Brands and companies have an undeniable footprint on the development landscape of South Africa society. How else can we explain the existence of Izikhothane (a crazy phenomenon where gangs of township kids actually bully others for not sporting the latest in luxury branded clothing and cellphones), Ministers insisting its mission-critical to be driving luxury branded vehicles and the insatiable shopping sprees of high profile corruptocrats and bribezonians engaged in an endless one-upsmanship reality show.
Sadly, very few private sector leaders and institutions stand up to take accountability and responsibility for their role in these sort of social developments.
Companies (and governments) are sustainable only if they nurture rich understanding and relationships with those who keep them in favour.
A bank in South Africa, FNB, has proven itself pretty savvy at this.
Last year they were named the most innovative bank on the planet.
Great marketers know today's 10 years olds are tomorrow's 22 year olds.
FNB took a path less followed and made a bold choice to give South African youth a national platform for their voices and opinions. For those outside South Africa, read all about FNB's controversial advertising campaign .
FNB's motivation, as retweeted by CEO Michael Jordaan and quoted from a township 12 year old, was "It's just natural to want to help." The ruling party saw it differently, and demanded a formal apology.
Political leaders and brands avoid at their own peril understanding and inspiring youth. Thanks to social media and a digital planet, a clampdown on youth opinion is not even possible in this day and age.
Any marketer worth 2 cents knows the world of monologue is dead. Lively conversation and debate--informed and uninformed--happens at unprecedented speed. Wallflowers quickly get left behind.
Someone in the ANC suggested that South African kids don't understand the challenges of government trying to undo over 250 years of colonialist damage. Based on the outcomes of the SA educational system, I'd say there are a lot of things our kids don't understand. Telling them to sit quietly in the corner is not a very robust educational strategy.
The world is very complicated. But one thing kids DO understand is that their future doesn't look so bright right now. This opinion they share with many corporate leaders.
And so we get the FNB campaign...giving voices for a different future a lot of bandwidth.
It wasn't finessed beautifully. But most importantly it didn't offer any real answers to thorny problems. But FNB was innovative by injecting a powerful youth voice into the adult debate.
Successful, sustainable brands and political parties know that by objectively observing and listening, they can identify what's desirable.
The impactful ones engage in the full human centered design process, taking the next steps to interrogate what's most viable and feasible. Only through the whole process can we unearth the truly innovative ACTIONS we ought to be engaging in that remain unseen today.