What’s more important? Your perception of reality, or actual reality?
That is the basis for the second-by-second marketing calculations experts make when trying to influence the general public to alter their buying or voting behavior. Can marketing experts convince the public that you’re the best, or the latest/greatest, even if you really aren’t? And can they do so without breaking any laws or “technically” lying?
The public is interestingly aware of these marketing efforts, often dubbing the symbolical but unsubstantiated messages as “memes.” One very effective marketing tool that can help people or organizations brand themselves is charitable contributions which fund good causes. The potential meme: “I really AM my brother’s keeper.” Whoever cares for the less fortunate more brands more effectively.
Merely uttering the meme WITHOUT actually doing it may brand you in the short term, but destroy you when you’re discovered in the long term.
The Clintons set up The Bill Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation as an organization which “works to improve global health, strengthen economies, promote health and wellness, and protect the environment.” Secretary Clinton is currently caught in some controversy concerning this foundation that started as political sniper fire, the sort that former Secretary Clinton REALLY HAS faced. As allegations currently seem to show that some countries contributed significant amounts of money to this private foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, Ms. Clinton’s brand is beginning to suffer. Circumstances and some of these documents suggested that Secretary Clinton may have promised certain favors to these countries in exchange for their “contributions” to her private foundation.
This week, the 2013 IRS Form 990 filed by the Bill Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation shows that only about 10% of the contributions made to this Foundation actually make it to the intended recipients, with the rest meeting administrative costs and traveling. This is directly opposed to the Foundation’s claim that 88% goes to recipients.
Presidential Candidate Barack Obama and his chosen vice presidential candidate Joe Biden faced a similar branding issue relative to charitable contributions. In 2005 and 2006 combined, Obama and his wife contributed a total of about $27,000 to charitable causes. In 2007, as he was considering a presidential bid, his charitable contributions soared to $240,000. Obama understood that he faced the possibility of running against Mitt Romney, whose charitable contributions have generally been 29% of their substantially higher income, he realized that burnishing his brand convincingly may require that he increase his charitable contributions in order to legitimately claim to “be his brother’s keeper.” Biden, on the other hand, until he became vice president, contributed only $369 annually to charitable contributions. Mr. Biden’s charitable contributions have increased to 1.87% of his income as of 2012, or slightly over $7,000.
The “I am my brothers keeper” meme is a powerful one, but the public recognizes its value only if you generally live what you preach. Charitable contributions can really be an effective branding instrument for businesses and individuals.
The lesson: Practice what you preach. Making the claim to care for the poor, without showing that you really DO, can hurt your brand. Additionally, claiming that you really do, then having independent investigations discover that you were lying, can destroy your brand.
As the vernacular of the street goes, “keep it real.” Your brand is who you REALLY are.