Fairtrade, try to be a bit more fair.

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