A Branding Question With 'Heart' For Marketers
On Tuesday, May 4 at the University of Miami's School of Communication (my alma Mater) I attended an event coordinated by the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center. The center directly supports the issues relating to immigration, deportation and human rights of the significant Haitian community both in Miami and in Haiti, as well as other communities in need. Headlining the event was CNN's Soledad O'Brien, who presented a prescreening of her very moving documentary on Haiti's children pre- and post-earthquake, entitled "Rescued," which first aired on CNN May 8.
The documentary stirs strong emotion as you follow the story of two Haitian children within the broader issue of Haiti's overall impoverished and orphaned population. Following the screening, a panel of experts who are very active in the Haitian support movement gave actionable advice on how the average American can help Haitians directly build infrastructure, buildings, create jobs and opportunities, and fulfill core needs still not being addressed following the millions in donations so many of us gave.
I was moved and had the opportunity to ask the evening's last question. Very little time remained for answers, so O'Brien herself quickly replied to mine. My point was very much from a Communications/Marketing perspective: What were some ideas or suggestions that the panel might have for marketers, communicators, advertisers, digital strategists, etc. to help drive support for Haiti from their very strong brand and service platforms? Her answer was short but insightful: "Find an organization, clear issue, problem or even just one person in Haiti that a brand can directly connect with and that becomes the story." Simple, yet so true.
The marketing community has a powerful opportunity to help empower lives and build long-term share-of-heart. While brands must always have a strategy and the story of major catastrophe in Haiti seems a daunting task to support, I believe that we can't abandon the possibilities. According to the panel, the people of Haiti still need the most basic support -- from running water and sanitation, to medical infrastructure and supplies, housing, food, clothing, shoes and educational materials, sporting goods for youth (yes you read correctly), and teaching/training of all sorts, to name just a few.
There is strong buzz in the communications and marketing industries regarding corporate social responsibility and multicultural marketing. By presenting a case for your brand, service, organization or a specialized internal team (maybe it's the tech team!) to support just one initiative that helps the Haitian people recover and rebuild their country, a great connection can be created between brands and people that will pay off with the broadest dividends.
Food for thought.