Google's mantra is 'Do no evil', and it would seem that the industry is listening and that technology is starting to prove itself as being able to do good. We have seen numerous instances in which technology has been used for good over the last few weeks and there are some standout brands who have used technology and creativity to deliver an incredible example of social responsibility.
There is no doubt that those brands who are being ethical, charitable, empathetic and driving change will have gained the support and loyalty from users which will continue when we are on the other side of this crisis.
Richard Bourne is a pilot who takes people up in light aircraft as part of their last wishes. It started in 2012 when a friend of his contacted a seriously ill brother-in-law who was due to have a double kidney transplant, a surgery which carried with it the ominous success rate of a mere ten per cent. Going for a flight was on his last wish bucket list, and Richard was able to help. At the end of the flight, the two of them were in tears; the palpable and real emotion overwhelming them. With the wonderful work of his doctors, nurses, and surgeons, the surgery was a massively against-the-odds success. Notably, the beneficiary now has his own pilots license, reinforcing how successful and life changing Richard’s actions were.
The sense of pride and emotion that Richard feels every time is something that will never leave him and seeing the difference he could make to those around him made him realise that he had to set up a platform to make this happen for the thousands of others who we can all help. He set up Ablinguk.com which encourages other people to become an abler and really make a life-changing difference to someone who needs it.
Abling connects people who are terminally ill or under charitable care with people who can donate time or fun and help them fulfil their dreams. They enable people in need of a smile to tick off items from their bucket list, enjoy a fun activity, or receive support easily, and without charge. They also enable members of the public or businesses to donate time, skills, and experiences to make a genuine difference to those in need. From a ride in a plane to a ride in a Ferrari to a heartfelt chat and some care, it is kind, comfortable, and genuine.
Aside from the likes of Richard, we have also seen demand for ethical products and services skyrocket of late. According to not-for-profit consultancy Ethical Consumer, the sector has more than doubled since 2008, which marked the last financial crisis. We can speculate, 2008's disaster was ostensibly man-made, did we feel guilty? Did we think we had gone too far?
In 1973 there was a television show called "Why Don't You?" in the UK. Aimed at kids, it would run during summer and Easter holidays as well as the after school hours. The basic idea was that the show’s "gangs", which were groups of kids, would respond to letters from viewers who wrote in to suggest games and excursions. Arts-and-crafts activities or magic tricks children could learn and safely copy at home. One interesting point was a line during the opening song, which was "Why Don't You Just Switch Off Your Television Set and Go and Do Something Less Boring Instead?" A TV show was advising that we switch off the TV. The show aired for almost a quarter of a century; it was immensely popular. The fact is that the show's producers wanted kids to get away from the TV, and the kids that needed their help the most were the ones glued to the screens. So that is where they sent their message. The premise was honest, and for over twenty years, they were imploring and helping kids move away from the TV, get outside, and be more active and kids tuned in every morning to do just that.
Patagonia, the clothing brand, did something somewhat similar with the famous slogan "Buy Less, Buy Used." Selling second-hand clothes in-store, slapping "Don't buy this" stamps over the top of imagery on their website. Customers were told to buy less, and almost obviously, they bought more. Just like the TV show, we were impressed by the values of the company as the quality was good, the design was nice et cetera, but the values are what made these two brands appealing as they genuinely wanted to do good for the world.
On a tour of the USA in 1882, Oscar Wilde was asked why he thought American Society was so violent. He responded that it was because the wallpaper was so ugly. What he meant was that all he could see was grey buildings and smog. The wonder of nature had been wallpapered over and that caused the guilt and shame that led to resentment. Maybe he had a point.
Today, we see the Co-op has pulled its Easter TV advertising campaign and has donated the airtime to help fight hunger during the current crisis. In partnership with FareShare, the Co-op has created a new charity TV ad which is a tribute to the local heroes who are playing their part in feeding the nation.
“In these times of national crisis, food banks are a lifeline for those who rely on the donations to feed their families,” Co-op retail chief executive Jo Whitfield said.
As Co-op decided to change the ad, our design team added a click-to-SMS function within the ad, so clicking on the ‘Donate Now’ CTA would simplify the donation process by automatically opening up the text message. Users no longer have to memorise the donation phone number and message, it all comes down to a simple click of a button.
We have recently had the honour of working with the amazing charity CLIC Sargent which fights tirelessly to stop cancer destroying young lives. They provide grants and free accommodation close to hospitals to help with the spiralling costs associated with treatments. Their care teams are on hand to help families with everything from getting benefits to treatment closer to home. And, they lobby the government to make sure people get the support they’re entitled to. They make sure young cancer patients can focus on getting their lives back on track. We wanted more people to know how brave, confident, and genuine they were.
Bubbles are bursting, and a health crisis does not discriminate; it makes all of us take a step back to think. Before COVID-19 hit us, I hope that most of us can say that we were changing our behaviours regarding the environment - even if it is just using a recycling bin or two or buying a sustainable coffee. Now, stuck at home, relying on the world as a whole to help each other out, we can think even harder. From our Madrid offices (or rather my office window at home, close to the Madrid office) I can see the Sierra, the mountains around Madrid, more clearly than I ever have done, they are snow-topped and looking beautiful. Less pollution, less travel time and in some cases (though clearly not in all) less work, has given us a chance to look out the window and think about what we are doing, what our objectives should be, and how ethical we really are. Younger generations are demanding it, and it seems like it's starting to take hold as more and more brands are using their power for good and giving something back to consumers. Those that do, will be the winners both for their own brands but also for their own ethics and will lead the way in showing how brands can use this as an opportunity to give something back to the environment, to society and ultimately, to consumers.