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December 18, 2006


Arnica Rowan

I love your take on corporate character - I just published an article about “red-washing” in Unlimited Magazine . There’s a copy on my new blog as well -

Thought you might be interested, and I'd love to hear your comments on the article (on my blog or otherwise).


Emilee made a good point about responsibility and money going hand in hand. I agree with that theory. If one has the power to help others then it is their duty. Just as tycoons donate to charities or Lords of the Manor assist their communities, wealth and responsibility should be entwined.

From my research I discovered the term cause related marketing. This considers all the ethical, environmental and charitable elements that a brand can adopt become a heroic brand. Consumers will therefore purchase a brand/product if it shares similar ethical attitudes and values with the brand.



It may sound plain, but I would suggest the term "ethical brand". While it might not stand out in a marketing sense, the etymologies of the words "ethic" and "moral" serve to illuminate the difference between those companies that have the brand "embedded in their DNA" and those that mereley give the brand promise lip service.

Ethic, comes from the Greek, ethicos, or way or form of life. Contrast this with morality, which comes from the Latin, moralis, which means rules or regulations.

For a company (or those individuals which make it up)to really get behind the brand they must have the brand promise as part of their personal ethic, rather than merely capitulating to an imposed morality.

It seems to me this distinction lies at the heart of the successful implimentation of the whole brand paradigm.

vaspers the grate

It's just being a good neighbor.

But it's one thing to say enlightened words and donate money and people to a worthy cause, and an entirely different thing to treat your own employees and clients with dignity and respect.

To reward employees for "making plan" by giving them a casual dress day is sickening. Share the wealth with employees, add a bonus to everybody's checks.

Businesses still think that money is a bad motivator for employees, but consider money to be the main motivator for the business.



Should responsibility and money go hand in hand?


What is fun?

Is fun something entertainment? Or is fun activity?

Matthew Healey

You must read (or at least skim) Peter Singer's article from yesterday's Sunday NYTimes magazine, On Giving:

"A famous story is told about Thomas Hobbes, the 17th-century English philosopher, who argued that we all act in our own interests. On seeing him give alms to a beggar, a cleric asked Hobbes if he would have done this if Christ had not commanded us to do so. Yes, Hobbes replied, he was in pain to see the miserable condition of the old man, and his gift, by providing the man with some relief from that misery, also eased Hobbes’s pain. That reply reconciles Hobbes’s charity with his egoistic theory of human motivation, but at the cost of emptying egoism of much of its bite. If egoists suffer when they see a stranger in distress, they are capable of being as charitable as any altruist.

"Followers of the 18th-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant would disagree. They think an act has moral worth only if it is done out of a sense of duty. Doing something merely because you enjoy doing it, or enjoy seeing its consequences, they say, has no moral worth, because if you happened not to enjoy doing it, then you wouldn’t do it, and you are not responsible for your likes and dislikes, whereas you are responsible for your obedience to the demands of duty.

"Perhaps some philanthropists are motivated by their sense of duty. Apart from the equal value of all human life, the other 'simple value' that lies at the core of the work of the Gates Foundation, according to its Web site, is 'To whom much has been given, much is expected.' "

(Ahem... why am I not surprised that the Gateses would have a grammatically flawed motto?...)

Jennifer, I think you are wrestling with the same question - why should a brand be motivated to do good? Is it virtuous if it is motivated by ego? Is it virtuous if it's motivated by a desire for profit, like Product (RED) or Starbucks? I have to say I side with Hobbes and disagree with Kant; in my opinion, the ends justify the virtue, as it were.

Singer continues: "The Nobel Prize-winning economist and social scientist Herbert Simon estimated that 'social capital' is responsible for at least 90 percent of what people earn in wealthy societies like those of the United States or northwestern Europe. By social capital Simon meant not only natural resources but, more important, the technology and organizational skills in the community, and the presence of good government. These are the foundation on which the rich can begin their work. 'On moral grounds,' Simon added, 'we could argue for a flat income tax of 90 percent.' Simon was not, of course, advocating so steep a rate of tax, for he was well aware of disincentive effects. But his estimate does undermine the argument that the rich are entitled to keep their wealth because it is all a result of their hard work. If Simon is right, that is true of at most 10 percent of it."

Regarding the question of whether a corporation "earns" its money thanks to the social capital of the developed society it operates in, I believe we can draw a parallel with developed-market brands. One thesis of my book (and others) is that a brand is like a dialog between producer and consumer; the brand derives its just value from the consent of the customer, if you will. Since developed societies draw their wealth partly from the continued exploitation of the developing world, Singer maintains, they have a certain moral obligation to return something to the developing world.

The same goes for brands: since Adidas owes its profits not only to its brand-building efforts but also to its ability to get soccer balls sewn in Pakistan for 50 cents each, it owes the Pakistani villagers some kind of philanthropic return.

As Singer points out, it is blogs like this one that are leading the trend toward making corporations (and brands) accountable to such moral imperatives in ways they never were before.

Keep up the good work, Jennifer!

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