Brand Aide: American Airlines, UPS, Red Cross Give to Haiti Relief

January 15, 2010Sparxoo


By Ethan Lyon, Senior Writer

American Airlines and American Eagle Airlines sent over 30,000 pounds of relief supplies to disaster-ravaged Haiti Wednesday. The airlines are not the only brands coming to the rescue, however.  UPS donated over $1 million in relief aide, including free shipping to Haiti; the American Red Cross established a text-based pay system for donations; and musician Wyclef Jean followed suite for his Yele Haiti charity.

Impact on Brands

Disaster relief for the Haiti earthquake illustrates a rising trend in corporate social responsibility (CSR) and reactionary thinking. In the past, corporate responsibility resembled a check, whereby an event was carefully constructed to showcase the company’s altruistic gesture. This could take several days or potentially weeks to implement. Brands, like UPS, American Airlines and Wyclef Jean recognized the humanitarian and marketing importance of immediacy and reactionary giving. The charitable giving efforts from each of these brands has gone viral through social media and discussed on news channels (e.g CNN, MSNBC and FOX).

Impact on Consumers

Brands are also giving more cause ownership to consumers by leveraging social media and mobile technology. For instance, many Facebook and Twitter users are passing along messages such as, “text “YELE” to 501501 and $5 will be donated to Haitian Earthquake Crisis relief & charged to your cell phone bill (@wyclef’s campaign) and/or post this as your status.” Similar to brands, social cause promotion is being used as an altruistic badge for social media users. Passing the message of giving and benevolence along to your friends (even if you do not donate) symbolizes your commitment and compassion for others in need.

Setting the Bar

This rising trend in reactionary giving could be the next evolution in charitable branding. Technology, such as social media and mobile phones, has accelerated the pace and immediacy of social responsibility. Marketers and brand managers are recognizing the marketing (think Facebook, Twitter and CNN, MSNBC coverage) and altruistic opportunities of reationary giving. It’s about applying your service or product to relief efforts. Seth Godin points out “Brandon Smith took two hours to get this Haiti T-shirt to market.” Brandon, alongside American Airlines and UPS are aligning their product or service offering with real-time situations.

As our culture accelerates further into the digital age, consumer expectations are changing — whereby immediacy and real-time have higher value — and brands need to be flexible and think quickly and strategically about how they can meet these needs.

Image by M mani from Stock.Xchng