So many of us revel when it rains so we can enjoy the scent of the earth. So many of us like to rest our soles on wet blades of grass. So many of us enjoy the beauty of the morning fog. So many of us like to shop from the earth, not from fluorescent- lit supermarkets.
We are not new-age hippies. Nor are we Greenpeace volunteers. We’re simply enjoying a life void of advertisements, marketing, and white noise. Silence – in its many forms- is a religion. And a growing one from what I gather.
This week, I was asked by a friend, “Are we saturated?” And he wasn’t referring to torrential rains. Yet, I wasn’t sure what to answer. Personally, yes, I feel that we’re saturated in marketing. (For others, that may not hold true.)
But markets thrive on marketing. Sounds ridiculously obvious. But in some form or another, marketing is essential to growth – be it on nifty little “smart” tablets or by word of mouth. We must publicize ourselves, our work, our companies, our ideas, our “brand” to stir some interest. We must do so with ingenuity, creativity, and vigor. The better we market, the more growth we’re expected to see, the more customers that will trickle, the more inquiries that we will receive. It’s a rather exponential exercise, if done correctly.
Yet, the question came up again, “Is it possible that we’ve marketed the heck out of everything – even the so-called “good” deeds that we do in the world”?
As I’ve become more and more involved in development projects over the years, I’ve seen the same need to pronounce one’s self in places of social service. It may be the certificate you receive, the medal that you’re bestowed, or the placard that’s placed on your behalf at a hospital ward, school, religious site, etc.
There is this need to make a mark – in a very literal sense. For those who come later, they should know who was kind enough to bestow this school to the needy, who was generous enough to finance these surgeries…you get the idea. It is a different arm of marketing – not to increase sales, but to build a “brand” of charity, generosity, and service.
As a writer who focuses on stories around social impact, I often find that when I speak with some young social entrepreneurs, I hear more about them and less about the work that they do. There is a selling of the brand, as much as it is about the good work being done.
That’s why I was delighted to meet a friend who recently said – let’s do this project but I don’t want any proof that I was behind it. It’s a rather old-fashioned expression of anonymity in a world of hyper-tweeting, facebooking, social media-ed charities.
He was a young man, as well, one who had recently seen success with a business venture. He had means to spread that wealth. He had a desire to do it for the rest of his life. But he really didn’t want anyone to know. He wanted to see results; he wanted transparency and assurance, just like any other donor. But he wanted to be silent, literally invisible.
It was a refreshing voice to hear, a reminder for me of how I was raised- do what’s needed but don’t speak of it unless necessary. To discuss social issues is another matter, and a vital one to propel change.
But, pins, placards, proofs of good citizenry are a nice gesture; yet, I’ve always wondered, “Why?”
For those in the for-profit world, it’s critical to make noise. That’s how one builds an income. (Even that I feel has hit new heights these days with the endless surveys, mobile advertising, emails, and in your face ads).
But when it comes to good citizenship, be it local or global, can we do it in silence? Can we not avoid the ceremonial dinners, the patting on the back, the formalities? Can we not use those funds to help more folks, support more causes? Can we not raise more funds without the “wining and dining?” Can we not leave the “rewards” programs to the cafes, shops, and movies?
Perhaps, I’m wrong. But I’ve grown to revere those who can remain quiet in a very noisy world.