The bandwagon of goodwill

2011-08-04 00:00

I RECENTLY bought one of those Rhino Force bracelets because it said: “Purchase this bracelet now to show your support in stopping the poaching of South Africa’s Rhino populations.”

In my defence, it looked cool. I was in one of my all-caring and all-loving moods, and it made me seem like I’m one of those people who care about the world and its creatures. Plus, it also made me feel like I was getting something in return for being a good person, something that I could show off. Then I read the small print.

Only R8 was actually going to helping the fight against rhino poaching and the bracelet cost R30. That’s not even one third of the amount. Sure, the rest of the proceeds are (supposedly) creating employment and “many of” the people who make the bracelets also look after “children orphaned by Aids”. (Yay! Double whammy!) But why isn’t it an Employment Creation bracelet or a Fight Aids bracelet, instead of luring in people with the delusion that the bracelet was made to help the rhinos?

The latest trend, though not a new trend, has companies jumping onto the bandwagon of goodwill to market their products. It has three pro arguments: the customer gets something, the donor gets something and the cause gets something. However, it’s not goodwill but rather a capitalist illusion.

On Facebook, Savanna recently advertised that if it gets 20 000 Facebook fans, it will donate 2 000 blankets to the SPCA to “spread the dry”. My question is, if you guys care so much, why not just send the blankets instead of making your furry friends wait out in the cold for longer than they have to? To be fair, they donated their first lot of blankets last Friday to the Cape of Good Hope SPCA.

I’ve always been told that charity comes from the heart. It’s cheesy I know, but when you do something with the intention to help someone out, you don’t look for what you can get in return — even if it’s just a tax refund.

These marketing schemes disguised as helping out those in need are everywhere. On the radio I heard something about Bevcan, a can-manufacturing company, donating something like three cents to some charity for every can that you purchase. Its slogan is along the lines of: buy a can and change someone’s life.

A can of something costs bet­ween R8 to R60 and only a few cents is being given to help those in need. Seriously? Is that how much you care?

While I am all for helping the world by doing as little as possible and even getting something out of it, surely there is a line between that which is purely charitable and that which is run by the drool of profit?

Does buying [insert commodity here] to help [insert place here] from [insert epidemic or universal concern here] actually help people sleep at night, believing that they did something good that could potentially change the world? Or do they not even notice it?

When you think about it, three cents for every can can raise a huge amount of money considering the number of cans that are sold daily, but compared to the company’s overall profit, the amount is negligible. It’s like the five-cent coin you get as change after buying a month’s supply of groceries that you plop into a charity tin. Of course, you can’t put a price on charity. Every cent counts. But really?

Large companies spend millions on advertising annually. A television advert during peak time on SABC can cost around R150 000. One advert. Companies that can afford to spend that much on an advert don’t need to advertise their charitable doings in ways that would further increase their monetary income. It’s anti-goodwill. It’s anti-charity. It’s cold-hearted marketing.

In fact, there should be a regulated percentage that has to go to any mentioned charity when using goodwill as a marketing gimmick. A percentage that actually makes a dent on a company’s balance sheet at the end of the month. Just to see if it really does give a damn.

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